Microsoft has unveiled a beta version of its latest Visio diagramming tool.
The Microsoft Office Visio 2003, which will be a more integral part of Microsoft's Office System, will target IT professionals and business users as well as core technical users.
"With this release we want to broaden the usage among business users by communicating more clearly to them what the value proposition is. We think it can convince some people to widen its usage and make it a more relevant tool for the enterprise," said Visio product manager Jason Bunge.
For example, with Visio 2003 an HR manager can access server-based data, such as who is leaving the company and when, view salaries and performances of individuals, and compare that with real-time data.
Bunge said users could access a timeline within Microsoft Project and then share it with anyone on their team inside or outside the company or present a progress report to senior management.
Microsoft has also been working on a "business intelligence-based tool", Bunge added.
"It will allow you to manipulate data and do analysis without having to deep dive into spreadsheets and pivot tables. It's another way, we think, to show Visio can be used as something beyond a static desktop app. We will make it available as an add-on product."
Microsoft hoped to have an early version of the product to demonstrate within "the next month or two".
Some Microsoft customers said they like the idea of building solutions using Visio as a smart client or front end to their line-of-business applications.
Users can order a beta version of Visio 2003 at www.microsoft.com/office/preview/visio.