Our company has 8 departments each housing approximately 12 people on average. I'm the CTO of the company and IT is involved in pretty much all departments. As such, there is a need to define and document all IT processes and also all the tech level scenarios in order for us to understand what we are doing. Could be things like:

  • What does the order flow look like?
  • What systems does an order pass?
  • What responsibilities do all of our administration servers have?
  • How does our web server backend system work?
  • Our content delivery network?
  • And what about backups and redundancy of our mail server?

And so on, the list just grows...

Having this documented visually using some kind of standard methodology is a requirement as loads of texts just introduces too much overhead in terms of rapid understanding. Any such tool must be easy and quick to work with otherwise documentation will NOT happen anyway.

What are you using out there? Any input is much appreciated.


For just about any kind of functional diagram, I use dia. It's not the single greatest drawing program in the history of the world, but it works well enough, and it's installable on Windows and MacOS as well as Linux, which is very handy in all the environments I work in.

I have used it to produce some really quite complex network diagrams, and the ability to send it to people for review without worrying what platform they're on is really, really handy.

  • Yes, have tried Dia and for custom diagrams it rocks. However, what I'm looking for is something designed for rapid documentation of processes. I tried out LucidChart which is a really cool tool and they have a chart component called SwimLane. Using that component I can define roles and areas within my company as to describe how processes flow cross-department. This is all good BUT it requires ME to define the documentation flow and to create some sort of template for future use. I would love a tool that helps me do more than just provide me with tons of graphics. – tobefound Mar 7 '11 at 7:44

I tend to use Visio. It is a good point that you need to make sure whatever you choose you are sending things out in a format that is useful.

If you don't already have a wiki, I would recommend something like confluence and then an addon like http://www.gliffy.com/. Or you could just use http://www.gliffy.com/ standalone.

I sounds like the bigger question is more about the diagrams themselves. For that I think the best approach is to starting with finding some flow charts or process charts you like and emulate them. It all depends on what you are documenting.

  • See my comment above. I've tried more than 10 different flowchart engines and they all do pretty much the same. I'm looking for something more specific to the documentation process itself. – tobefound Mar 7 '11 at 7:48
  • gliffy is nice, buts its horrible flash. I tried gliffy and moved on to lucidcharts, which is currently serving its purpose and has lovely lovely connectors, which are just cool. However its shapes palate is limited. – Tom H Dec 21 '11 at 5:20

Confluence Wiki and the Gliffy plugin

Really great since it means you do everything regarding documentation in the same place.

  • Though I do like dia if I didnt have Gliffy, anything but Visio basically.

I've used Dia in the past as well and it works quite well. I love having something I can use on my Linux box. ;)

But Visio is the best, the added features like SQL database linking, Sharing of your diagram via the web.

Worth the money, and being a CTO of your organization, look into getting a Technet subscription then you can get Visio at a fraction of the cost.

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