Mindjet, the developer of the popular MindManager mind mapping software, recently launched a new version of its online map sharing and collaboration tool, Connect, which knits its desktop and mobile mind mapping software and its social task management tool (formerly CoHuman, acquired in 2011) into a cohesive whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. A special version of Connect, Connect SP, was also launched that operates entirely within corporate firewalls and integrates tightly with Microsoft SharePoint Server.
This new release is part of the company’s aggressive drive to unite vision (planning using its desktop, mobile and browser-based mind mapping tools) and action (via its social task management toolset), which, historically, have required separate tools to manage. Mindjet’s goal is to bridge this gap, enabling people to get work done efficiently, while keeping the context of that work close at hand. In addition, its aim is to make all of this power accessible to the average knowledge worker, not just executives managing large, complex projects.
Mindjet Connect Action
When you login to Mindjet Connect, the first thing you notice is that it now contains two tabs at the top, entitled “vision” and “action.” By default, it opens to the action tab, which displays an updated version of the social task management tool that Mindjet acquired from CoHuman last year. You quickly learn how to use this toolset by following a brief, hands-on tutorial, using the tool itself. Literally, the medium IS the message.
My workspace contained 7 tasks related to helping me learn to use Connect Action and one person, the aptly named “Helpful Hanna.” Connect suggested I click on “assign a task to someone,” so I did. A dialog box popped up, which gave me options to assign the task, add followers to it (the social aspect of Connect), add due dates, progress, project name and set the task’s level of visibility (just me/just followers/followers and project members). A panel on the right side of the dialog box contained two messages from Hanna, which told me what to do to fill out this form. And she encouraged me to leave a comment to her before I finished my work here, to help me get comfortable with this social task management platform.
Within Action, you can assign tasks to other team members. You can also follow tasks and comment on them. Projects are viewed as cascading vertical columns of items, very similar to the timeline in Facebook or the tweetstream in Twitter. Each project gets its own column; you can also click on your own name to see a filtered list of tasks that have been assigned to you. The interface is eerily reminiscent of HootSuite, except tailored for tasks. This format makes it easy for you to keep up with what’s going on with the projects you manage in real time. You no longer need to ping your team members for the status of the project tasks they’re working on, because you can see it all within this innovative social project dashboard.
One of the the most surprising aspects of Action is its ability to automatically set priorities, based upon an algorithm that consider multiple factors, such as the number of people following a task, its due date and its degree of newness. Action then displays your tasks in descending levels of importance based on the “score” it assigns. You can drag and drop tasks to reorder them if you disagree with the rating that Action has assigned to them. You can also hover over a score to see how Action calculated it. A pop-up window displays a list of individual factors and the score assigned to each of them, so you get a better sense of what makes up the total score.
Action makes it easy to create new projects based on past ones. You can create a template from any project. In the “create template” dialog box, a series of check boxes give you a fine level of control over which elements should be copied from your current project into it, including project members, tasks, file attachments and task followers. So you don’t have to start from scratch each time you create a new project in Action. This would be especially useful if your task involves handling similar types of projects over time – such as managing a series of conferences or webinars. With Action, you can leverage data from your previous projects to create new ones.
Connect Action is tightly integrated with Connect Vision, giving you two-way communication between the tasks in your mind map and its corresponding task within Action. How does this work? For example, if you’re working in a mind map within Connect Vision and create a task, you can simply select the “send to Action” command. A dialog box pops up, asking what should be added to Action (the currently-selected topic or that topic and its children), and which project it should be added to; you can also create a new project from this window. When I submitted it, I got a message stating that my task was successfully sent to Action, and it provided me with a link to view it. This functionality ensures that I can keep working in the map view without interruption, while at the same time building a task list in Action.
From Action you can also switch back to the map view, which opens in a new browser tab. When you create the task in Action, it automatically inserts a new comment with a link back to your map. This enables you to manage your tasks in Action, but never lose the larger context of them.
I found Connect Action to be well designed and intuitive to use. The fact that it leverages the user interface metaphors of popular social media tools is brilliant, and really helps to reduce the learning curve for Action. Also, the sample tasks are excellent learning aids. The integration between Vision and Action is very cool!
Improved Sharepoint integration
Last year, Mindjet introduced a version of MindManager that is capable of searching corporate SharePoint databases using MindManager 2012’s powerful search capabilities. This was very impressive at the time, but it was only one way – you could pull data out of SharePoint, but couldn’t work with mind maps within the SharePoint environment.
That’s all changed with this new release, which integrates the two applications to a surprising degree. Anyone with the proper access rights who is working within SharePoint can create a mind map using a new Web Map Part, or save a map created in MindManager 2012 directly to SharePoint. In addition, you can search your corporate SharePoint databases for specific data, and then easily link to it from within your MindManager maps – effectively creating shortcuts or “pointers” to the needle within the SharePoint haystack.
The new map part inherits all of its rights from SharePoint. In other words, you can easily restrict which teams and individuals can access specific databases and have access to the mapping capability. In other words, some percentage of your workers may have access to the complete integrated solution, while the next tier of users may only be able to collaborate with their team members and contribute to existing mind maps – but not create new ones within the SharePoint environment.
Connect SP is a special version of Connect that runs completely within the corporate firewall, not on Mindjet’s server “in the cloud” (outside of your corporate network), as the regular version of Connect does. Connect SP is integrated with SharePoint tasks, enabling you to search for tasks within your company’s SharePoint databases and then pull them into your mind maps. These tasks are linked, enabling you to move back and forth between SharePoint’s tabular task view and Mindjet’s more visual presentation of them. This is powerful!
Mindjet has wisely designed Connect SP not to usurp SharePoint’s power, but to work with it and extend it. This new toolset takes collaborative work management within SharePoint to a new level!
New solution focus
Mindjet not only offers an impressive new suite of visual thinking, collaboration and work management tools, it has wrapped them in more customer-centric packages, with training and support that is appropriate to each level of customer – individuals, teams and enterprise – and key customer types – such as sales and IT. Within the team and enterprise-level packages, Mindjet has bundled templates, getting started guides and other resources to help customers get up and running faster. For a company that was previously very product-centric, this is an important evolution, which will be very much appreciated by larger corporations.
With this launch, Mindjet continues to move beyond visual mapping technology to embrace the business functions that surround it – including team collaboration, social project management and helping its customers to make better use of their existing stores of data, such as Microsoft SharePoint databases. Most impressively, it “connects the dots,” enabling you to move data from one context to the other, seamlessly. Too often, the work that knowledge workers need to perform requires several types of software to complete. Each application is effectively an “island” and the process of moving data between them ranges from difficult to “are you kidding?”
This new generation of Mindjet Connect and Connect SP help to bridge those gaps, so businesses can move faster, get work done more efficiently and make better use of its customers’ most valuable assets – its people.