Mind mapping software has become a popular tool for managers who need to do some form of project management, but aren’t trained as professional project managers. Why? Because mind maps make it easy to organize different categories of data and information quickly, orderly and visually.
Today’s flexible, distributed work environment demands a set of agile tools that enable “at-a-glance” views of project status, real-time updating, real-time issue management and resolution status, and data-rich environments for better decision-making.
All of this translates into greater project velocity, improved collaboration and less wasted time and effort – without a steep learning curve.
Here are 10 ways that mind mapping software can streamline project management
Build consensus around project design and scope
Mind mapping software enables you to collect and organize all of the key information you and your team need about the scope, time, cost, quality, resources, communications, risks and stakeholder requirements for the project. It presents this mountain of information in a visual format, which makes it easier for the project team to understand it and come to consensus on it.
Contrast this with the way project teams typically plan a project: They start entering tasks into a GANTT chart, which can cause the team to get bogged down too quickly in the details of the project. They may lose sight of the main objectives of the project, or get so stuck in the weeds that they forget some important tasks or objectives.
Generate a work breakdown structure
At the beginning of a project, mind mapping software is ideal for generating lists of the key deliverables for each phase of the project. This is what’s called a Work Breakdown Structure, or W B S. Its focus is not on defining the sequence of tasks, but simply to list everything this project must deliver.
Quickly brief new project members on the project structure
Mind maps are also useful for briefing new team members on the project. They can instantly see how all of the data points on the map interrelate, including the relative importance of each element and how it impacts the overall project.
Create one-click access to all external project resources
You can easily use your favorite mind mapping program to create links to web sites, documents, reports and other project-related resources – even to other mind maps! This gives the entire team one-click access to these important materials.
Prepare for the project kickoff meeting
A mind map is an ideal tool to prepare before the project kick-off meeting — to clarify your thinking on what the project brief is all about, to find gaps in your knowledge and also in the information provided to you, and note any points that may require clarification. Getting your brain busy thinking about various aspects of the project before project initiation will give you confidence and help you convey a clear overview of the project to your team.
View your project from multiple perspectives
Mind mapping software enables you to view your information from a high level, as well as drill down into the details – the forest AND the trees, if you will.
When you are laying out the phases and tasks of your projects in a visual format, it’s easier to see the hierarchy of information you’re working with. You can also move topics, tasks and sub-tasks around until they make the most sense to you.
Simple task management and resource allocation
Task management is another important benefit of today’s mind mapping software. At a single glance, it provides you with a visual summary of the status of each task, including percentage complete, start and end dates, duration, level of importance and resources assigned to it.
Easily see dependencies between tasks
Mind mapping software also makes it easy to see the dependencies between tasks. In other words, it helps you visualize which tasks need to be completed first, before other ones can begin.
In a mind map, dependencies are depicted by dotted lines from one task to the next – similar to the way in which GANTT charts display lines and arrows to depict dependencies.
Data-rich environment for better decision-making
some mind mapping software is designed to automatically roll up the durations of sub-tasks and tasks into higher levels of your mind map, giving you a convenient way to see how long each phase of your project is expected to take. When you make adjustments to the start and end dates of specific tasks, you can also see how those changes affect the duration of the overall project.
See when KPIs are out of scope with conditional formatting
At least one mind mapping software program, MindManager, uses conditional formatting. In other words, if a task is past due or at risk, the program colors that topic a different color, making it easy to visually skim your project map and see which tasks need immediate attention.
Learn more about how to use mind mapping software for project management in my e-course.