Monday, 21 February 2011

Maintenance Release 3.71 now available to download

MindGenius Version 3.71 is now available to download. This maintenance release is free to all Version 3 customers. Version 3.71 can be downloaded from http://www.mindgenius.com/download.aspx  

Version 3.71 includes further improvements to our file exchange and mobile solutions;

  • Import and Export to iThoughts (iPhone\iPad) which offers a solution for using MindGenius on the move and a direct exchange with ithoughts for the iPad and iPhone.
  • Import and Export FreeMind files
  • Import and Export to Thinking Space (Android) – similar to ithoughts this offers a solution for using MindGenius on the move
  • Send map with preview image which allows users with an iPhone, Android or iPad to preview maps before they open them
  • Integrated OPML, iThoughts and Thinking Space exports in to Send To function to simplify distributing maps in this way

If you are an existing V3 customer, simply download the latest trial version of MindGenius from http://www.mindgenius.com/support/version-3-downloads.aspx. This will automatically update your installation. There is no need to uninstall earlier versions of MindGenius 3 and your product will still be activated.

If you are new to Version 3, visit http://www.mindgenius.com/download.aspx to download the 30-day free trial. Even if you have downloaded a trial of previous versions of MindGenius, this will give you another 30 day free trial version.

For more information on iThoughts visit the iThoughts site. iThoughts Version 4.4 for iPhone and iPad with MindGenius compatibility is available to purchase now from the Apple apps store.

University Change Team share how they use MindGenius to apply PRINCE2

We have recently documented how MindGenius is used by students for studying and to help facilitate collaborative learning sessions. This month we are looking at how the Change Team at Exeter University are using MindGenius with the help of Dick Leitch, Senior Project Manager:

The Change Team provide training courses in project management and change management, coaching in a wide range of areas including risk assessment and management and are responsible for managing the major “initiatives” carried out in the University.

These initiatives include most of the Universities New System procurement and implementation projects. Projects currently underway include, implementing a new Post Graduate Research management system and the implementation of Microsoft SharePoint for document management of financial documents such as supplier invoices, staff and student expense claims, and Cashiers documentation.

For the entire UK public sector, PRINCE2 is the mandated project management methodology and therefore the Change Team apply these principles to their projects. The use of MindGenius is actively encouraged throughout the process, from capturing the points raised at the project initiation brainstorming session to controlling the phases using the Gantt chart functionality introduced in MindGenius Version 3.

 
Example 1 Sharepoint Document Management Project broken down into phases with actions and resources added.
Example 2 Sharepoint Document Management Project in MindGenius Gantt

Dick believes this simplifies the process, as after the Gantt view button is clicked, all that is required to complete the GANTT chart is to link activities to indicate the dependencies.


The team has also found MindGenius helpful for stakeholder analysis an example of which is shown below (not University example for privacy issues):
Example 3 Stakeholder Analysis Map
Available to download at the end of the article

Once the stakeholders have been identified, analysis of their impact on and interest in the project through the use of colours or Categories according to the following template provides most of the information necessary for the completion of the project Communications Plan.

Example 4 Importance/ Impact Matrix

Dick said: "MindGenius is so easy to use and so adaptable, that it has been widely adopted throughout the University for a myriad of purposes, of which these are only two examples."
Download Stakeholder Analysis Map

Domain Research using MindGenius

One of the tasks that I am frequently asked to do is to research a business sector activity (domain), for example Incident Management in the Aviation Sector. Not a small subject by any means. I have to provide our company with information on how the domain operates, its business/change drivers and the significant challenges and issues that it faces.

Domain information is used by our development, marketing and sales people to identify the overt benefits a software solution could provide the customer and how they could be enticed to purchase such a software application. So I need to be able to provide information in a form readily understandable and usable by a variety of people.

My starting point is usually from a position of no knowledge. I am effectively starting with a blank canvas. Somehow I have to end up as a ‘Domain expert’.

No use procrastinating. You need to get on and do it. I usually start by gathering information from a variety of sources: browsing the web, interviewing people (experts, potential customers, practitioners), competitor analysis. I follow one lead after another, sometimes down blind alleys, but often to hidden jewels of information.
It’s surprising how quickly you run into information overload. 100+ page standards/guidelines contain an immense amount of valuable information covering a range of activities/subject matter.

What do you do with all this information? How do you make sense of it? I use MindGenius to break the information sources down. It’s like eating an elephant, you do it in small chunks.

I create a map of the information source. Each chunk of usable information becomes a branch. The title of the branch describes the subject matter. The text associated with the information is added in the branch note. Any supporting image/video is attached to the branch. I build a map up of the information, the branch parent/child relationships reflect the relationships within the master document.

What I have created so far are the jigsaw pieces. But unfortunately I don’t have the jigsaw picture. As I map other significant information sources, I start to begin to build up a possible information structure in my mind’s eye.

Now it’s time to start building the jigsaw. I usually start by forming the skeleton of the information (the bones) by laying down the process or lifecycle that I think is associated with the subject, in this case the lifecycle of an aviation safety incident.

I start to attach the information chunks (flesh) to the skeleton structure (bones). To ensure I don’t miss anything, I create a copy of the information source map and extract and attach the information chunks to the skeleton structure.

The map will build up in front of my very eyes. Once the copy map is essentially empty, my extraction activity for this piece of information is complete and I haven‘t missed anything.


Then I move on and transfer information chunks from other information sources to my master map in the same way. As more and more information is added, my knowledge and understanding of the subject increases. As new pieces of information provide new insights, I rearrange and edit the map’s structure so that it continues to be a good fit for the information content. With MindGenius you simply drag and drop to rearrange the structure.

Although there may be a mass of detail, you always have be aware of the big picture. MindGenius’s Explorer pane gives me an up-to-date visual view of the hierarchical structure of the map and allows me to quickly dip in and out of sections of the map for viewing, or editing. A big plus.


Invariably I have to spend many sessions building up my domain map. Such maps are often developed over a three month period or longer. So how do I know where I last finished? I mark it with a specific category and use the Quick Filter to find it again.

One secret of doing this type of activity is to keep the flow going. Don’t get bogged down.

If you hit an obstacle, mark it with a category icon and use the quick filter to return to it at a later time.

It’s surprising how your subconscious will work away at the obstacle and when you return to it, a solution to overcome it is invariably at hand.

You will also find that an idea seemingly not associated with your immediate train of thought will surface. Don’t lose it but don’t let it distract you either. Record it, mark it and return to it later.

So what other challenges do I face in creating domain stories? Well here’s a few.

I need to be able to look at the information from different perspectives. We need to understand the stakeholder roles that people perform - who does what - so that the software application caters for the needs of many different individuals. I assign roles as resources to the branches, e.g. ‘Flight Safety Manager’ so that I can use the MindGenius filter feature to view the activities associated with a particular role.

One of the dangers in creating the domain stories is that I can start to lose objectivity as I become more and more familiar with the domain. I need to separate my opinion(s) from the evidence. So when I create a ‘story’ – i.e. the summarisation of the evidence, I create a separate parent branch which is my interpretation of the evidence and denote it as a story (category icon). Its child branches are the evidence. That way, a reader can read the story, access the evidence and decide for themselves if the story accurately reflects the evidence.


This approach also allows the evidence to be accessed quickly, it’s at your fingertips. Another advantage of this approach is that you visually get an indication of how much evidence supports the story.

I’ve tweaked this approach a little further by adding category icons for different evidence sources – often based on organisation’s logos or corporate logos or colours. This gives me a visual indication of whether or not a story may be common across the sector or perhaps may be either specific to a particular organisation or I have insufficient evidence.

The stories can be broken up into sub-stories to provide indications of variants of a specific theme that exist, e.g. risk matrices, reporting forms. You can see and access the variants that you would have to cater for.

And finally, having done all the work, I need to be able to make my findings in a usable form to management, development, sales and marketing. Having used MindGenius, the information and knowledge has been captured is in a usable, dynamic format. Evidence, opinion, category classifications, stakeholder roles – it’s all there. Others can now access the map and walk through the information, or take different views of the information, as they see fit.

Without MindGenius, I would find the task of performing domain research an extremely daunting one and I would be likely to crumble under the mountain of information that I have to manage and understand.

I hope you find the above of interest and that you can put MindGenius to good use when you are gathering and understanding information.

Any queries, ask Gordon

Social Media Survey - Feedback and Competition Winner

We’ve had a great response to last month’s Social Media survey. Thanks to everyone who took the time to complete it. We’ve had a good mix of responses and opinions on what you look for from the social media channels you subscribe to and it shows there is a distinct difference between business and personal use.

The responses show that the most popular social media tools from our respondents are Facebook on 75%, LinkedIn on 59%, YouTube on 53% and Twitter on 32%.



In business, by far the most popular tool for our users is LinkedIn and we assume this is down to the networking and learning opportunities available to LinkedIn users.


We were expecting a mix of preferred options for Personal use but 80% of respondents prefer Facebook, demonstrating the clear difference between Business and Personal use.

When it came to what you would like from the MindGenius social media channels, there were a variety of responses but it was obvious that users are keen to learn more and make the most of MindGenius whether this is via videos, tutorials or learning from other users. Furthermore, many of you are looking for somewhere to share maps, all of which is telling us that users are looking for a MindGenius online community.

One respondent also suggested inviting customers to submit videos of tasks in the same way as Apple engages people with iapps. This was definitely of interest to us. If anyone out there would like to film how they use MindGenius for a particular task, we would be happy to publish them on our YouTube channel and our blog, or if you have any suggestions on what you would like us to produce, let us know via the social media channels below.

From the survey results, it is also clear that some of our users are happy with the existing MindGenius communication channels. We appreciate social media isn’t for everyone, and for some business users would be inaccessible at work. Social media for us is a different way to communicate and will give users a chance to engage in dialogue with us and to interact with other users. There will be a suitable medium for everyone, no matter what they prefer.

Thanks to everyone who took part. The survey is now closed and the winner of the competition is Suzanne Macleod. We will be in touch soon with your Amazon voucher.


Follow MindGenius via the links below.

Hints and Tips - Adding pictures to a map

Often in business a basic map which outlines your ideas is all you need. However, there can be times when you need to add prominence to an idea, mark something as high importance ie red flag, illustrate a point, or simply make your map look more attractive. Likewise in Education, adding images can be useful for things such as studying, aiding memory recall and can be useful in the classroom to illustrate a topic. 
Fig. 1 Map with image demonstrating problem for problem solving exercise  
There are a couple of ways to do this in MindGenius. Firstly you can add pictures from the Pictures gallery. Do this by selecting the picture gallery from the properties pane. You can choose from categories here such as arrows, currency, people, shapes and symbols and objects. Select the folder you would like to choose from, and then select the branch you would like to add it to and double click. The image will appear on the branch.


Alternatively you can just drag the image to the branch you would like to add it to or have the image as a Floating picture, ie not connected to a branch, by dragging it to its location and letting it go.


To remove or change the image, double click on it and a dialogue will appear that allows you to clear or change the picture. You can also resize images here or amend their positioning.

If you prefer to use your own images, you can do this too, either by adding them to a branch or as a floating image. You can either select the Insert Ribbon and then select "Picture" or right click your mouse and select Pictures and then “Insert.” These options will allow you to browse your PC and select the relevant image you want to add. Again you can change or clear the image by double clicking on it.








Fig. 2 English Revision Notes Map