## Beyond the Basics of Sequence Diagrams: Part 3

We got the final part of this series right here. While we did spend some time discussing Gates and its use or relevance to Sequence Diagrams, we now concentrate on just two elements known as Combined fragments.

Combined fragments (break and parallel)

If you do recall, back in the post called – The Basics & the Purpose of Sequence Diagrams ~ Part 2–  there was information on combined fragments known as “alternative,” “option,” and “loop.” While these combined fragments are what most people will utilize the most, there are other combined fragments, such as  break and parallel, which a large share of people will find useful.

Break

The break combined fragment is similar to the option combined fragment. There are two exceptions, though. First, a break’s frame has a name box stating “break” instead of “option.” Second, when a break combined fragment’s message is to be executed, the enclosing interaction’s remainder messages will not be executed because the sequence breaks out of the enclosing interaction.

Breaks are utilized to model exception handling. The figure below uses a break combination fragment since it treats the balance < amount condition as an exception instead of as an alternative flow. When the sequence gets to the return value “balance,” it checks to see if the balance is less than the amount. If the balance is not less than the amount, the next message sent is the addDebitTransaction message, and the sequence continues as normal. However, in cases where the balance is less than the amount, then the sequence enters the break combination fragment and its messages are sent. Once all the messages in the break combination have been sent, the sequence exits without sending any of the remaining messages (e.g., addDebitTransaction).

An important thing to note about breaks is that they only cause the exiting of an enclosing interaction’s sequence and not necessarily the complete sequence depicted in the diagram. Where there is a break combination, which is part of an alternative or a loop, then only the alternative or loop is exited.

Parallel

When the processing time needed to finish portions of a complex task takes longer than previously thought, some systems handle parts of the processing in tandem. The parallel combination fragment element should be used when creating a sequence diagram that shows parallel processing activities.

The parallel combination fragment is drawn using a frame, and you place the text “par” in the frame’s namebox. You then break up the frame’s content section into horizontal operands separated by a dashed line. Each operand in the frame represents a thread of execution done in parallel.

While the figure below may not illustrate the best computer system example of an object doing activities in parallel, it offers an easy-to-understand example of a sequence with parallel activities. The sequence goes like this: A hungryPerson sends the cookFood message to the oven object. When the oven object receives that message, it sends two messages to itself at the same time (nukeFood and rotateFood). After both of these messages are done, the hungryPerson object is returned yummyFood from the oven object.

All things considered, remember that the sequence diagram is a versatile diagram that can be used to document a system’s needs and to flush out a system’s design. The reason the sequence diagram is so useful is because it shows the interaction logic between the objects in the system in the time order that the interactions take place. We, of course, explained all this from the very first post we put out in the first series we did on these diagrams - The Basics & the Purpose of Sequence Diagrams ~ Part 1. We really do hope you found this series useful. Moreover, we would like to invite you to let us in on any new topics you would like us to tackle.

## Choosing Color to Improve Diagrams

It is a well known axiom that color is one of the most important components of diagramming. Whatever diagram type you do use, the utilization of a color scheme can make it either excellent or mediocre. This post will offer you a few simple but potent ways in which you could use color to great effect.

1. Color can be Used as a Differentiator

One of the main ways in which a color code can be utilized is for the purpose of differentiation. Consider an org chart, where (as an HR Manager) you want a split of the two sexes. Yourorganogram would look something like the example shown below.

As you can see, this is just a simple example. But colour can also be used to differentiate various things like office locations and hierarchy on an org chart, too. The use of color may be extended to various diagram types as well. For instance, consider using different colors to show what is a process and what is a decision in a flowchart.

2. Use Color to show Intensity

Color may also be used as an excellent barometer to show the difficulty or intensity that is present in certain tasks. For instance, if you are Project Manager who is tracking down a flowchart, you could use various colors to generate the difficulty of certain processes. A basic example is shown below.

3. Make it a Point to Utilize Color in the right Context

One of the main things that we need to be mindful of is using color that is relevant to whatever it is we are drawing. For instance, if you take a topographic map, certain colors would have meaning i.e. brown would be indicative of land, green would be indicative of vegetation and blue would mean sea. Another example would be the color utilization to show an increase in temperature. You would have the color increasing in intensity from light orange to dark orange and subsequently red.

4. Use Color to ensure Readability

One of the main benefits of using color is that you get to ensure absolute clarity. Usually, you need to pay attention to readability. Avoid designs that have color contrasts that cannot be easily read like dark brown text on a dark brown background. An ideal example is shown below, where proper utilization of color to ensure readability is encircled in red.

5. Use Colors from the same Palette

While we are all for the proper use of color, remember that you can seriously draw diagrams quick and easy with Creately’s one-click styles. Each row has complementary colors, and you can go up or down to show intensity within a color. Why not try this smart app for free and see for yourself!

We do agree that colour per se and color combinations are inherently subjective, yet you cannot deny the fact that it is certainly something that is important and can be widely used to offer a glut of benefits from easy assimilation of information to making diagrams look real beautiful. As always, we’d be thrilled with whatever response that you may have and would encourage you to make comments on this post and/or to get in touch with us if you got any queries.

## Murdoch and the News of the World Saga - A Visual Timeline

In keeping with that age-old cliche – a picture is worth a thousand words – we did a nifty visual timeline of the latest scandal (i.e. the News of the World saga) to hit global TV screens.

As you can see below, it’s way easier to explain things visually. Moreover, think of the numerous ways in which you can exploit various data sources and show information with more clarity via colorful mindmapswireframesUML designs,Venn diagrams and flow charts among many others.

## Now, it’s Creately for JIRA!

Well, this has been quite an exciting month for us! We had our Creately for Confluence go live last week, and today, we’re happy to announce the beta release of Creately for JIRA, a diagramming plugin for everyone’s favourite issue tracking and project management software, Atlassian JIRA.

Creately for JIRA helps your development team to improve the quality of detailing on their JIRA issues by easily creating and including Creately diagrams. Issues keep bouncing to and fro, and you cannot just replace a diagram with text when explaining a requirement. Now with Creately’s full integration into the JIRA interface, you can easily add flowcharts, use cases, mockups, mindmaps, UML or any other diagrams to your JIRA issues.

Creately for JIRA comes with the same user loved experience just like our Creately online, Creately for Confluence and all other Creately products -

• Easy-to-use interface
• User loved functionality
• Contextual toolbar with the 1-click create and connect features
• A vast library of smart objects
• In-line commenting

With Creately for JIRA, when you invite your team to edit the JIRA issue, they can edit the attached diagrams too. Working with Creately for JIRA is just absolute wonder, read our usage guide to see how to use Creately for JIRA.

Creately for JIRA plugin is now available for free downloads. This is only the beta release, so let us know if you have any suggestions on how we can improve.

## Creately for Confluence goes LIVE!

How cool is this? As posted a few days back, we announced Creately for Confluence in Beta. While that really was some cause for celebration, we have now officially gone LIVE! We’re sure you already checked out our brand spanking new page, but if you haven’t, check it out here. The best part about all this is that you can indulge in the same user loved experience that Creately has become so well known for.

With Creately for Confluence you can -

• Attach diagrams to your Confluence wiki pages or blogs with one click.
• Flowcharts, mockups, wireframes, UML diagrams, sitemaps or just about any other type of diagram is just so easy to draw.
• Creately’s drag and drop functionality, 1-click connect feature makes diagramming just exciting and fun.
• All your diagrams are seamlessly integrated and stored inside the Confluence server.

But the good news does not stop there. We’ve come up with an interesting pricing structure that is very reasonable. Just think, for a mere \$99, 3 users can enjoy using Creately for Confluence. The cool thing about this is that regardless of how many users you have on Confluence, you can get started with 3 editors. To get more details on the pricing structure, visit us here. Also, as a hurray for our launch announcement we’ve made this plugin available to you at a 40% discount. So you can now use the code ‘c0nflu3nc3l4nuc‘ when you check-out to get 40% off your purchase. This launch offer is limited until the 15th of July!

We’d love to hear from all of you using Creately for Confluence how we can make Creately’s seamless integration work better for you. If you haven’t still got Creately for Confluence, install it now with a few simple steps. It comes with a 14-day free trial! And watch our video to explore how easy diagramming is with Creately inside your Confluence server.

Want to share your thoughts on Creately for Confluence and our plans? Go right ahead and connect with us here.

## Some Benefits and Uses of Wireframes

From flowcharts to UML diagrams, we’ve offered quite a bit of important reading material for you out there. Our last post focused on wireframes and this present one also revolves around this really useful tool. To start things off we thought we’d focus a bit on the uses and benefits of wireframes.

You see, for the layman, the topic of wireframes may relate to just web designers and software developers. However, the fact of the matter is that wireframes are actually used by a variety of disciplines. While the main functionality of wireframes depends on the profession per se, find below some of the professions that utilize wireframes the most and how it benefits them.

• Developers would use a wireframe to understand the functionality of a particular site
• Designers would use a wireframe to push the user interface process
• Information architects would utilize wireframes to illustrate the navigation paths that is present between pages
• Business stakeholders would use wireframes to make sure that objectives and requirements are met via the design

Choosing to work with wireframes will lead to a collaborative effort since it helps link the information architecture to the visual design. Conflicts are sure to take place among these professional roles, as wireframing is a controversial part of the design process. Since wireframes signify an aesthetic that is very minimal, it is hard for designers to see how close the wireframe needs to depict actual screen layouts. Another difficulty with wireframes is that they don’t effectively display interactive details.

Generally speaking, wireframes usually have different levels of detail and may be split into two categories to show how closely they resemble the end product (this is also known as fidelity).

Wireframes that are Low-fidelity

Ideally low-fidelity wireframes (more like a quick mock-up) possess less detail and consume less time to produce. Additionally, these wireframes assist a project team to share effectively since they are usually abstract, with the use of rectangles and labelling to provide content. These wireframes are easy to identify with dummy content or symbolic content utilized to represent data when there is a lack of real content being available. For simple or low-fidelity drawings, paper prototyping is a common technique. Since these sketches are just representations, annotations—adjacent notes to explain behavior–are useful. However, online wire framing provides added benefits such as collaboration across distances, versioning and publishing for the next stage.

Wireframes that are High-fidelity

Then there are also high-fidelity wireframes. These are used for documenting, since they incorporate a level of detail that is very close to the design of the actual webpage or application, thus taking longer to create. With high fidelity wireframes, it is far easier to engage the client of a project since you are showing something that is close to the finished product. As mentioned previously, high fidelity wireframes gives a lot of priority to documenting. Needless to say, documenting is very significant since it is very important to communicate clearly with the next stage of a project. This would offer many benefits like reducing the chances of having to do re-work and also reducing time and money wastage.

We hope this gives you some useful insights into wireframes. However, there is more to come next week, with the focus once again being on wireframes and UI mockups, so stay tuned to this space. As always, you are more than welcome to give us a shout or to leave a comment below this post. Till next time – Happy Diagramming!

## Organizing for Success [1] : Map out your Organization Structure!

Perhaps the most important resource of an organization is its people. So the role people play, how they interact through formal and informal processes and the relationships that they build are crucial to the success of any strategy. If your manager was asked to describe your organization, he would probably respond by drawing an org chart, to map out its structure.

But why does an organization need a structure? This is important because it gives a clear picture of the reporting lines and helps you understand who you should report to. Also, by having clear reporting lines it makes it easy for you to have more control over the resources. Organization structure is more like the backbone of an organization’s culture, it therefore can directly affect employee behaviour, performance and motivation. Therefore, having a structure in your organization is important rather than leaving it carelessly managed with no clear structure.

Organization Structural Types

Having an effective organizational structure in place can increase productivity, improve operating costs and employee satisfaction. This will allow you to identify the positions within an organization, determine who manages which departments and define individual job levels and roles in the organization. Lets go through some of the basic structural types. This will help you understand how each organization structure fits in to the business environment and the strengths and weaknesses of each structure.

The Simple Structure

This is no formal structure at all, just typical of an organization run by the personal control of an individual. It is commonly the way in which very small businesses operate. There may be an owner who undertakes most of the responsibilities of management, perhaps with a partner or an assistant. However, there is little division of responsibility, and probably little clear definition of who is responsible for what if there is more than one person involved.

The main problem here is that the organization can operate effectively only up to a certain size, beyond which it becomes too cumbersome and time consuming for one person to control alone.

The Functional Structure

This is typically found in companies with narrow, rather than diverse, product ranges. It allows greater operational control at a senior level; and linked to this is the clear definition of roles and tasks. For instance, the marketing department would be staffed only with marketers responsible for the marketing of the company’s products.

This specialization leads to operational efficiencies where employees become specialists within their own realm of expertise. It’s best suited for organizations producing standardized goods and services at large volumes and low cost. The most typical problem with this structure is however that communication within the company can be rather rigid, making the organization slow and inflexible. Therefore, functional structures may be considered most effective for organizations operating in rather stable environments.

The Multidivisional Structure

Divisionalization is considered as a solution to overcome the problems that functional structures have in dealing with responsibility and business diversity. Divisionalization allows a tailoring of the product strategy to the requirements of each separate division and can improve the ownership of the strategy by divisional staff.

Unlike the functional organizational structure, this focuses on a higher degree of specialization within a specific division, so that divisions are given the resources and autonomy, to react to changes in their specific business environment. Therefore, each division often has all the necessary resources and functions within it to satisfy the demands put on the division. In practice, however a multidivisional structure has problems, like conflict between departments which is common due to internal competition and differences in values and expectations. It’s also more expensive to operate and manage because each division is considered its own entity and some functions are duplicated.

Although it can be hard to determine when your current organizational structure isn’t working, especially if you do not have a high level view of the structure, effort should be made to identify if your business has grown beyond its current structure or organizational design. When the structure isn’t working it leads to inefficiencies and wastage as well as possible internal conflicts. If you identify these sorts of problems it may be time to rethink your structure and move toward a better company structure.

Having looked at a few organization structures today, watch this space for more on the same topic to follow soon. In the meantime, please do let us know if you have any questions/suggestions, we are more than happy to help you.

## Creately just got faster and more responsive

Creately was always about intuitive diagramming that was fast and smart. We’ve always made it a point to keep upgrading our systems to ensure that you face no delay at all when it comes to creating those all-important diagrams. So as tweeted by Nick yesterday, you should notice an increase is speed when it comes to certain functions.

A faster app means a happier diagrammer

Some of the improvements also includes a faster response time when it comes to functions such as Create, Save, Open, Rename, Copy, and Delete diagrams, amongst many others. Other improvements include a quick response to opening the document manager and selecting as much as five diagrams at once! It’s a no brainer as to how this could translate to real-world benefits.

We reckon our performance upgrade would save you a whole lotta time, thanks to time being reduced when it comes to the usual diagramming functions such as opening documents, creating diagrams, saving and publishing them.  But there’s more reason to cheer, our performance upgrade has inherently improved the response time for Central Desktop as well. Read on to see how.

Central Desktop is fast, real fast

As most users may already know, Central Desktop offers a complete Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) collaboration platform, which allows business teams to communicate and collaborate online. This collaborative workspace gets more powerful now with Creately’s integration into Central Desktop’s platform that offers customers the ability to translate their ideas graphically.

The new online diagramming feature makes it extremely easy for users to create a visual diagram and embed that into online documents, wikis and discussions with just a few clicks. The good news is that this process has got quicker compared to what it was.

Access our Public Diagrams faster!

A real testament as to how versatile and easy-to-use Creately is would be the vast amount of diagrams drawn by our users. Currently we have in excess of 100,000 diagrams that encompass everything from Block Diagrams to UML Diagrams. This page has been a constant source of inspiration for new diagrammers and there are many diagrams that could be graded as Novice at one end to Professional at the other end. Despite having thousands of diagrams, the time taken to load a page is now quicker than what it was. You can click a diagram to view it on the Creately Diagram Viewer, which is also fairly fast now.

There are more improvements along the way (very soon!) in the form of bug fixes. We appreciate all the bug reports you guys have sent us and we’re hard at work to make sure Creately is that much smarter to work on. We’re all for constant improvement; if there are certain things you want improved, you’re more than welcome to pop us a tweet or send us an email.  It’s true what they say, sometimes it’s those small details that can make a world of difference.

Diagram references: http://www.psdgraphics.com/icons/psd-red-speedometer-icon/

via creately.com

## New PERT templates (AoA and AoN) on Creately

This post came to fruition thanks to one of our customers, @raoulUK, who made a request for AoN templates a few days back. So we’ve come up with three cool new templates for our users, which can be found under Business Graphics in Creately.com. With over half a million project managers across 185 countries, (who also probably uses diagramming software to make their lives easier), we thought it would make sense to offer some interesting insights into one of the more challenging aspects of project management – AoA and AoN network diagrams.

A short intro to AoA and AoN

Both activity on arrow (AoA) and activity on node (AoN) come under the Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT), which is a well-known method that is used to analyze various tasks when it comes to completing a project, especially when it comes to the time that is required to complete each task and the minimum amount of time that is required to complete the entire project.

Traditionally, activity sequence diagrams utilize boxes or even rectangles in order to show the activities, which are known as nodes. These nodes are made to connect with other nodes by the use of arrows; this would indicate the dependencies that are present between the connected activities.

A project network usually shows the association that is present between tasks within a project. Illustrating these activities by using nodes or even using arrows between the event nodes are the main ways you can draw those relationships.

When it comes to AoA diagrams, showing the finish-to-start relationships is a limited affair. What this means is that the arrow represents the time span from the event at the start of the arrow to the event at the end. Activities that are represented as arrows have to be added to illustrate some of the more complicated relationships and dependencies that are present between the activities.

However, when it comes to AoN diagrams, the activity is placed on the node. The interconnection arrows would illustrate the dependencies that are there between the activities. They’re more flexible and are capable of illustrating the main relationship types. Since the activity is on a node, the data usually can be placed on the activity.

So what should I use?

While there are some fundamental differences between AoA and AoN network diagrams, choosing one over the other is based on individual project requirements. Some of the basic differences would be as follows.

1. A significant drawback of AoA networks, is having several different possible networks describing the same project. In contrast, the Activities on Nodes (AoN) representation is unique.

2. Having both AoA and AoN networks of a project is an advantage since some planning and optimisation techniques strictly require AoA format while others require AoN format.

3. AoN diagrams are generally easier to create that AoA diagrams.

4. When it comes to inexperienced users, AoN diagrams is easier to understand than AoA diagrams.

5. If there are changes, it would be easier to do them on AoN diagrams than AoA diagrams.

6. AoN networks focus on tasks while AoA focus on events.

I hope this post offers some interesting pointers on these 2 tools, which are widely used in project management. Getting user feedback like Raoul’s is both useful and rewarding for us, since we know how you want Creately to improve. So, for the rest of our Creately users – Feel you could do with some new templates? If yes, let us know. We’d be more than glad to do some for you. Meanwhile, please do check out our existing templates, which you are sure to find useful. There are some cool things going on at Creately at the moment, which I’m sure you would be glad to pitch in and help with. So until next time, happy diagramming!

via creately.com

## Access Creately with ease, thanks to OpenID

Keeping up with the spirit of simplicity, we’ve made accessing Creately’s diagramming world easier thanks to using OpenID. Now it’s just a matter of logging in using your Google, Google Apps, Facebook or Twitter account to tap into a platform that offers you easy diagramming. There’s no more hassle involved in trying to remember that lengthy tongue-twisting password. :0)