Not the most obvious scenario for project managers or project workers – using mind mapping software for planning project requirements, creating work breakdown structures (WBS), then going on to use the same mind mapping software to schedule and ongoing monitor, control and close – what on earth could mind mapping possibly add or contribute to the project management process?
• Are there any advantages or benefits?
• How can there be a fit?
• Does it ultimately save time and effort?
• What possible difference or value can this approach bring?
Similar to adoption of any other process, tool or solution, the use of mind mapping software needs to deliver value, tangible benefits, process improvement, increased efficiency and improved productivity. The expectations and requirements therefore are no different. So, does mind mapping software, particularly in a project management environment deliver?
Absolutely it does - let’s explore how…
Mind Mapping enables you to quickly capture and visualize the crucial front-end of your Project.
Maps in general are a great way to read, assimilate and gain understanding on information and data. Mapping also helps with reducing “information overload” that sometimes gets in the way of understanding, decision-making and generally moving forward.
The mind mapping methodology, for example the parent / child branch relationships, together with the “drill-down” methodology, provides a visual and highly effective methodology for brainstorming ideas, layering each level of detail, ordering or grouping and getting structure and hierarchy of high-level phases and stages, through to all the tasks and activities involved.
The engaging, collaborative and visual process of Mapping provides structure, flow and aids clarity and understanding of the captured information (as a whole or in its component parts).
Modern mind mapping software provides the substantial additional benefit of being able to Categorise and Filter for parameters such as Priorities, Importance, Risk, etc, as well as being able to apply Resources and Timescales – all improving the time and effort spent trying to understand and analyse the information and introducing more momentum and efficiency to moving through the planning process.
Too often project workers start with scheduling, resorting to lists, spreadsheets, scheduling tools, etc. The use of mind mapping provides the huge benefit of visualization and “virtual whiteboard / flipchart” advantage to up the ante on the critical planning stage. This supports the “planning for success” ethos where proper, well-thought-through planning increases the chances of success (the opposite of “fail to plan, plan to fail” approach). Mind mapping, undoubtedly the value-adding creative front-end to the project planning.
Having benefited from thorough planning and creation of mapped project requirements (WBS), the mind maps can now be instantly and effortlessly converted to a Gantt Chart for effective scheduling.
One option can be to use the MS Office export functionality and export the map content into MS Project. This is a quick and seamless function with a ready-made MS Project Gantt schedule output saving time and effort.
However, for an even more efficient and truly seamless transition from map to Gantt view, and negating the need for MS Project, the integrated Project Mode / Gantt view provides the ideal functionality for project scheduling.
Again the easy and intuitive user interface ensures less time and effort is spent on allocation resources and timescales, linking tasks and interdependencies, setting rules and constraints, identifying project milestones and critical path, as well as viewing and managing under and over allocation of resources.
The fact that the Gantt view is integrated within the mind mapping software means that the map and Gantt Chart are synchronised, providing additional options and benefits such as switching from one view to another, mapping alterations, additions, changes, etc., whilst the Gantt view synchronise ensures all changes are adopted within the project schedule immediately.
3. Monitor and Control
Both the mapping and Gantt Chart interfaces provide the functionality to now go on to monitor and manage all the individual tasks and activities as well as high-level stages of the Project.
Each Task can be managed by updating status in terms of progress through to completion.
A comprehensive Filtering functionality allows you to filter on any map or Gantt view criteria such as your own tasks, due dates, tasks overdue, task completed, etc. This provides a mechanism for all project workers to pro-actively collaborate on and manage tasks and project stages through to completion.
Communication and collaboration is also a major component of mind mapping software with a variety of functions and features to enable that process to be as efficient as possible. This is executed through a range of options such as Filtering, Viewer licences, printing, file sharing, export to MS Excel and the export to MS Project if required.
To augment the monitoring and control mechanisms and functionality, the mind mapping software can further provide a comprehensive and reporting functionality.
An example of this in MindGenius, the leading business mind mapping software, is the way it exports all the project data into a professional and presentation-ready Report in MS Word. This is a highly effective way of portraying all aspects of the project status and progress in a highly visual, engaging, collaborative and easy-to-understand format.
The Project Reports portrays crucial project data to inform any or all stakeholders of:
• Project status overview
• Project Milestones
• Project Summaries (% complete, No of tasks, Chart)
• Tasks report (Completed, Due, Overdue)
• Critical tasks report
There is no doubt that modern mind mapping software provides a platform that excels at the up-front planning stage. However, the whole plethora of value-adding functionality now brings a whole new level of efficiency, clarity, focus and overall productivity to the planning, scheduling and management of the whole project lifecycle.
All of this without making the whole process cumbersome or complicated – a real bonus for businesses not just looking for tools, but for businesses looking for an under-pinning process that provides a robust methodology, all-important simplicity and visibility on all aspects of projects.
All of the above only goes to prove that mind mapping software has moved on enormously since the advent of mainstream traditional mind mapping many decades ago. Whatever your past experience of mind mapping was, whatever pre-conceptions or even misconceptions were, this is an increasing popular and ever-growing approach for people involved in all aspects of project work regardless of type and size.
If you’re looking for an innovative, creative and comprehensive way of visualizing, planning, scheduling and managing project work with added advantage of having an equally suitable tool for all other day-to-day activities (e.g. brainstorming, research, meeting management, problem solving, planning, etc.) you need to take a serious look at mind mapping software for enhanced productivity.
If you haven’t already done so, please consider MindGenius for project management or any of the above situations in your day-to-day work. If you require help or assistance there are numerous resources both within the MindGenius Help and within the Resources section of our website www.mindgenius.com.
We also provide advice and professional training and consultancy services to help you get the most out of MindGenius and its application for many business and education uses.
Contact us anytime on firstname.lastname@example.org, we’d be delighted to help!
Author Bio: Jamie MacDonald, Head of Client Development at MindGenius. Jamie is a highly experienced trainer, facilitator and coach with over 20 years’ experience in training, development, HRM and business improvement.