Mary Anne Shew is owner of Business Vitality, LLC, an upstate NY-based consulting firm specializing in marketing, strategic planning, and coaching for businesses. On any given day, Mary Anne might be conducting a seminar, designing a web site, organizing a sales workshop, or helping a business owner operate more profitably. She regularly needs to communicate a wide range of complex solutions to an equally disparate client base. Using SmartDraw, she produces "outside the Microsoft box" visuals that help her customers envision success.
After just two months of SmartDraw software ownership, Mary Anne Shew is hooked.
"I got an email from SmartDraw one day and was intrigued enough to go to the web site. I downloaded the trial- played with it, and within 24 hours I was sold!" she recalls. "The template library was what sold me. I immediately thought, 'wow, this can save me a lot of money and time.'"
Since Mary Anne's migration to SmartDraw, she's already become somewhat of a power user-saving money, time, and the complexities involved in using some of her former software tools, including Paint Shop Pro®, Adobe Photoshop® or Illustrator®, MS Word®, Visio® or PowerPoint®.
"SmartDraw has already saved me a lot of time and produces very professional visuals with little effort. My accidental discovery of some of the automated features, such as the ability to enter a website's URL and SmartDraw automatically pre-populates the site map, made the software worth every penny. Awesome!"
She also uses web site diagrams to help define how her client wants a site visitor to travel through the site, which can then be tracked in Google Analytics, allowing her client to view whether the site is meeting business objectives or not.
Prior to using SmartDraw for website mapping and diagramming, Mary Anne drew boxes on PowerPoint® slides by hand.
"I used PowerPoint for web site mapping for 10 years. It almost makes me sad to think about how much time I've spent doing that when I could have done them so much faster, easier and more professionally in SmartDraw."
Mary Anne recently created a proposal for a client using SmartDraw's swim lanes templates to organize the way her client planned to tackle some business processes.
"I've used the swim lanes templates to help a client sort out how they will produce their quarterly newsletter in both print and online versions, with each lane representing a person in the process. We will also likely use the same type of document to sort out how their customers' email addresses are managed for e-newsletter distribution.
"Swim lanes are great for explaining those 'what-if' situations to clients," she adds.
Planning client projects has also been streamlined by using SmartDraw.
"I have several projects where the details of tasks were starting to drive me crazy, and I used to use a simple Word table to organize them. Now, for project planning, I start by using a SmartDraw mind map and then convert it to a Gantt chart with just a click. The Gantt chart is easy to manipulate and it reforms itself automatically. It also saves me from using something like MS Project, which is too complicated."
Mary Anne's clients have warmed to SmartDraw visuals as well.
"My clients understand the visuals right away," she says. "I was using a process diagram and showing an evolution of steps in a process. I used color schemes, with everything in gray representing what they're doing today. I colored the next version blue, showing how e-newsletter content will work and how the print version will convert. SmartDraw helps me show my CEOs the 'big picture' in this way."
Mary Anne explains that SmartDraw has had the surprise benefit of helping her to think critically about the best way to represent a problem, issue, solution or idea.
"One of the observations I've made in recent years is the influence that Microsoft Office products have had on how people think," says Mary Anne. "In my opinion it has not always been a good thing."
While MS Office tools were originally a great start in the office productivity space, Mary Anne feels that, "they frame my thinking more often than I would like. Having to decide first what tool I need to use and then having to 'shoehorn' my idea, project, list, or whatever into that tool's capabilities has been limiting."
SmartDraw is changing the way Mary Anne communicates.
"SmartDraw's templates help me think of ways to translate complex situations into visuals that are more easily comprehended. The simplification helps isolate the key drivers and reduce the "noise" that can cloud issues and thinking. SmartDraw allows me to focus on what I want to communicate rather than how do I draw it. And, for the price of any one individual tool in Microsoft, I get all kinds of tools and templates that spur more ideas. Those templates alone are worth the price of admission."