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What are some of the pros and cons of using Visio and Excel as your EA Modelling Tool vs using a Professional EA Modelling Tool?


Be aware of the pros, cons and implications of using a Visio/Excel or a Visio/DB or a Custom Tool.

“Tools are expensive and cost a lot to procure and maintain, can’t I just use Excel and Visio?”

This is a common question. The answer is - it depends!

Our Enterprise today is more complex than it has ever been, both in terms of the Enterprise Structure (Methods, Artefacts, Culture, Environment) and the Enterprise Context it exists within (suppliers, customer, outsourcers, media, legislation, competitors, etc, etc).

In addition we are constantly changing, Transforming either to outside events or by the Board constantly searching for ways to improve the Enterprise.

A basic rule of thumb is that, if you are going to change something, you first must understand the thing you are changing and how changing one part may affect other parts in potentially unwanted or surprising ways.

Therefore, in this environment of constant change and complexity it is important for us to understand the structure of the Enterprise (a description of its parts, but more importantly the complex relationships between those parts) so that when one part changes the people involved in Strategising, Roadmapping and Project Governance, can see how that may affect other parts.

In order for us to properly collect, manage, and use the information, a tool is required.

It is imperative that all the entities and their associated attributes be gathered together in one place so that there is one version of the truth and so that relationships between these attributes can be defined.

The driving force, therefore, behind the use of a tool is to reduce and minimize the maintenance and management overhead of a no tool based (manual) approach.

Whilst initially a custom EA tool may not be required, there comes a time where the amount of time it takes us to maintain the information increases to unacceptable levels and our ability to use the information decreases to unacceptable levels.

We have already reached (and gone past!) this tipping point.

There are 3 basic types of tools that we could use with various pros and cons:


Visio and Excel

Visio and DB

Custom Tool


Visio diagrams.

Excel spreadsheets.

No linkage between them.

Visio diagrams.

A DB (e.g. Access).

Entities on Visio diagrams linked to DB tables.

A tool specifically designed for the task.

Training Requirements


Some needed around DB and Visio data linkage.


Diagram to entity and relationship management

As there is no linkage between the diagrams and the data, maintenance of the diagrams is therefore manual. Diagrams have to be drawn manually.

Linkage from entities on diagrams to entities in the spreadsheets is possible but the relationships (where most of the value lies) are still manually maintained.



Since the data is separated in sheets there are no consistency checks resulting in manual changes when anything changes that is entered on one sheet and referred to on another. Especially true of relationships.

Consistency can be automatically managed though primary and foreign key combinations and list field although the keys have to be defined and set up manually.



Minimal as Visio 2003 (or above) and Excel licenses have already been purchased.

Small. Visio and DB licenses are required which we may already have.

Possible cost of $3k.


Possible initial cost of $40k+, with subsequent costs dependent upon the size of the Enterprise.



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