From Pioneer in Internet Sales to a Giant Leap in Mass Adoption, SmartDraw Charts New Strategy in Graphics Software

6/22/10Follow @bvbigelow

Paul Stannard says communicating visually by using charts, graphs, and other information graphics is six times as effective as communicating by text alone. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Yet even with the widespread availability of sophisticated software like Autodesk’s AutoCad, Adobe Illustrator, and CorelDraw to create diagrams and info-graphics, Stannard maintains that less than 3 percent of business communications include visual aids such as organization charts, flow charts, or project management planning timelines.

Why?

Stannard says it’s just too hard. He contends that even Microsoft Office Visio targets more technically oriented customers—and he says telling an office manager that one graphics software program is easier to use than another is like saying an F-18 is easier to fly than an F-16.

With such complexities in mind, Stannard has charted an ambitious new strategy for exponential growth at the San Diego company, which has instead shown slow-but-steady growth as a niche developer of graphic design software for ordinary people. Stannard has long believed the company had the potential to hit $100 million in annual sales by tapping into “the 95 percent of business software users” who do not use a graphic design or diagramming program of any kind. “If you ask me,” he says, “I’d say that our main competitor is pencil and paper.”

Annotated SmartDraw Screen Shot

Annotated SmartDraw Screen Shot

A key part of his strategy focused on developing an improved version of SmartDraw’s program that was simpler and more engaging for customers to use.To make professional-quality graphics easy to create, SmartDraw VP uses what the company calls a “visual processor” that automatically formats charts and diagrams in the same way that a word processor automatically formats documents. The computer program automates the process of creating 70 different types of business visuals, including flow charts, mind maps, Gantt charts, and floor plans. SmartDraw also developed its software to work with Microsoft Office and Adobe PDF, so users can easily add their graphics to Word documents and PowerPoint presentations, and share them with other users by using PDF attachments.

In launching SmartDraw VP earlier this month, the privately held software developer hopes to significantly expand its revenue beyond the $14.5 million in annual sales the company hit in 2008, before sales receded last year during … Next Page »

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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