Wednesday, 18 July 2012

6 Steps from Project Scope to Schedule with MindGenius by Andrew Makar

In today’s competitive environment, project teams are pressured to deliver projects faster while maintaining quality. During a project, the team defines the project scope and develops a project schedule to determine project duration and costs. The process of translating project scope into an actionable task can be a tedious one. Project managers are often looking for accelerators to improve project delivery and lessen the administrative burden. MindGenius solves this problem by providing an easy transition from project scope to an actionable project schedule in 6 easy steps.

Step 1. Brainstorm the project scope

Conducting a brainstorming session to gather requirements and organizing the ideas into a mind map is an excellent way to define project scope. In Figure 1, MindGenius was used to collect and organize project requirements for a training website. Developing a new website will require course catalog content, payment methods, web-based courses and the underlying technical architecture. Sales and marketing plans also need to be implemented. MindGenius takes the results of a brainstorming session and easily organizes thoughts and ideas to help project teams think visually.

Fig. 1 Brainstorm Project Scope

Formal project management organizations often use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to define the scope. Using MindGenius, project managers can switch from the organic brainstorm map diagram to a structured work breakdown structure format with a click on the button.

In MindGenius, Select Home - Map Layouts and select the affinity map layout to change the map layout (Figure 2).

Fig. 2 WBS
Step 2. Assign task dependencies in the Gantt Chart view

The next step is to assign dependencies between the tasks in the work breakdown structure. Select Tasks - Gantt View from the MindGenius navigation bar. The mind map will turn into the classic Gantt Chart. In the Predecessors column, enter the task number of the preceding tasks. The Gantt Chart will adjust based on the task dependencies (Figure 3).

Fig. 3 Gantt Chart Sequencing
Tasks can be added, removed and moved throughout the task outline. Any change to the tasks in this view will also be reflected in the mind map view. MindGenius creatively allows project managers to work with the data in the view that makes the most sense for the job. Users don’t have to worry about data loss as the various views use the same underlying set of data.

Step 3. Estimate task duration

Once tasks have been defined and put into the proper sequence, the next step is to estimate the duration of the tasks. Task durations are expressed in either days or hours. MindGenius also supports effort based estimates using the Work field in the Tasks navigation menu. Double clicking on any task will allow the user to adjust a variety of task parameters include start dates, finish dates, milestones and costs.

Fig. 4 Duration Estimation

Step 4. Assign resources to tasks

MindGenius enables project managers to define their project team in the tool and assign them to specific tasks. Double click on the Resource column and select Edit Resource List. Figure 5 provides a dialogue box for the project manager to add team members to the project.

Fig. 5 Define the project team
Once the team is defined, the team member can be assigned to a specific task by clicking on the check box (Figure 6). Multiple team members can be added although a best practice is to define the tasks at a detailed level so only one team member is assigned. This allows the project manager to track the specific work and team member progress throughout the project.

Fig. 6 Assign team members to tasks

In Figure 7, the project schedule has team members assigned to each task. MindGenius appends each name to the Gantt Chart for easy tracking.

Fig. 7 Assign Resources in Gantt View
The project manager can switch back to the mind map view by selecting the Gantt - Return to Map button. The result is the WBS view with assigned resources, date icons and progress indicators (Figure 8).

Fig. 8 Resource Assignment Map View

Step 5. Create a Resource Map and filter for Resource Assignments

The next step demonstrates MindGenius’s unique ability to create a resource mind map view of project team assignments. Once the project schedule is developed, project team members need to know their specific tasks. By selecting the Task - Create Resource Map button, MindGenius will create a mind map that organizes the tasks by resource. Using the Map Explorer in the left window pane, the project manager navigates and filters the map by resource to see resource tasks.

Fig. 9 Resource Map

Each individual resource map can be exported and distributed to each team member. By capturing the assignments visually, project team members have an easier time understanding their full scope of work.

Step 6. Export to Microsoft Project for detailed schedule development (optional)

If this is a small project, the team can continue to use MindGenius to manage the schedule. If it is a larger project that requires detailed scheduling and refinement, the entire mind map can be exported to Microsoft Project.

Select Export - Microsoft Project from the navigation bar and the MindGenius map will be exported to Microsoft Project. MindGenius was built to integrate intelligently with Microsoft Project rather than replace Microsoft Project entirely. Task data including milestones, start, finish dates, resources and costs will all easily export to the Microsoft Project schedule.

Fig. 10 MS Project Export

In 6 easy steps, project managers can define project scope and generate a meaningful project schedule within a single tool. MindGenius provides project managers with visual tools for effective communication, problem solving and strategic planning. For a free 30 day trial, visit

Dr. Andrew Makar is an IT program manager and maintains a blog on project management. He’s got a few useful Microsoft Project tutorials, too!

He frequently publishes on ( and additional published works have appeared in Projects@Work and Software Test and Performance Magazine. He is also an adjunct professor at Lawrence Technological University and Davenport University.


Peter James said...

Thanks for this - definitely going to follow the process and try it out. I work on smaller projects so might not export to Excel but definitely going to give it a go.

Anonymous said...

Very straight forward steps , off sick re-habbing post op at the moment. I am going to practice the above process with my current rehab mind map, and hopefully use it at work for a few small projects that may need to be kick started again.

Andy Makar said...

I was pleasantly surprised at how much scheduling and project management you can do within MindGenius. I like how the tool formats the data in formats that you want to use and then can export to MS Project if needed for detailed planning.

My favorite feature is the Resource and Category map creation. Meetings often result in action items and being able to generate a quick list of assignments based on a mind mapped discussion is very useful.


Anonymous said...

Andy, excellent, very useful. One thing, where do you apply budgeting?


MindGenius said...

Thanks for your comments guys, glad the article has been helpful.

Andy Makar said...

Regarding budgeting:

You can assign costs against each node using the Tasks - Task Schedule section.

Then you can export the mind map into an Excel file to calculate the total project cost or if you export to Microsoft Project, then the costs will carry over into the Microsoft Project schedule

poojamarscodaers said...

This post is very interesting and it also helpful for us. liking stuff like this blog as well as this has now given me Some inspiration To succeed, ever so Appreciate it.

Mary said...

Thanks for very nice tips. I agree with everything, but I think that there are other tools except MIcrosoft project manager. For example I am fully satisfied with Comindware task manager. I think a PM should always try something new and more effective.

MindGenius said...

Hi Mary - that's a good point, thanks for raising it. I also agree that's it's good to try new things which could help improve effectiveness; it may be easier in life to stick to tried and tested methods but with a little extra effort, improvements can be made.

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Unknown said...

I enjoy reading your articles. You really have a wonderful blogs. Keep up the good work. Thank you also for the information!


MindGenius said...

Hi Cindy, thanks for your feedback! We're really glad you enjoy our blog.

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