Creative SmartDraw Use Nets Firm 150:1 Return on Investment

Gantt chart

For years, Chip Pappas and his web development team relied on SmartDraw for web site schematics, wire framing, and site mapping. But SmartDraw's latest edition put the WOW factor into their presentations with project management features that show prospective clients exactly how Olive Development will get the job done for them before work even begins. The net result? Confident clients who sign on the spot and a cool $30,000.00 (and counting!) addition to the bottom line.

Just north of the greater Boston area in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, George "Chip" Pappas and his team at Olive Development develop web sites for companies of all sizes. As principal of the firm, as well as head of development and information architecture, Chip works both behind the scenes and also as the front-man for client relationships and new business meetings.

SmartDraw is a staple at the firm, with Chip having used it for the past three years for web site schematics, wire framing and site mapping.

"SmartDraw continues to be the best tool to use for these purposes. It allows me to easily show boxes and drop downs, where banners would go, how the left hand navigation will look, for example," Chip explains.

Gantt Charts Impresses Clients and Bring in the Business

The latest release of SmartDraw really put the sizzle in their new business tool chest, admits Chip.

"The new release is a huge wow for me. I hadn't really used the Gantt chart functionality before and never really thought of it as a new business tool."

Work flow

"We now use the Gantt charts to explain to potential clients or their advertising agencies how our web design process will work. The Gantt chart has been invaluable for this purpose."

With this edition of SmartDraw, Chip can create a Gantt chart calendar that automatically "updates itself" when tasks are changed, if a task is removed, or when dates change.

"The chart shows how each task affects the deliverable dates of other tasks — it's smart. Clients can easily see how we work and how their part in the process effects the bottom line due date."

Chip uses the Gantt chart functionality in presentations to show how tasks are aligned after the information architect creates the wire frames (Figure 1).

"I put everyone's activities into the chart so we can see when and where the creative person inserting the logos and other treatments comes in. It shows how one person relies on another and how it all pulls together. In a sales presentation, we can say, 'this is why we can get your job done in 12 weeks.' The charts impress clients."

Chip says that using SmartDraw's Gantt charting functionality "has definitely helped us get business, do our jobs faster, and convey information. It helps us succinctly show how some of the software might flow, how tasks merge with other tasks and how it all interrelates."

Taming the 800 Pound Gorilla Project

SmartDraw's improved flow charting capability has also become essential for the Olive Development team.

"I've been using the flow charting functionality to show a child/employee relationship and then styled that to create a nice and easy maintenance site map (Figure 2). Before this feature was made much simpler, I'd drag and reconnect things. Now, when a certain part is removed for any reason the flow chart readjusts accordingly and everyone can see what must be done."

Olive Development recently relied on SmartDraw's flow charting and Gantt charting capabilities for a complicated web site project.

Web site plan
Figure 3: Client website

"We're working on a site that, so far, is 55 pages long and in nine languages — and we're on version 14. Believe it or not, SmartDraw has made this project easy to update and to figure out which language needs certain elements."

Chip says the overview chart for this project is a flow chart that fits on a ledger that he uses for visual presentations (Figure 3). He also appreciates the fact that he can brand it to make it look sharp, and his own.

"I'm a visual learner," Chip notes, "and SmartDraw helps me convey ideas, timelines, and task interactions to other visual learners."

Chip estimates that by using SmartDraw as the primary software tool for billable work during the past three years, his firm has netted between $25,000 and $30,000 in added revenue.

"SmartDraw has given me a great return on my initial investment. If I had always relied on other tools, like Visio or Photoshop, or an expensive standalone project management suite, my deliverables wouldn't have looked as professional and would have taken twice as long to create. SmartDraw has helped us to get business, retain business, and it's saved us many hours of labor."