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Complex Organizational Charts

Can you recommend software for preparing complex organizational charts that can be generated from a database of employee information? I need to develop about 30 pages of charts for a department of 1500 people that show:

1) organizational relationships

2) number of employees by job title category reporting to each manager, and the total for that manager

3) funding classification -- indicate for employees in each title category how many are funded as Operating, how many are Capital, and the total

4) summary info -- at the bottom of each page, subtotal the number of employees by occupational group and funding classification

I have used Excel for this in the past, but that cannot be the best solution. I need s/w that supports simple arithmetic funtions and numberical displays in addition to the typical organizational design. It would be ideal if the charts could be automatically generated from an employee database, with the data on the lower level charts automatically rolling up to the data on the higher level charts.

-- Abigail Amsterdam (email)


Microsoft's Visio includes an organization chart template and wizard. It can import data from text files, Excel, and other ODBC databases, and special features can be programmed with Visual Basic.

-- Dave Nash (email)


You can get Excel to do just about anything by using Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). It's strength lies in things computational; you can develop some pretty complex routines for handling dynamically changing data. It's main drawback is in it's severely limited graphic capabilities, a deficit which is and forever will be a fundamental condition of MS software. For instance, you can use VBA to call data from Excel as it's changed and automatically update a chart, report or some other document, whether in Excel, Word, Visio or any application supporting VBA. As programming languages go, VBA is pretty easy to learn. Goodness knows, if I can figure it out, just about anybody can.

-- Steve Sprague (email)


Best program to use for organizational charts is Visio a CAD package bought by Microsoft a while ago. I still have a pre Microsoft licence and use it in preference to the 3-D CAD package I have called VectorWorks.

-- Gavin Ferguson (email)


I agree some tool like Visio will be both commonly available and feature-rich. Adobe Illustrator will give you more precision in your graphic output, but I cannot speak to its automated charting capabilities, having not used them. There are also numerous org-chart-automation packages that tie into ERP software like PeopleSoft and SAP, and in the absence of an off-the-shelf package, a competent programmer should be able to create one for you in a fairly short period of time.

You might consider printing the chart on a plotter (or taping pages together) and hanging it on a wall rather than separating the chart into 30 separate pages; it will be easier to comprehend and compare the various parts of the whole if they are presented to the eye simultaneously.

While considering the choice of tool for designing the presentation of the information, you might also give some second thoughts to the need for an organizational chart at all. While there are many valid reasons for needing to diagram an entire organization (in recent months, pending workforce reductions have been a common impetus), many organizations discover that because of rapid changes in the organizational structure, charts rapidly become outdated. The org. chart, like most graphic displays, can only ever show things as they were, not as they are.

For some organizations, a solid hierarchy is important (the military; some universities; the church), but for others the ability to change rapidly to fit new situations (particularly during periods of rapid growth) is paramount, and an organizational chart may stifle that change.

-- Scott Zetlan (email)




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