“I use Lucidchart for almost everything I do.”
And that is not an exaggeration. Jafar Hosseinzadeh is a true Lucidchart champion and living proof that you can use Lucidchart for just about anything. Building a new man cave? Design it with Lucidchart. Planting flowers in the backyard? Map out the garden with Lucidchart.
But it’s not just his household benefiting from the power of visuals. In fact, that’s just the beginning. As director of software development at Source Code, Jafar has made Lucidchart an integral part of everything he and his team do.
Source Code is the umbrella of seven e-commerce companies. Jafar and his team are responsible for maintaining the websites and developing internal applications for each—they’ve got a lot on their plate.
Upon joining Source Code, Jafar developed a systems development lifecycle for his team based on DevOps principles. He documented the SDLC in Lucidchart, and his team relies on this process every time they have a new project.
Kicking things off with a mind map
After a statement of work is written and approved, Jafar and his team have a “design gathering” so they can identify everything needed for the project and toss out ideas for completing it. All these ideas are compiled in one big mind map.
Jafar is a huge fan of this particular type of diagram and (fun fact) actually used to teach mind mapping! “I believe mind maps free people from worrying too much about rules. Instead, they let ideas flow freely. And that goes along with the very essence of DevOps—bringing everyone together and establishing that everybody’s idea is a good idea.”
Before Lucidchart, Jafar was mind mapping on a whiteboard, taking a photo of it, and then sending it out to the team. Now he can simply start drawing in Lucidchart and eliminate the transfer step completely. The entire team can be on the same document as the mind map is built out, and this real-time collaboration is especially helpful when working with remote employees.
Delineating responsibility with a functional map
Next, a functional map emerges from “the gamut of scary boxes and circles with lines attached to each other” (otherwise known as a mind map). Jafar uses a Lucidchart template to start working on the functional map. He says:
“Lucidchart has a template for almost 90% of the things that I do."
The functional map places all the activities from the mind map in swimlanes so everyone involved in the project understands their role. During the brainstorming session, individuals express interest in what they would like to work on, and Jafar takes this into account while designing the functional maps.
There are swimlanes for the software architect, UX designer, developers, and other team members so each knows what they own. Assignments appear as swimlanes—wireframing the design, creating the DB modeling, etc.
Staying on track with diagrams
The team uses this functional map to create a task list in Smartsheet that includes all jobs and deadlines. Then the team can get started on their individual tasks. And they rely on Lucidchart as they go.
Rather than figuring out how to use a complicated wireframing application, Jafar uses Lucidchart to create simple wireframes to quickly communicate with his UX designer. Jafar and his team also build all their database designs in Lucidchart using the entity-relationship diagram shape library. Multiple team members will collaborate on the same document at once to come up with a finished diagram, and then Jafar uses this visual to create an SQL model in MySQL Workbench.
All of these diagrams are attached to the line items in Smartsheet so that everyone can reference them as the project progresses.
Currently, Jafar is relying on Lucidchart to build network diagrams for a major initiative at Source Code that involves moving the seven e-commerce sites that they manage from a Windows-based self-hosting environment to Microsoft Azure. Jafar is working with a systems administrator to oversee the migration, and he uses Lucidchart to diagram the network architecture. One diagram shows the dev network, another shows the network relationships, and the third is for management. He shares these diagrams with the network engineers. Since they still use Visio, he exports the diagrams as a PDF—and he sends it over with the disclaimer that if they sign up for Lucidchart for free, they can see the actual diagram and make changes to it.
Sharing visuals throughout the company
Source Code takes advantage of Lucidchart’s multiple sharing options. They use the Slack integration to share diagrams where they are already having conversations. Jafar and his team share diagrams within Lucidchart and collaborate on a document in real time. Perhaps most important to Source Code is Lucidchart’s integration with Google Drive. By storing all their diagrams in Google Drive, all employees know where to access any given diagram.
Leaving behind Visio
Jafar started diagramming in Visio. Then he read a review of Lucidchart and signed up for a free account, and soon he was doing everything in Lucidchart. In fact, Jafar says:
“When Lucidchart first came out, it was hard to imagine that it could replace Visio completely. As the product has developed, it has become evident to me that I really don’t need Visio anymore.”
Using the Visio import, he was able to seamlessly transfer all his Visio documents to Lucidchart. So where does Lucidchart win for Jafar?
1. Compatibility: Because Lucidchart is in the cloud, Jafar and his team can access all diagrams and shape libraries from any device, regardless of their operating system. Jafar is a big fan of the Lucidchart mobile app and talks about how excited people are to see his visuals on his phone. “I have a rule. I do not use a third-party tool that does not have a mobile app,” Jafar says, and Lucidchart checks that box.
2. Integrations: While Microsoft is a single platform that must stay confined to that environment, Lucidchart is a cloud application that allows for collaborative work. It connects with the tools Jafar’s team is already using, such as Google Drive and Slack. Team members can even start a new Lucidchart diagram from within Google Drive. Jafar says:
“Lucidchart makes it transparent for teams to share, work, and post diagrams in Google Drive or Slack. You can’t get there with Visio no matter how hard you try. In today’s world, you need departments to have relationships with each other. If you believe in DevOps, you have to have a tool that will lend itself to teamwork."
3. Ease of use: Lucidchart makes it easy for anyone to get up and running. “When you compare Lucidchart and Visio, there is no comparison in terms of the flexibility of the number of shapes you get, the ease of use, how easily you can transport things in and out,” Jafar says. “One of the beauties of Lucidchart is that it takes five minutes to learn the basic functions.”
4. Shape libraries: Jafar loves how many shapes Lucidchart offers. “You need very specific shapes for things like Cisco. Visio charges you extra, but they are just readily available in Lucidchart. Particularly in the last six months, the whole shape library has become so big that it is unbelievable.” He also has his own saved shapes library that includes items he needs such as GitHub and Jenkins icons. (He even took a photo of the roses in his backyard and imported it as a shape.) And he can access those shapes from any computer.
5. Cost: Visio is far more expensive than Lucidchart, and you have to install it on multiple machines.
According to Jafar, Lucidchart is just unbelievable and makes creating documentation much easier because it is so readily available. He says if you have any task in mind, he can tell you how to do it in Lucidchart. So whether you’re mapping out your network, your backyard, or anything in between, try Lucidchart.