Visio schemas link data in diagrams

Goal is to enable dynamic interaction with diagrams

Microsoft has released documentation that allows corporate and third-party developers to take full advantage of the XML-based schemas, called DatadiagramML, in its Office Visio diagramming tool.

The move, announced last week, will make it significantly easier for users to access information residing in their Visio diagrams and to share that information with server-based CRM and ERP applications from companies such as SAP and PeopleSoft. This makes it easier for corporate users to integrate that data into their core business processes, company officials said.

"We have always had support for user-defined schemas. But this will better allow our partners who work with users to build solutions so that their diagrams will no longer be static. It gives users and their partners a starting place to begin reusing code to create repeatable solutions," said Bobby Moore, Microsoft's product manager for Visio.

One example of making Visio diagrams more dynamic would be working with an organizational chart within Visio and "lock it" into a back-end database so that any new information put into the database would in turn automatically update the information in the diagram to reflect those changes, Moore said.

Making the documentation freely available, which is under a royalty-free license, can also improve users' ability to search for information in data diagrams and e-mail files, Moore said.

A number of developers and vendors are beginning to put together a range of solutions using Visio 2003, including HRW Consulting and Schweizerische Post AG, the Swiss postal service.

"A great deal of the work we do involves a variety of people in different parts of the organization. Being able to share information broadly has been a boon to the overall business," said Dan Miller, who is in charge of resource management at Schweizerische Post AG.