Application Landscaping - InformationWeek

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IoT
IoT
Software // Information Management

Application Landscaping

Enterprise applications have a new visual front-end.

VentanaView™

Summary
Ventana Research believes that content and context visualization is an important way for businesses to extract higher ROI from existing enterprise applications. But there are obstacles to overcome when dealing with content and context visualization, including identifying an appropriate visualization paradigm and automating the process of visualizing data sourced from existing enterprise applications. MindJet MindManager’s new ability to landscape sales data from the popular Salesforce.com application (an online sales force automation solution) may be the first of a whole new kind of visual enterprise application front-end.

Assessment
MindJet MindManager is one of the most sophisticated visual thinking tools available. It leverages Tony Buzan’s mind-mapping technique to visualize content and its contextual relationships. While mind-mapping has always been a great aid to visual thinking, it has remained disconnected from the enterprise data stores where a great deal of operational content and context resides.

At the same time, the enterprise data found in core business management systems such as CRM and ERP is difficult to fully leverage because it can often only be manipulated and viewed via a traditional “forms and reports” paradigm. So getting the “big picture” from broad and deep datasets is hard without a great deal of massaging and reformatting via middleware.

But now there is a new option, exemplified by MindJet’s recently announced Salesforce.com Accelerator module. This add-on to MindJet’s MindManager XPro 5 operates in combination with an existing Salesforce.com subscription. The Accelerator includes built-in intelligence about Salesforce.com entities, such as "Account and Opportunity" or "Contact and Task," and enables bi-directional synchronization of data between the two applications.

This integration offers three powerful new visualization paradigms:

  • Visualizing complete landscapes from existing Salesforce.com data
  • Assembling a landscape by linking map topics to Salesforce.com entities
  • Creating new Salesforce.com data directly from a newly created visual map

It’s easy to create a number of Salesforce.com “landscapes” in MindManager (MindJet calls them “dashboards”) that fully visualize all the content and data relationships of the landscape subject – that is, entities and related data stored in Salesforce.com. Pre-defined landscapes include Account, Opportunity, Open Activities, My Opportunities, and My Team’s Opportunities. Based on the landscape chosen, data is automatically pulled in from Salesforce.com and a map of relationships is visualized as a rich content/context map in MindManager. Here the data can be managed locally in the landscape map and any changes made are synchronized back into the Salesforce.com application at the click of a button.

By working within an Accelerator-enabled MindManager, you can also create maps in the normal way, pulling in entities from Salesforce.com to assemble a custom map that is not based on a pre-defined, automated landscape. Alternatively, a map can be created from scratch in MindManager, linked to Salesforce.com entities, and then pushed into Salesforce.com in order to drive it via a MindManager front-end. So, if you like to plan your sales activities visually rather than through a bunch of forms, you’re in luck. Any MindManager map can also be attached to Salesforce.com objects, so that they can be quickly found and viewed from within the Salesforce.com application.

Recommendation
It’s easy to see how this application landscaping paradigm could be applied to CRM, project systems, and functional domains within an ERP system such as inventory management and procurement. Ventana Research believes this kind of visual landscaping of existing enterprise data has a big future ahead of it. It’s hard to imagine why anyone would not prefer to navigate data through this kind of visual landscape rather than through layers of hierarchal menus. Ventana Research recommends that organizations already leveraging mind-mapping consider Salesforce.com for their next sales automation project, and that existing Salesforce.com users investigate this powerful and compelling new way to leverage further ROI from their application. ERP vendors looking for a way to jazz up their applications and deliver real value to their customers may want to look at MindManager as their next front-end.

Stewart McKie is European Analyst Director at Ventana Research.

Ventana Research is the preeminent research and advisory services firm helping our clients maximize stakeholder value with Performance Management throughout their organizations. Putting research in a business and IT context we provide insight and education on the best practices, methodologies and technologies that enable our clients to leverage assets to understand, optimize, and align strategies and processes to meet their goals and objectives.

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