With that approach, Mindjet is branching out from its base as a creator of brainstorming and mind mapping tools to enter the social collaboration market.
The updated Mindjet Connect cloud-based collaboration offering builds on the acquisition of Cohuman announced in September. Mindjet also is updating Mindjet Connect SP, an on-premises environment that works with SharePoint, and introducing Mindjet for Enterprise, which combines the two products for organizations wanting to support both internal and external collaboration.
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Mindjet initially rebranded the Cohuman social collaboration service as Mindjet Connect Action and offered it as a sister product to the visualization-oriented Mindjet Connect Vision. As of Monday, Vision and Action have been redefined as two halves of a single application, and customers will get both for no additional charge, according to Mindjet. What this means is that you can sketch a project plan and assemble related planning documents in Mindjet Connect Vision, then highlight any portion of the project plan, assign it to one or more people, and then push the plan into Mindjet Connect Action, where the team can collaborate on accomplishing its assigned tasks.
"There's no solution I'm aware of that brings both of those together," Blaine Mathieu, chief products officer at Mindjet, said in an interview. Although there are countless tools for collaborative task management, they're often disconnected from the planning process, he said. "These tend to be big silos. On the one hand, there's what we want to do and why we want to do it, and preparing the work to do and the teams to do it. Usually, that part and the actual execution of the project are separate processes." One danger of that separation, he said, is losing sight of the original goals of the project in the thick of the action.
Mindjet is best known for its MindManager visualization and planning product, which is desktop software available for PCs and Macs. Mindjet Connect Vision can be used to share documents created with MindManager, but it also includes a Web-based editor for creating and editing these "maps." The PC version of MindManager supports publishing and collaborative editing through Mindjet Connect, and the Mac version will be getting that capability soon, according to Mindjet.
Looking a little like Google Docs, Mindjet Connect Vision also supports sharing other documents, but so far only provides an online editor for the vision maps. Web-based editing of other document types is on the product roadmap, Mathieu said.
Mindjet Connect SP provides a similar set of functions, except that SharePoint serves as the document repository and SharePoint's own task management system takes the place of the Actions module. The approach with Mindjet Connect SP is to provide an improved user interface for mapping project plans.
Mindjet also has created iPhone, iPad, and Android versions of its visualization tool, which it is giving away for free as a way of exciting interest in its technology. Mathieu said many new customers are learning about Mindjet first through the mobile apps, which can be used alone or in combination with Mindjet Connect.
Mindjet's appearance in the social collaboration market is an example of how "the boundaries are still being defined--I don't think of them as being a social vendor," Forrester Research analyst Rob Koplowitz said. Yet with the addition of an activity stream, suddenly a visualization product shows how it can be social, he said.
The structure of Mindjet Connect Actions reflects a trend toward creating social products for semi-structured workflow. Koplowitz mentioned Socialcast Strides as another attempt to define how work can get done through social networks.
"They're taking ad hoc processes and making them a little more structured, a little more repeatable. Activity streams in a social network are an interesting way to capture that," Koplowitz said. Even in loosely structured activities, you need a clue on when to take the next step, and an activity stream can provide an alert prompting a manager to approve something or get more information. If that's structured right, "you might never have to leave the activity stream to do that," Koplowitz said.
Mindjet Connect's method for assigning work also includes a feature for turning existing assignments into templates, similar to a key feature in the social workflow product Sparqlight.
In one scenario Mathieu outlined, a hypothetical bicycle helmet manufacturer might use a mind map to depict all the steps in creating a new product and bringing it to market. A template created from that project might include a standard list of tasks and assignments for engineering, market research, and marketing teams but not the project-specific documents that would be different from one product to the next. A new plan created from that template could then be edited to add or subtract participants or change the deadlines.