Good tips for flowcharting

SlideMagic is a blog I read regularly about good design for presentations. Good presentations often include flowcharts to explain systems, which I found to be applicable to the types of flowcharts us internal control folks put together or review on occasion. I think some tips offered in a recent post are excellent, in particular these two:

  • Eliminate as many overlapping connectors as you can. Try again, again, again, again, and one more time. Overlap spaghetti is a sign that you have not really understood how to explain your architecture.
  • After you eliminated your overlaps, you should be left with a grouping of boxes that is more or less logical. If there is a sequential process, there is a high chance that your boxes line up according to it. If things are related, they are probably located next to each other. In the previous steps, you looked purely for overlapping connectors, now go over your diagram again and think about function.

There are a few more on the full post, including one about adding colour which I like a lot but may not fit into the culture of a staid IA department. But it would work well for a presentation.

I could work with flowcharts every day, all day.

Mind maps made productive for public accountants

I’m a huge fan of visualizing things. Things like data. Data is fun, sure, but not as fun as a data visualization. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and pretty pictures have gotta be worth at least 1,001.

What’s helping me visualize data these days? Mind maps.

That’s because there are two really cool web apps that make creating and sharing mind maps a snap – bubbl.us and Mindmeister.

Mindmeister appears more polished at this point, but you have to sign up to use it. Bubbl.us will have you mapping right away (before needing to register) but isn’t as slick yet. Both are pretty cool tools for visualizing some interconnected data.

Mindmeister audit mind mapI’m hoping to use these tools in the near future when I’m leading an audit planning meeting. I think this is where I could use this technology for productive purposes (rather than just messing around) and display the relationships between sections of the file and the engagement’s specific risks.

It wouldn’t take much to liven up a planning meeting, that’s for sure. I think it would encourage more participation and livelier discussion of the relevant issues, engaging everyone from the partner down to the junior staff. For juniors, it would illustrate how interconnected the issues and risks are and enable them to better understand the client and the engagement.

There’s also Mindomo, which is more feature rich than both Mindmeister and bubbl.us, but less Web 2.0ish. I’ve found so far that it’s easier to just get going with the first two apps, plus I think they’d be easier to use in a meeting to brainstorm. For more detailed maps, Mindomo is probably better.

But what do you think? Are mind maps an exciting new frontier for the staid business meeting?

Depicting Waste Management fraud to enhance understanding

Dan Meyer’s blog, Tick Marks, has directed me to an interesting section of The Focal Point’s website, highlighting the work it did in helping the prosecution of the fraud case of the former head of Waste Management, James Koenig.

The Focal Point is a company that makes “all forms of courtroom presentations more persuasive by making these cases easier for judges and jurors to understand.”

In this case, they used visuals to represent the complex accounting treatments used in the fraud and enable the ordinary citizens making up the jury understand the gravity of Koenig’s manipulations.