Scott Helmers

Scott Helmers

Business Process Consultant, Data Visualizer, and Visio MVP

Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Scott A. Helmers is a Partner at the Harvard Computing Group, a software and consulting firm that assists clients with understanding and implementing business process solutions. He is a co-inventor of TaskMap (www.taskmap.com), a Visio add-in that allows anyone to document, analyze, and improve their business processes. He has been named a Microsoft Valuable Professional (MVP) for Visio every year since 2008 and is the author of four books from Microsoft Press including Visio 2016 Step by Step (http://www.VisioStepByStep.com). He is also a course author for LinkedIn Learning (http://bit.ly/LiL-Author).


Area of Expertise

  • Business & Management
  • Information & Communications Technology


  • Business Process Management
  • Process Mapping
  • Process Improvement
  • Business Analyst
  • Business Intelligence
  • Business Software
  • Business Productivity
  • Visio
  • Business Diagrams
  • Data Visualization
  • Data Storytelling
  • Data Analytics
  • Data Visualization Tools

20 Visio Tips in 60 Minutes

Most of us learned Visio by doing: a boss or a colleague said “Can you create an org chart of our division?” or “We need a flowchart of this process. By tomorrow.” or “Fred created this diagram before he left. Can you update it for Monday’s staff meeting?” We make do with what we know, but never had formal training or time to discover better techniques.

Would you like to use Visio more effectively? Want to learn keyboard shortcuts and ribbon tips that will make you a Visio power user? Would you like to incorporate data into your diagrams and then leverage the data by automatically color coding shapes and adding data-driven icons and graphics to create simple but effective BI dashboards? Are you interested in hyperlinking secrets that will double the communication power of any diagram? Want to add photographs to every person in an org chart with one click? Attend this session to uncover hidden dialogs, techniques, and features that will enhance your use of Visio.

This session resonates with every Visio user from newbies to people who've used the software for years. These are tips born from years of experience working with Visio users around the world.

If I only had a (whole) brain: Understanding how thinking styles affect all of us

Technology is the easy part – it’s working with people that’s hard! Holding effective meetings, securing peoples’ time and attention, making decisions, and working on a team are all harder than they should be. Is it because everyone (else) just does things wrong? Or could it be that if we understood more about how the brain works and the different ways that people think, we could communicate more effectively? That’s the focus of this session: improving communication and building more effective teams through better understanding of the human brain. We will talk about the Whole Brain Model and learn more about the “toward” and “away” responses that guide nearly everything we do. In short, we will leverage neuroscience principles so we can all learn to communicate more effectively.

Case Study: Visualizing data in context for a theme park operator

The key to successful data visualization is context. A collection of charts and graphs on a BI dashboard are great, but without context you’re likely to miss key insights. For example, the red bars on a hospital’s environmental monitoring dashboard may alert you that a problem exists, but when you can click the red bars and see the exact location of the problem on a floor plan, you can formulate an immediate response. Similarly, when a dashboard includes a network diagram that shows real-time server status and you can click a failed server to see the data required to initiate a fix, you’re two steps ahead.

How do you achieve this level of insight? There’s no better way to add context than to enhance Power BI reports with floor plans, network diagrams, process maps, or org charts created in Visio. This session includes multiple live demos of Visio/Power BI integration from an ongoing customer project. The customer’s goal is to provide frontline workers using Teams with easy access to visualizations in Power BI. The customer in this case runs theme parks—which you probably don't!—but there are plenty of useful Power BI tips and techniques for everyone.

Though I can't name the client, it becomes obvious pretty quickly who it is ;-). And this truly is a case study -- the work is ongoing.

Data Visualization in Visio. Really? Visio??

You probably know Visio from network diagrams, flowcharts, org charts, and floorplans. But did you know that you can light up any Visio diagram with data visualizations? You can attach data-driven icons, progress meters, ratings, bar graphs, and text callouts; you can even change the colors of shapes in the diagram based on underlying data values. Where does the data come from? Pretty much anywhere you’d like. Just use the embedded wizard in Visio to link to Excel, SharePoint, SQL, or almost any database via ODBC. You don't always need Power BI or Tableau to present sophisticated data visualizations. Attend this session to learn how to turn ordinary Visio diagrams into BI dashboards.

This session is designed to create "aha" moments -- usually several per person -- as I reveal data as Visio's superpower. The session is fun and informative.

12 Visio tips in 45 minutes

Most of us learned Visio by doing: a boss or a colleague said “Can you create an org chart of our division?” or “We need a flowchart of this process. By tomorrow.” or “Fred created this diagram before he left. Can you update it for Monday’s staff meeting?” The problem is that most of us never had formal Visio training so we make do with what we know. This session -- presented by the guy who wrote the book on Visio -- will give you a dozen tips and tricks to move you past where you are now and into a world of new features and enhanced productivity.

Becoming a Visio Power User

If you consider yourself to be an above average Visio user, it’s time to step behind the curtain and learn how to unleash even more of what Visio can do. In this session you will learn techniques for creating shapes, masters, stencils, and templates. You’ll learn the difference between editing a master in a stencil and editing a master in the Document Stencil. (For that matter, you’ll learn what the Document Stencil is and where to find it!) You will also learn to display and use the Developer tab. Finally, you will learn to unlock the real power of Visio by using the ShapeSheet.

Four things you need to know about your brain to tell data stories more effectively

Do you wonder why some people just “get it” when you show them data or talk to them about data? And why others have dazed looks on their faces? The answer probably lies in the four thinking styles that both join and separate us. Attend this session to learn more about how our brains work and why understanding more about thinking styles that are different from yours may just make you a better data storyteller. You’ll also hear about the “toward” and “away” responses that guide nearly everything we do, and you’ll understand why simple actions and words can trigger the same fight or flight responses as physical stimuli. Think of this session as introductory neuroscience for data geeks!

Solving multi-report navigation challenges in Power BI using bookmarks, filters, and Excel

Imagine you have a dozen Power BI reports. One provides visual navigation through a corporate hierarchy, with hyperlinks that lead to the other eleven reports. Each of the eleven reports includes a visual table of contents, multiple report pages, and one drill-through detail page that is shared by the other pages. Your goal is to provide users with seamless navigation from the top of the hierarchy to the lowest level of detail, preferably without driving yourself crazy updating links among all of the various reports as things change (and you know they will!).

The real-world scenario for this setup was a resort owner that wanted floorplan-level Power BI reports for every hotel in a resort complex, while providing users in Teams with easy navigation anywhere in the corporate hierarchy. Your use case may be different but you probably have similar needs for visual navigation within a collection of detailed reports. In this session you’ll learn about a solution that involves page navigation links, URLs, filters, and bookmarks, all of which are organized in way that minimizes the work required to keep it all functioning.

This session is based on a real-world implementation for a customer.

Need to improve processes? Your process maps should be more like Google maps

The key to improving business processes is visualizing the flow of work. And the best way to visualize the flow of work is a process map. Not a flowchart, but a real process map.

What differentiates a genuine process map from an ordinary flowchart? Data. Data that lights up the map so you can gain insights about both the current process and potential improvements in a future state process.

Think about a Google or Bing map. What elevates it above an ordinary road map? The answer is the same as the question above: data. Like a Google map, your process maps should show more than just the path from A to B. They should also tell you what risks you’re likely to encounter; which alternate paths you might need; who the key players are; how long each step should take; how long each step actually took; and where to get additional information along the way.

A data-driven process map should become the central repository for all information about a process, from the macro-level overview to the micro-level details. In this session, you’ll learn several approaches to building data-driven process maps using familiar tools from Microsoft, including Visio, Power BI, and Power Automate.

This session features live demos of diagram creation and data visualizations in Visio and Power BI.

Transforming Network and Facility Management with Visio and Power BI

There’s no shortage of data in most organizations, but the existence of data isn’t enough. How do you leverage that data, learn from it, and draw insights that will help you move your organization forward?

One answer is to visualize the data in the context of a diagram, which is surprisingly easy to do when you know a little bit about Visio and Power BI. In this session, you’ll learn how to create Visio diagrams that “light up” with several types of visualizations. You’ll also appreciate how easy it is to drop a Visio diagram into Power BI and link it with other visuals so you can slice and filter data across multiple visuals with one click. The presence of the Visio diagram in Power BI adds context: you know exactly which rooms are too hot; which virtual machines are running apps that have failed; which network switch needs to be replaced and exactly where it’s located.

The examples used in this session are from a real customer project and include facility diagrams that incorporate drilldown from a regional view to a building to a floor, and then use heat maps to show property maintenance issues. You'll also see a theme park map in which buildings light up based on data about equipment they contain. Though this session features two specific case examples, the concepts apply much more broadly: If you have a diagram and corresponding data, you can visualize it using tools you already have.

Though I can't name the theme park operator for whom these data visualization projects were performed, it will probably be obvious to most attendees and generally adds to the interest of audience members.

Visio for the web is ready for prime time!

The early versions of Visio for the web were OK. The biggest advantage was that you could create and edit Visio diagrams in any web browser on any device. Safari on a Mac? Sure. Chrome or Safari on your phone? Definitely. iPad? Laptop? Desktop? All of the above.

However, in its early days, Visio for the web wasn’t exciting. Yes, there were quite a few templates and pre-designed shapes. And you could drag shapes onto the drawing page, connect them, change their sizes, colors, and text just like in “real” Visio. But that was about it.

The good news is that a slew of 2022/2023 updates have brought radical improvements. Chief among them for data geeks is the addition of Visio’s underrated superpower: the ability to view, add, and edit data in diagram shapes.

Working on a process map? An org chart? A network diagram? The shapes in all of those diagrams, and many more, can now include and display data fields and their values.

Want to add photos to your org charts or change the styles of the org chart shapes? Would you like to engage in threaded comment streams with your colleagues about parts of a diagram? All of that is now possible in a web browser.

Best of all, what you’re creating or editing is a true Visio diagram so it’s fully compatible with the desktop versions of Visio. Your colleagues with Visio Professional or Visio Plan 2 on the desktop can add data visualizations and other cool features – and the result is still viewable by anyone with any browser on any device.

This session is packed with live demos so you can see first-hand how you and your colleagues can collaborate online to build data-driven Visio diagrams.

Scott Helmers

Business Process Consultant, Data Visualizer, and Visio MVP

Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Please note that Sessionize is not responsible for the accuracy or validity of the data provided by speakers. If you suspect this profile to be fake or spam, please let us know.

Jump to top