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Why the new (and free) Visio web app changes the game for Microsoft 365 Business plans

When you’re tasked by your manager to draw out a workflow, an organizational chart for your team, or maybe a timeline for a project, what is your go-to method to create that sort of diagram? Let’s say your manager is looking for a diagram that she can present to the board, now how are you going to create that diagram?  

Unless you believe you’re a true artisan who can hand-draw a diagram on a whiteboard, take a photo of it, and then import the static file into a slide deck (as an aside, this is a scenario that actually happened… and is not recommended), the way many of us would add a diagram to our manager’s slides to the board using a software app. For organizations using Microsoft 365, very simple diagrams can be created using the built-in SmartArt shapes for Microsoft PowerPoint. While complex diagrams could be created with the purchase of a Microsoft Visio license, many cost-conscious organizations—especially during the 2020 pandemic—resisted adding Visio in favor of either cheaper third-party alternatives or just made do with whatever they had. Amaxra consultants heard from our clients and prospects that they would love to add Visio because of its tight integration with Microsoft Teams and other Microsoft 365 apps but wished there were a simpler, inexpensive version with just the most common diagramming templates. 

Microsoft adds a free version of Visio to all Microsoft 365 Business plans

In July 2021, all Microsoft 365 Business plans will receive a free update that will add a cloud-native version of the Microsoft Visio app for every user. Unlike the previous standalone versions of the Visio app, this new cloud-native version is integrated directly into Microsoft 365 Business and accessed from Office Online in any web browser. Although it is a pure web app in Microsoft 365, the free version of Microsoft Visio will offer the most popular diagram templates such as flowcharts and process diagrams.

The cloud-based nature of this new Visio app means that every diagram is automatically saved in the secure Microsoft OneDrive storage and available worldwide from any device. Start working on a flowchart from your laptop in the office, continue to edit on your smartphone during the train ride home, and add one final flourish using your tablet at home after a bit of late-night inspiration strikes! Because these Visio files are in the cloud, users can co-author diagrams in real time with colleagues thanks to the seamless integration with Microsoft Teams. It’s a brilliant move from Microsoft, because giving Visio to every Microsoft 365 user for no extra charge fills the very real need for visual communication, especially in these post-pandemic times when so many of us are collaborating or communicating virtually.

Who can benefit most from the free Visio app in Microsoft 365?

In general, there are three categories of users who Amaxra consultants see will benefit from the new Visio app in Microsoft 365:

  1. The Power User – This category of user needs a diagramming tool as a requirement for their job. For example, an office manager who works on creating seating plans for a post-pandemic return to work initiative. Visio has industry-specific shapes that can help this person quickly create diagrams, customizing the design based on their own creativity whilst still adhering to corporate branding guidelines. Power users often also need to collaborate on their designs, and while Amaxra would typically recommend the full desktop version of Microsoft Visio, the new cloud-based web app is still a good solution for a Power User’s needs.
  2. The Business User – While diagramming is not the most important part of their job, it is still significant. For example, program managers and process owners such as an IT administrator or HR professional who has to maintain documents that have processes. Maybe they don’t even create the process but are iterating on existing corporate processes and to stay productive they just want to quickly get things done. With the new Visio web app, the Business Users get a professional level of formatting for a visually-striking diagram that conveys processes succinctly.
  3. The Basic User – The majority of knowledge workers just don’t have a need to create diagrams very often. For these Basic Users of Visio, the purpose of a diagram is to support other documents. “A picture is worth a thousand words” and creating a diagram or flowchart using the Visio web app enables the Basic User to quickly generate a professional diagram that seamlessly integrates with a Microsoft Word document, a PowerPoint deck, or any of the other Microsoft 365 apps they use on a daily basis.

In some cases, these cheaper alternatives would be useful for small to midsized businesses (SMBs) looking to enable diagramming for the organization. However, it was not uncommon for Amaxra consultants to find that many of these SMB’s Power Users would still have a desktop version of Microsoft Visio running on their PC. So, there was obviously a need for Power Users down to the Basic Users to have diagramming capabilities—and that’s what the new Microsoft Visio web app provides at no extra charge. Amaxra consultants are now showing these SMBs the benefit of moving from those cheap alternatives to the free Microsoft Visio version in terms of both IT cost consolidation and enhanced productivity though better integration with existing Microsoft 365 solutions.

Find out how to take full advantage of Microsoft Visio with Amaxra

Amaxra can help your company to get the most out of the new Microsoft Visio web app along with the other cloud-powered business solutions from Microsoft. We are a Gold-level Microsoft Partner with extensive experience deploying Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams solutions at scale for small to midsized businesses like yours. To get started on simplifying your business IT, connect with an Amaxra consultant today.

Contact me at rosalyn.arntzen@amaxra.com or call 425 749 7471 if you have any questions or comments on this blog.

about the author

Rosalyn Arntzen

Rosalyn Arntzen, President & CEO of Amaxra, founded Amaxra in 2007 after a successful career working for several multi-national companies around the world. Under her leadership, Amaxra is proud to have been on the Inc 500/5000 fastest growing companies in 2013 and 2016. You can contact Rosalyn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/rosalynarntzen.

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