Excel vs. Blue J Diagramming: Choosing the Best Diagramming Solution for Your Firm

Diagramming is an essential task for many accountants and lawyers. Diagrams help us visualize, understand, and communicate business transactions and tax plans to our clients and colleagues alike. However, creating diagrams has typically been a time-consuming process.

For years, Excel has been a go-to for visualizing numerical data as bar charts and pie charts - which it does well. It has also been used to create structure charts. However, Excel was never designed to visualize typical business diagrams, proposed changes to corporate structures or entity management, or complex mergers and acquisitions, and other similar structure charts. As a result, practitioners using Excel spend hours on a weekly basis to create structure charts that are clear and presentable, when they should just be spending minutes.

For those frustrated with Excel, we have good news. You can now switch over to an easy-to-use diagramming solution, one designed for your workflow, that is considerably faster, and looks professional. We look at why Excel is such a poor diagramming solution and the advantages Blue J Diagramming brings.


The Problem with Excel Diagrams for Accountants and Lawyers

For any specialized work, like building out corporate structure charts, Excel is painfully inefficient because Excel was never designed with lawyers and accountants in mind. Here are just 3 reasons why Excel is so challenging to use.

Difficult to maneuver

To begin with, Excel was never designed to create the most basic corporate diagrams. In fact, selecting shapes, placing them, and connecting them alone is effortful. Common shapes that you need are not a simple click away, and the sizing of the shapes is not pre-set. If the need arises to move entities around or resize shapes as you’re building the structure chart, a lack of automation means you need to do it all manually. As a result, basic diagrams require far more steps from accountants and lawyers to resemble clear and professional structure charts.

A poor collaborative experience

Some diagrams require input from team members or review from multiple parties. In many instances, this means sending out emails requesting reviews. This can quickly lead to lengthy and confusing email threads, with multiple suggestions coming in, and multiple versions of the same diagram floating around and no obvious indicator of which version is the most up-to-date. With difficulty in leaving comments on the actual diagram, it makes revisions that much harder to request and carry out as well.

Rather than simplify a collaborative workflow, Excel only makes things take far longer than they should. As many firms have shifted to a hybrid model, the need to work together remotely is high and having tools to facilitate it are essential.

Not purpose built for business and tax diagrams

Excel has a vast library of shapes and connectors for diagramming. However, only a small fraction of the features are useful for tax professionals to diagram. The shapes and features are broadly applicable to everybody which means they are not tailored to anybody. This often requires accountants, lawyers, and other tax professionals to customize and adjust each shape and connecting line to suit their purposes, each and every time they diagram, which takes time away from the work that really matters.

For new associates, this means referring back to past work to recall what the standards and conventions used at the firm for each type of entity and transaction. For example, it may not be readily apparent what shape should be used for a “hybrid partnership” or what the seamless way of showing a merger between two corporations is. Tax diagramming is itself a skill with a learning curve. Generic diagramming solutions like Excel require you to have that skill first before you can create client-ready diagrams.


The Benefits of Blue J Diagramming for Accountants and Lawyers

The biggest difference between Excel and Blue J Diagramming is that the latter was designed for tax practitioners, by tax practitioners. Blue J Diagramming streamlines the creation of diagrams with an infinite canvas, and common tax shapes, labels, and data fields. M&A teams, tax teams, and others can take a structured approach to diagramming and collaborate together using the platform. It is also a powerful tax research tool. Those involved with tax research can build structure charts, compile research, and pull together their analysis into one place.

Quickly visualize complex transactions

Blue J Diagramming is intended for planning transactions that can get complex and lengthy. The solution makes it easy to move shapes around and keep their connecting lines and labels together. Adding new shapes, entities, and transactions does not complicate your workflow, as you can make adjustments and the diagram automatically resizes to fit on the page. This is particularly handy since clients do not always provide every piece of required information during the intake process, which means the diagram will frequently need to be adjusted. Having a solution that makes adjustments easy and seamless saves time and prevents frustration.

Finally, all the labels you need for a transaction are already built into the tool, only a click away from a drop down list. Whether you need to visualize a hybrid partnership, an entity is getting dissolved, or other scenarios, users will find exactly what they need. In this way, more so than just speed and convenience, Blue J Diagramming allows for consistency across the firm.

Seamlessly collaborate with colleagues

For even faster turnarounds, Blue J Diagramming offers the ability to review, revise, and share diagrams directly with colleagues. Colleagues can view and work on the same diagram together which ensures there is a single source of truth for the most up to date version of the transaction plan.  Add colleagues within the firm, leave notes for them, and allow them to make changes directly in the product before a single download or email gets sent. Diagrams can be downloaded either as an image or PDF file and share them with their team and clients.

A powerful tax research platform

Finally, unlike Excel and any other diagramming tool, Blue J Diagramming has the option to include an entire suite of tax research solutions in Blue J, by upgrading to the full product, Blue J Tax. How does this help?

With Blue J Tax, accountants and lawyers who specialize in tax can reference and annotate statutes and regulations while working on diagrams without having to toggle between different tools or switch between browser tabs. They can access diagram examples in Blue J Folios (resource bundles on various tax issues) to use as starting points. Practitioners can also assess risk and optimize outcomes for clients using Blue J Predictions, and reflect these findings in the structure charts that they are working on.

These powerful tax research tools that complement Blue J Diagramming optimize every tax practitioner’s workflow.

Want to learn more about the right diagramming tool for you? Check out these articles:

PowerPoint vs. Blue J Diagramming: Choosing the Best Diagramming Solution for Your Firm
Blue J Tax: Collaborate on Diagrams and Tax Research with Your Team
How to Create Type “C” Reorganizations [with Diagram Examples]

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