In a Nutshell: The mind is a messy place, and no two are quite alike. While great for invention and creativity, the differences in the way we think can make it difficult to communicate, especially when dealing with complex ideas. MindManager software from the Mindjet team at Corel goes well beyond mind mapping to help companies simplify planning and become better aligned. Allowing teams to collaboratively plan and manage projects, MindManager has an easy-to-use interface and comprehensive features that instantly show changes across your entire map. Improve budgeting with advanced calculations and “what if?” analyses that help you determine the best use of your time — and money. MindManager can help simplify project management while simultaneously making your business planning more efficient and, more importantly, much more effective.
One of my friends is a die-hard fan of the comic strip, Dilbert. It’s about an engineer, who works in an office with a cohort of oddball colleagues. Each week, the comic strip provides a humorous satirical exaggeration of the trials and tribulations of projects and planning.
At least, I used to think it was exaggerated. That was before I started my first office job, and found out it was a more accurate take on the possible perils of project management than I realized.
In companies lacking collaboration and open communication, the average project tends to go a little something like this: A handful of managers plan the project → One manager gives the project team a slideshow presentation about the plan → Half the plan goes awry because of miscommunication, misalignment, or inefficient prioritization.
The more complex the thoughts and ideas behind your project, the more opportunities that exist for something to get lost or misunderstood. The ability to organize and communicate those ideas is essential to building — and executing — effective plans. One way companies are achieving this is by taking advantage of the mind mapping software, MindManager, produced by the Mindjet team at Corel, to increase communication, improve comprehension, and simplify planning.
“A lot of our customers are coming together and building their plans collaboratively,” explained Michael Deutch, Vice President of Products for MindManager. “If you’re building, collaboratively — a map, a plan, a strategy — it’s going to promote conversation and dialogue.”
For Michael, the ability to turn any meeting into a collaborative effort is one of the great things about MindManager. “We get in a room and we start talking about plans, strategies, projects, things like that,” he said. “When you put something somewhere [on the map] — it’s going to drive collaboration, and people are encouraged to contribute.”
Going Beyond Mind Mapping to Clarify Thinking & Build Effective Plans
Though MindManager may have begun its software life as mind mapping software, helping businesses brainstorm ideas and visualize strategies, it has since evolved into much more. The latest version, released in October 2016, has made MindManager one of the most comprehensive planning tools on the market.
“MindManager goes beyond simple mind mapping,” said Michael. “We offer a platform for interactive diagrams that you can use to clarify your thinking, build out plans and strategies — and then start to act on them, as well.”
Not only can you use MindManager to easily share ideas and information, but you can use it to collaboratively develop project plans down to the last detail. With the ability to integrate everything across your map, including things like budgets and manpower, every part of the project — and its interactions with every other part — can be tracked and analyzed.
“The types of diagrams that we can create include mind maps, but go far beyond – you have the ability to create work charts, concept maps, road maps and timelines, flow charts, process flow diagrams, swim-lane diagrams,” described Michael. “You can actually build out plans for projects and visualize those plans.”
With such a wide variety of tools and features, the extent of your map is limited almost solely by your needs. While Michael did say users might experience some slowdown in performance if they upload “every photo they’ve ever taken,” the team has yet to have any clients create a map too large for MindManager to handle.
“There have been maps that are thousands, or tens of thousands of topics,” he said, “but the majority of maps that most customers work with are under 1,000 topics.”
The software also includes the ability to turn your visual planning web into a more traditional outline format, offering a more linear view of the content — though still containing interactive functionality.
To increase the utility of the program even more, the latest edition debuted the ability to seamlessly export MindManager information into hundreds of applications through Zapier. Users can also receive dashboard updates from their apps in MindManager. “Zapier is a third party web application that allows you to automate tasks between MindManager and 700+ web applications and services,” Michael said, “including Gmail, OneNote, Box, Evernote, Slack, Trello, Jira, Basecamp, and more.”
See Cost and Budget Impacts & Perform “What If?” Analysis Across Entire Projects
Some may argue that money isn’t the most important aspect of a project, but it’s awfully difficult to complete — or even start — a project without a firm grasp on your budget. In MindManager, you can attach a cost to any item on your map, as well as build calculations to represent how elements interact so you can plan down to the last dollar.
“Calculations could be based on specific topics, or everything inside the map,” described Michael. “You can summarize and do math on individual topics, branches within a diagram, or with the entire map.”
The ability to enact changes on all parts of your map simultaneously, in addition to the ease with which those changes can be made, allows for what the team refers to as “what if” analysis designed to help determine the best use of company time — and money.
“All the diagrams allow you to capture metadata,” Michael explained. “In a sense, it allows you to do ‘what if’ analysis as quickly as dragging and dropping content in and out of different parts of your map or your diagram. You can drag and drop different projects into different buckets and the calculations will automatically update.”
Michael gave the example of a map showing topics for all of the possible projects for the 2017 year that include the staff hours, potential profits, and general overhead costs. By manipulating the projects on the map, a company could determine the most effective way to budget their projects for the next year.
“If you’re comparing five different projects — you can keep dragging those into different branches inside your map, and the calculations will automatically add up,” Michael described. “You can see whether or not you have enough manpower, for instance, to tackle those projects. Or, you can apply filters to see, perhaps, ‘Here are all the priority one projects, how much do they all cost? What would be the perceived benefit of all of those projects?'”
Pairing planning with critical thinking and analysis, MindManager can help eliminate wasted time and money. For small business owners, in particular, every spare minute — and every spare penny — can have a big impact on success.
“[Small business owners] have very limited resources and they’re taxed with a lot of work to do, so they want to make sure they’re putting their limited time and energy to the most powerful uses possible,” said Michael. “Using a tool like MindManager actually allows you to start to visualize all the different possibilities of projects, things that you could work on, and then start to prioritize them to make sure you’re being more effective.”
Visualize More with MindManager
While the comic strip hijinks of Dilbert and his office mates may make poor project management into an amusing Sunday read, the truth is a lot less comical. Luckily, MindManager software can increase communication and comprehension — which decreases the chance of carefully laid plans going terribly awry and wasting time, money, and resources.
“I think the power of what MindManager offers, is allowing people to be more effective,” Michael explained. “There are many tools out there that can make you more productive and more efficient, so you can do a task faster or track a task to completion. But, MindManager actually helps you ask — and answer — the questions, ‘What tasks should we really be doing? What projects should we be investing our time in?'”
Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.