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|
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|
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|
|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|
|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 http://www.mindgenius.com
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 Gantthead.com (www.gantthead.com) 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.