Peter Senge in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization, said that, “[a]t its simplest, a shared vision is the answer to the question, ‘What do we want to create?’”

As facilitators of knowledge exchange, tasked with helping business and delivery stakeholders reach that “shared vision”, effective use of visual models  is a critical skill:

Visuals act as metaphors for our life situations, our goals, our hopes, our dreams, and our ideas. People tend to think in patterns, which are how we organize, create, and execute processes, i.e., how we get from here to there successfully. Patterns are most easily understood visually! – Dean Meyers

So what does a visual model look like? I like a description from (my all-time favorite resource on communication using visuals) Idiagram:

We don’t hold a narrow definition of exactly what a ‘visual model’ should look like: they should use whatever visual elements or styles – diagrams, maps, graphs, charts, pictures, cartoons, etc. – that will most effectively represent the problem at hand.

If you’re interested in learning more about communication using visuals, and want to check out some excellent examples of ideas portrayed visually, go spend some time poking around the Idiagram website.

As a hiring manager of business analysts, it’s been encouraging to see a general uptick (at least locally) in the proportion of candidates that can demonstrate competency visually modeling flows, mock-ups, and diagrams.

In the near future, I fear the BA that is stuck in the rut of primarily writing textual, declarative requirements is going to have a harder time competing for work. Stakeholders that have been treated to visual models have seen that there is a better, less laborious (for them) and more effective way to understand requirements than the 75 page, big, thick requirements spec.

Do you agree on the criticality of visual modeling skills to having a successful business analysis career? What are your go-to visuals? How have you developed your modeling skills? I’d love to hear your comments!