Radial Org Charts

As my department at work has grown over time, I’ve thought a few times about the tradition of maintaining organization charts in Visio. These charts typically display an increasingly awkward and messy collection of boxes and lines, showing which employees report to which manager.

Apart from being difficult to effectively automate the layout once a department reaches more than a few dozen people (most tools end up overlapping boxes or choosing awkward-looking layouts), these charts don’t convey much information other than direct reporting structure of employees.

While researching the Protovis javascript graphing library for some more traditional numeric data visualization, I decided to try applying the Sunburst graph type to organizational charts. Here is a small example of how one department looks. The names have all been replaced with fake names created with the Forgery Ruby gem.

Click to enlarge

While a little non-conventional, this style organization “chart” shows the same hierarchical reporting data as a traditional chart, and more. At a glance, I can now see the relative size of each team, and the depth (number of management layers) of each part of the organization. Best of all, since the chart is generated automatically from a flat file, there’s no more moving boxes around to make that one new employee fit into an over-crowded page, fixing stray line connectors, etc.

Plus it looks pretty cool.

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