There are lots of design software options to help you create professional looking flowcharts and organisational charts, each at differing price points. But for me I gotta say Microsoft Visio have got it right, and whilst I do think it’s slightly too expensive, it’s easy, intuitive and produces high quality charts for my clients.
Do you assist project managers and senior management teams on major development projects? If so, you’ll know that a flowchart will usually be required at some point? And not only just once at the beginning, but throughout the entire project, being adjusted multiple times as the scope/timings of the project shift.
So why do I think Microsoft Visio’s so good?’
Because it really is incredibly easy to create a really stylish professional chart.
Once installed, you simply open a new flowchart (or organisational chart) choosing from the options available dependant on the project you’re working on:
Next you get started.
Add your content by dragging shapes, connectors, arrows from the menu on the left as needed. Add text to each box as you go, there’s an automatic formatting option to make this even easier. You’ll find the software has an expandable canvas, so as your project scope grows, so does your template. It’s easy to add notes or memos, as well as playing around with some fab little graphic tools to really jazz it up!
Different shapes mean different things. So for example here the squares / rectangles show ordinary tasks throughout the project. The circles stand for a stop or start in the project, and the diamond shape means a decision needs to happen before the project can continue (colour coded however you want).
The end result of a basic flowchart can look something like this. Obviously once zoomed in you can read the text, but this example gives you a good understanding of what can be achieved using design software and how easy it is to produce a professional project plan for your client.
I must point out that you can of course create flowcharts in any drawing program that’s already installed on your computer, and depending on how often you actually need to create them you may decide that what you have is sufficient. But since I produce quite a few of these for one particular client, I decided to invest in Visio software. It means that instead of having to draw each box and connector myself using a regular drawing application, Microsoft Visio does it all for me automatically – literally quartering the time I spend on the task.
What design software are you using? Microsoft Visio is probably the leader, but there’s Smartdraw and Flowcharter as well. Each of them offer a free trial period, so if you do decide it’s a worthwhile investment, I’d absolutely recommend testing before committing to one particular application.
In terms of free software, the only decent one I’ve heard about is yED, which has had some great reviews online. So if you really don’t need to create flowcharts very often, this may be a better choice. However I’m not sure of its compatibility with Visio, so if your client also needs to be able to tweak the flowchart then you may encounter problems using a different (and particularly) free piece of software. Just something to bear in mind.