When Hubscope is Wonderful and the Times to Look Elsewhere

by | Aug 19, 2016

Why Hubscope?

One of our customers asked for some help in explaining to their client why they were using Hubscope on their project instead of another visualisation application. “Good question,” I thought, “here comes a blog post!”

Hubscope is designed to address a specific scenario:

  • challenge: IT projects are failing to deliver anticipated benefits
  • problem: poor communication between stakeholders and the technical team, poor understanding and poor engagement
  • solution: use visualization to encourage more contribution and improve motivation

It is certainly not designed to be right for everybody, in all situations, at all times – that is a rather crowded market 🙂

These questions should help you to decide if it’s right for you:


1. Are you a power user? Do you want to create complex, domain-specific diagrams on a regular basis?

Yes No Maybe
Desktop applications such as Visio are designed for power users: solution architects or business analysts who use them often and appreciate their wide range of different features. Hubscope is simple and is designed to be used by anybody on the project. Hubscope’s intelligent auto-layout feature means that you can quickly create diagrams that look great. You can easily add new nodes or relationships to the diagram and it will automatically redraw. There are a bunch of good online visualization tools that are quick to pick up and easy to use. Lucidcharts is particularly popular and can import/export Visio files.


2. Are you looking for something with many different templates so that you can draw different kinds of diagrams?

Yes No
Some of the online applications have extensive libraries of different templates that you can use. smartdraw has thirty different diagram categories and claims to have over 4,500 templates! Hubscope has one template with interconnecting perspectives, and is designed for addressing one problem only: how can we improve communication on IT projects by better understanding the relationships between stakeholders, requirements, services and technology?


3. Do you need something that stores data in an easy to use format?

Yes No
Hubscope stores the visualization data in Excel so it is information rather than just pictures. You can share the Excel data or even edit the spreadsheet and refresh the diagram immediately based upon the changes.

By using Excel you store the data and maintain control of it – no need to worry about how it’s being stored in the cloud and who can access it.

Online web apps treat your diagrams as pictures. You can copy the visualization as a picture but you cannot easily extract and manipulate the data. For example, with Gliffy you can save your diagram as a .jpg .png or .svg file.




4. Do you need to be able to navigate, interact and analyse the information?

Yes No
Hubscope has a number of features for interacting with the data:

  • Filtering: show only certain kinds of data – e.g. show only the parts of the project that will be delivered in phase one
  • Clustering: group data with similar data: e.g. automatically show servers grouped by the environment that they are hosted in
  • Prioritisation: Do you need to focus the diagram on a particular node? You can tag this node at redraw it so that it appears at the top
  • Dependencies: Do you need to see what is connected to this node? Hubscope can automatically show you this.
Other visualisation packages don’t really have this kind of functionality because they treat the data as pictures rather than as information that can be interrogated.

Sparx Enterprise Architect does have dynamic visual filters but it’s not as easy to use as Hubscope and doesn’t have the same range of interaction features.





5. Are you prepared to pay $1 per day to use the application?

Yes No
Hubscope can prove invaluable at different stages of the project, particularly the preliminary stages. It provides a great way to get everybody on the same page in terms of understanding the high level requirements and solution scope. Project managers love Hubscope because it helps them to better plan and understand critical path activities. There are a number of cheaper online applications. If you just want to draw pictures occasionally then Cacoo has a limited functionality, free version that might give you all you need.



Working Better Together

In ReWork: Change the Way You Work Forever, Jason Fried and Heinemeier Hansson suggest that:

“Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service.”

Whilst we wouldn’t claim to be great yet, we certainly have great aspirations and a point of view! Our point of view is that project managers, solution architects and business analysts have good tools that help them do their jobs competently but they don’t have great tools that help them work well together. The tools they use tend to be exclusive rather than inclusive in terms of the specific skills required to use them and the emphasis on advanced features and terminology which alienate rather than bring together.

This often leads to project managers, solution architects and business analysts not fully understanding each other and not in complete agreement with project scope, requirements and deliverables. The problem is compounded ten-fold when you add business stakeholders into the mix as they struggle to understand the information that’s presented to them but don’t want to seem foolish, so just nod and agree. Then they just return to their part of the business shaking their heads, thinking, “Here we go again. What planet are those guys from?” What’s required is a visualisation application that can:

  • be used by business and technology;
  • facilitate better communication across the different technical roles; and
  • promote a better common understanding and increased engagement in the project.

Essentially, a tool that is not perfect for any one discipline, but useful for all. We believe Hubscope is that tool but also understand that it’s not some magic silver bullet. Using Hubscope requires a willingness to listen, collaborate and move out of long-established comfort zones. We hope you’ll give it a try.

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Image credits:

  1. Header Image: Apples, oranges and pears at Borough Market by Garry Knight shared under a creative commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license
15 scenarios when you might need Hubscope
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants