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Visio automation

Square Mile has extensive experience in automating Visio diagrams for customers.

What we have learnt in supporting the AssetGen products, and in teaching our Visio for IT Professionals course is available for short and focussed consultancy engagements to use automation to:

  • make your diagrams consistent
  • ensure diagrams can be refreshed in seconds rather than hours
  • maintain hundreds of diagrams with ease

One of our clients contacted us because:

  • they had hundreds of out-of-date diagrams with inconsistencies
  • they estimated 400 person days of effort per year required to maintain them using existing methods
  • high costs of change and impact analysis due to inaccurate documentation

We have been able to provide an automated solution which makes updating of diagrams only take minutes – refreshing the data from their CMDB.

Visio Automation Features

In working with many different clients, we have found many complex and hard to update diagrams being produced – often with many days or weeks of manual effort. There are a variety of Visio features that we use to make the whole process much more consistent:

  • Custom templates and shape stencils
  • Use of Shape Data – auto-populated for hundreds of shapes
  • Data linking – linking Shape Data to spreadsheets and databases
  • Data Graphics – using the same diagram to show multiple views of the same data
  • Saving as Web Pages (with Data Graphics) – for easy viewing within your organisation without required a Visio license
  • The appropriate use of Visio Layers to make complex diagrams more manageable
  • Appropriate automation – making it easy for users to use the advanced features without extensive training

Free Visio Utils Addin

We have a freely available addin with several different modules to make it faster and easier to produced and update Visio diagrams.

Data Graphics


This example shows how data graphics can be used to show the same row of racks in a Data Center Floor Plan with color coding to show 3 different types of data.

  1. Rack Function – it is very common to allocate a whole rack to a particular function such as Network equipment or server equipment (for cabling and patching purposes).
  2. Network Side – to make cabling and patching easier and less error prone, typically whole racks, if not rows of racks are allocated to internet facing, DMZ or internal networks
  3. Rack Owner – important for hosting providers to easily track the owner of racks for access control and monitoring.

The Diagramming Process

This diagram shows the process we tend to go through (consciously or unconsciously) when creating a new drawing or updating an existing drawing. Diagrams always have a purpose, even if we may not explicitly spell this out. One of the main challenges is choosing the level of detail to show on the diagram – which depends on the purpose and who we are trying to communicate with. In general simpler is better, but some audiences will require lots of detail (even if that detail is often better included as Shape Data rather than just placed as text within the shapes).

When updating a diagram, the highlighted steps can be usefully automated – which can be a huge time saving – since all comparisons of existing shapes, and updating of data can be hard and painful to do manually.

Whitepapers

See also our whitepaper:
Documenting Networks – Making Visio Work For You

Our Services

We can provide:

  • skilled Visio consultants for short term or long term documentation projects
  • short term engagements to review your existing diagrams, processes and procedures and make recommendations for improvement
  • custom template and shape developments
  • custom automation solutions for diagram generation and updating

Please contact us for more details.

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