Mindjet Maps Simpler Planning, Budgeting, Collaboration
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Mind mapping is a mode of planning that is foreign to many people, and not everyone takes to it, Silva said. That's one reason the task synchronization Mindjet is introducing is important: "You can have the engineer's view of it, or the community manager's view," he explained.
In addition, Silva said, the rise of touchscreen user interfaces on devices like the iPad might encourage adoption of the "tactile task management" Mindjet makes possible.
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In switching to a single-suite pricing model, Mindjet is trying to encourage people to remember a single brand name, rather than the names of multiple individual products, according to Silva--in the way that people talk about using Evernote without making fine distinctions between editions. There is also a practical benefit for organizations introducing the technology, because it allows people to adopt the tools at their own pace. "Trying to get people to use Mindjet, whether they use one feature or a hundred features, is the only way to foster viral popularity," Silva said.
One organization that's adopting Mindjet as a core planning and collaboration tool is Education Development Center, a not-for-profit organization, primarily funded by the federal government, that promotes educational programs worldwide.
"At any given time, we have about 250 active projects," said Robert Spielvogel, chief technology officer and vice president for research, evaluation, and policy. Most of those projects are not big enough to support having someone in charge of managing and updating a plan in a tool like Microsoft Project. As a result, project managers had been left to sink or swim on their own.
Although many EDC employees were already using MindManager as a personal productivity tool, until recently it was not a technology the organization officially promoted, Spielvogel said. Last November, he got a cold call from a Mindjet salesperson who had noticed that EDC already had about 220 licenses and wanted to know if EDC would like to try the new, more collaborative product line. The timing was good because EDC had just gone through a long-range strategic technology planning process over the course of a year and a half, which included an outside audit that pointed out the weaknesses in the organization's technology infrastructure.
One of the priorities that emerged was a need for better online collaboration, Spielvogel said. "We have project offices and field offices all around the world, and in almost any meeting we have people joining in from outside our offices. So we realized we needed to get a lot better as an organization at supporting virtual team collaboration."
Also, EDC recognized the need to be better organized about project management, and a collaborative environment would provide ways of capturing lessons learned, probably more effectively than would be achieved with traditional knowledge management methods.
After a pilot deployment that lasted from January to May, EDC "decided to go all-in on Mindjet," Spielvogel said. The transition probably went more smoothly because EDC already had employees who were familiar with mind mapping and could tutor their peers, but the nature of the medium has its own virtues. "The visual nature of the product greatly lowered the learning curve," he said. "It lets you see the forest and the trees at the same time."
Also, in the context of international collaboration, where not everyone on the team is a native speaker of English, visual project plans can help close some gaps in understanding, Spielvogel said.
EDC is about halfway through its rollout of Mindjet, in which every employee will get a copy of the desktop tool as well as access to the Web components. "I am curious to see how many people will create mind maps of their own and whether they will use this to the extent they use other office productivity tools," Spielvogel said. "My goal is that within six months, 50% of the company will be using it that way."
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