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How (& Why) to Get Started with Org Chart Software

A Traditional Org Chart

Growing Pains

So you’re a growing company that’s hiring new people and developing new job roles. You’ve used Visio, PowerPoint or something similar in the past to design your org chart, but you’re realizing they just can’t keep up. Is there something better?

This is a question many business owners and leaders ask themselves. There’s always that next new technology, that cool new software. Is it worth the investment? Will it help you and/or your people do something better than they are doing it now?

When it comes to organizational charts, the status quo of using outdated apps with minimal functionality limits your ability to visualize your organization. Perhaps even more important, it hinders your capacity to build a collaborative employee culture. Didn’t know how Visio org charts had anything to do with company culture? They don’t. But the newer org chart software does.

With Visio and other similar applications, you use templates and drag neat boxes into a diagram. You can then add text to the box. The simplicity was ideal at one point in history for quickly creating org charts. The problem is, this software only produces org charts that are flat, boring, and unengaging. They are often relegated to a file cabinet or online folder.

These tools lack a few critical components typically of value to a modern, fast-growing company with mobile employees:

Visio, in particular, is cited as being ideal for business process methodology, such as with illustrating a product development cycle, sales cycle, etc. Org charts, on the other hand, maybe not so much. Simply put, these tools weren’t purposely built for org charts and they aren’t ideal for today’s dynamic organizations.

Org Chart Software for Org Charts

Why use software that’s built to illustrate business processes to map out your organizational structure? Doesn’t it make more sense to use purpose-built organizational chart software?

Business processes are much less volatile and dynamic than an organization’s structure. Business processes are not often changed once mapped. It becomes a reference point for anyone interested in eyeballing how a process flows.

Organizational charts, on the other hand, are quite the opposite. That’s why so many end up lost in files somewhere. It is a basic understanding that org charts of old are a “best guess” at the true, current structure of an organization. They, just like their business process counterparts, become a historical reference instead of an actionable piece of collateral.

The corporate org chart is a living and breathing representation of the company. As employees come on board, shift positions, gain new responsibilities, or leave, the charts need updating to reflect the changes. For some organizations, these changes occur at break-neck speed. Fast growing companies, in particular, often struggle to keep up with the ebb and flow of the employee ecosystem. Only modern org chart software has the built-in flexibility to scale.

The Benefits of Modern Org Chart Software

Modern org chart software does much of the heavy lifting for you, requiring little to no training to get started. A significant portion of the information self-populates. Simply answering a few basic questions and integrate it with existing internal IT or HR systems. Job titles, contact information, previous positions held, education background, work location, and skill sets are examples.

One of the best features of the more intuitive software is that they enable IT or HR administrators to hand off much of the burden of creating and maintaining employee profiles to the employees themselves. This not only gives these administrators time back in their day to focus on higher priority tasks but empowers the employee to be more self-sufficient.

Some software includes custom fields a company can pre-define, such as a field about pets, T-shirt size, special training, and favorite foods. Why is this important? Because these are precisely the data points that help people connect on a personal level. That’s where the cultural benefits I mentioned earlier come into play. Allow people to add some personality to their profiles, like their own headshots, and see how those details help forge friendships.

Once the profiles are set up, employees can make edits by adding new skills, experience and education. They can update job titles, responsibilities, teams and projects. Their profile becomes their own microsite where they can share with coworkers professional and personal information.

The org chart then becomes a highly useful, highly relevant, always current representation of the organization as a whole. Equally important is that it brings to light the people who make the organization great. It gives employees an easy way to find who they need, potentially saving up to 2.5 hours per employee per week searching for people and information within the company. They can quickly input search terms, such as “Who do I contact about Project X” and “Who likes Chinese food” to find every person in the company who fits the description, along with their contact information.

3 Steps to Getting Started with Org Chart Software

There are a few simple steps you can take to ensure you get the most out of your org chart software. After all, software is only useful if you actually use it. By thinking ahead, you can implement more quickly and ease adoption.

Step 1: Use Current Data

Decide from where you will get your data. Will someone internally pull it from an IT system such as Active Directory, Okta or Google Apps,? Of will it come from an HR system, like Workday? Who will be responsible for ensuring key data will be kept current? How often will the data be updated?

By integrating org chart software with existing internal systems, data integrity and transfers are automated and always current.

Step 2: Determine Org Chart Type

The type of org chart will depend on your organizational structure and how you want it to be visually represented. Will it be a grid with names and job titles? Will it be visual with photos? How will it be updated and by whom? Will it be shared or printed?

Today’s org chart software allows the user to predetermine such features with only minimal work. The result? You can start using and sharing your org chart faster.

Step 3: Excite Your Team

Traditionally, org charts have been a manager’s tool or confined to HR. Employees may not realize all they stand to benefit from the tool. Help them recognize how an interactive, modern org chart can help them work smarter and be more productive. The new organization chart will move from file folder to fingertips as knowledge and resources are instantly accessible.

A senior leader who is familiar with the software should announce the new capability at a company event. Once enthusiasm is high, give everyone access to the software. Managers should have talking points and training to reinforce the message that the tool is a valuable resource. One way to encourage adoption is to associate contests, games or other incentives around using the software.

It won’t take long or be difficult to see the benefits of org chart software. You may notice fewer emails asking who to contact.  People may emerge from their silos more often as they begin to collaborate with others outside of their teams. You might catch employees perusing through coworker profiles and even capture a laugh or two. One thing is for certain, your new software will inspire employees to actually use the org chart on a regular basis. When was the last time your Visio charts could say that?

Cameron Nouri
by Cameron Nouri I am the Director of Growth at Pingboard. I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart. I love trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in my personal life. I bring that passion to work everyday where I enjoy helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.