Fintech company Plastiq is a startup dedicated to streamlining your use of credit cards. The team, backed by $45.3 million in startup funding, is tasked with all the difficulties of creating a safe, secure portal for financial information, while also providing a user-friendly interface that gives customers the easy bill pay they're looking for.
This is no easy feat. It takes everyone moving in tandem to keep Plastiq running full speed ahead — any bump in the road could spell disaster for the company's users, who trust Plastiq to pay their bills on time and keep their finances flowing.
In order to reach alignment and empower the team to own every problem, Plastiq turns to diagrams. Yes, diagrams, says Craig Cockerill, UX Lead.
Adding diagramming to their company's process has created the much-needed bird's-eye view necessary for reaching alignment. They serve as the fundamental components of Plastiq's internal knowledge sharing.
And as for empowering team members to solve problems? Everyone from the top down is constantly using Gliffy to map out, well, anything. “I think company-wide,” says Cockerill, “because it's everything from (co-founder) Daniel Choi diagramming user flow, to people using it for things like word charts, too.”
We sat down with Cockerill to learn more about how Plastiq is using diagrams to fuel their success. We'll begin with how they use diagrams to build an overview of their processes, and get all the way down to the nitty-gritty of getting team members started diagramming.
The Bird's-Eye View
Diagramming is a key part of how Plastiq builds a high-level overview of their product and projects. Many moving parts and systems can make plotting improvements and changes difficult. They use a constellation of programs to build their documentation, including Confluence, GoogleDrive, and Gliffy.
While their company wiki is jam-packed with information, “Gliffy is the bird's-eye view for how things move,” says Cockerill. “And that is truly what I want everyone to reference. All of the stakeholders on the team, be it sales or ops, will look at and reference our diagrams and documentation.”
“Gliffy is the bird's-eye view for how things move.”
They have built out their high-level road map to incorporate documents at every step of the way. Whether it's a complex mapping of how a feature works or a simple graphic for workflow, there's a diagram at the ready. “Our Gliffy creations are one of the first things on our Confluence pages,” notes Craig. This makes getting an overview of what is supposed to happen a simple and consistent process for the whole team.
It also helps in planning. When a new idea is being fleshed out, or when another idea needs restructuring, Plastiq uses Gliffy as a collaborative tool to build their overview of the road ahead. “Dan and I will pass things back and forth as we work on them. I'll say, hey I gave it a shot, see what you think. And then he'll edit and ask me to go check it out again. We'll keep handing it back until we're satisfied that we've thought through everything.”
Just as Plastiq lays out an overview of what's going on with diagrams, they also turn to visuals to help them with projects and project management. “Honestly, we create a new diagram from scratch for every project. Even the smallest stuff warrants one,” says Cockerill. That's because diagrams keep everyone aligned on what's happening in a project, and what's to come.
To keep their diagrams organized, Plastiq again integrates their Gliffy diagrams with their software tools to make it easy for anyone to access them. “Diagrams always get shared with the rest of the team through the wiki, because our wiki pages in Confluence are the heart of any project. Anything that goes to this project lives there.” This means that anyone can check up on what's going on or see new plans immediately.
Plastiq also works hard to keep all their diagrams uniform. “We created a legend that we use for all our internal projects. Every time we make something in Gliffy, we'll open up a new diagram and copy our legend over, so everyone is working with the same symbols.” This ensures that project-level diagrams are easily understood by anyone on the team, even if it's not their area of expertise.
The team at Plastiq isn't just consuming diagrams for road maps and project plans that high-level managers make for the team. They're created by members of the team regardless of position or department.
“Our FinOps or Head of Ops guys will use it to actually show how money moves, how it interconnects here,” says Cockerill. “Team members will make one artifact in Gliffy to share with the team for everyone to work with when they need to.”
“People have surprised us with how much they're jumping in and getting their hands dirty,” he continues. “For example, we promoted someone, and she immediately picked up Gliffy and was creating diagrams for her new team.”
Having an easy-to-use diagramming program is key to fueling this kind of ownership and initiative. It means that anyone can go into Gliffy and make personal maps, graphics for presentations, or team-wide diagrams without being formally onboarded, which would waste Plastiq's valuable time.
“There's no one in our company that's ever tried it and didn't figure it out quickly. Take our newly promoted diagrammer: what she'd done before — like taking post-it notes, putting them up on a board, and then linking ideas with lines — is just a physical manifestation of what happens in Gliffy. That's what makes it so intuitive for people.”
This means that the time it takes for anyone to jump in, create diagrams, join the workflow and contribute to projects is minimal, and the feeling of ownership is high. The company is giving its team the tools it needs to succeed.
There are any number of adages about visualizing success in order to create it, from motivational sports quotes to touchy-feely vision boards. What the team at Plastiq does, pushes these ideas into a practical realm: by making maps, diagrams, graphics and other visualizations of their company processes and their plans, they help manifest those things and stay on the same page.
“Like you can start with nothing and just go. You just start drawing lines and boxes, you can dig into those preset libraries and you create,” says Cockerill. That idea of starting from nothing and building your own vision is the spirit that drives Plastiq and the reason why their use of diagrams — from road maps to individual artifacts — fuels their company's success.