We frequently speak with Visio users whose organizations need to manage collections of process diagrams. Many of these users are employing basic methods such as storing these documents on network file shares. However, these methods leave much to be desired. For instance, end users frequently ask us questions like:
- How can I make sure I’m always editing the most recent version of a process diagram?
- How can I find out about updates made to the process diagrams that interest me?
Additionally, the administrators and managers who supervise these document repositories often ask us questions like:
- How can I monitor whether my organization’s diagrams comply with our internal standards?
- How can I easily find all processes that involve a particular department?
To address the above pain points, we have created the Visio Process Repository, a new SharePoint site template that is available out of the box with SharePoint 2010. It leverages SharePoint’s collaboration features — including check-in and check-out, versioning, and workflow — and integrates with several of Visio’s new process management features. The result is that in just a few clicks, a SharePoint administrator can create a Visio Process Repository that is pre-configured for easy storage and management of Visio process diagrams.
Here is the home page of an example Process Repository:
As shown in the sidebar above, a Repository site contains a library for documentation, a task list, and a discussion board. But most important is the “Process Diagrams” document library, which is designed to store processes. This document library comes pre-populated with several templates that can be used to create new process diagrams. (However, you can store other diagram types in a Repository; these particular templates are available simply for convenience.)
Let’s say you use the Cross-Functional Flowchart template to create the following diagram in Visio:
Once you’re finished and (optionally) have checked your diagram for errors using the Validation feature, you can save your document back to the Repository through the “Save to SharePoint” billboard in the Backstage:
Then, when you navigate back to your Repository, your process diagram will be listed in the Process Diagrams document library as shown in the image below. Note the two special columns marked by the red rectangles:
- The Keywords column displays the swimlane headings of each cross-functional flowchart in the document library. The diagram above had swimlanes titled “Engineering” and “Management”; these swimlanes are reflected in the document library below, providing useful at-a-glance information on who is involved in the process.
- The Category column displays the validation status of each document. This makes it easier for administrators and managers to monitor whether the processes in their Repository conform to their organization’s standards.
Since the Process Repository is built on top of SharePoint 2010, you can also take advantage of other SharePoint features. For instance, you can configure workflows, set up automatic email notifications for when documents change, and view revision history for a given document. Also, with Visio Services users can view the processes in their browser in a single click, even if they do not have Visio installed on their computers. For instance, this is what the above cross-functional flowchart looks like when viewed in a browser:
We hope this quick tour of the Visio Process Repository feature gives you ideas for how you can use a Process Repository (as well as related Visio 2010 features like Validation and Visio Services) in your organization. Please let us know what you think, either by commenting on the blog or via Send a Smile.