Several weeks ago, Mindjet announced that it has integrated all of its desktop, web, mobile and desktop mind mapping and collaboration products into a single offering, with a per-user subscription fee to cover its entire tool set. Customers can now utilize Mindjet’s visual collaboration and task management capabilities for brainstorming, creating plans or tracking milestones across teams on whatever device they choose, from wherever they are in the world for US$30 per user per month.
In the past several years, Mindjet has launched Connect, a web-based collaborative tool that helps groups manage project communication, plus mind mapping and collaboration apps for the iPhone and Android mobile platforms. “We don’t want our prospective customers worrying about what to buy and how and where they’re going to use it,” explains Parker Trewin, Mindjet director of global communications. “This radically simplified go-to-market model enables customers to get access to all of our tools for one reasonable monthly fee. We’ve even simplified the provisioning of new users, to help new customers get up to speed faster,” he added.
A tempest in a tea pot?
Is this a controversial move on Mindjet’s part? Several people who have e-mailed me recently seem to think so, and they’re a bit dismayed that I haven’t taken Mindjet to task over this issue. They are very unhappy at the prospect of paying US$360 a year for the latest version of MindManager – plus the whole family of tools that now come with it.
Their main concern is that Mindjet has adopted a single “one-size-fits-all” pricing model, which they say prices MindManager out of their reach. Rather than use the Microsoft Office model, where you can buy an entire suite of software if you need it but also have the option to purchase individual programs like Word, PowerPoint and Publisher if that’s all you need, Mindjet’s “all or nothing” decision leaves them feeling cold and vowing to look at alternate solutions. If you want to read what people are saying, you can read more here.
Do their claims have merit? As an impartial observer of the mind mapping software space, I decided to investigate. Was this a big deal or not? I invested some time looking for evidence that usually accompanies a controversy online:
- Multiple discussion threads in Mindjet’s community forum (there was only one, and it seems to be dying out),
- Screeds from upset bloggers covering the mind mapping space (there were none), and
- Software analysts criticizing Mindjet’s new pricing model (isn’t happening).
I didn’t find anything. Clearly, the people who are complaining are a small group of very vocal Mindjet customers who feel they have been disadvantaged, but who don’t necessarily represent the larger universe of MindManager users.
Advantages to the developer
Mindjet’s decision is consistent with a larger trend in the software market toward subscription-based pricing. It enables customers to receive all software upgrades, helps the software developer achieve more sustainable revenue and makes the software easier to support (more customers using the latest version and fewer users with old versions to support). A steady and growing revenue stream should, in turn, enable the company to increase its pace of development, which will ultimately benefit its customers by delivering even better mind mapping tools.
Advantages to the customer
From the standpoint of corporate customers, subscription-based pricing means their investment in software becomes more predictable (a flat monthly fee per desktop vs. large spikes of investment every few years when a new version is launched) and makes it easier for team members to share files. I’m sure you’ve had to deal with that issue from time to time as you’ve attempted to share Word or PowerPoint files created with new versions of these programs with people who have older versions. We’ve definitely experienced it where I work! Providing incentives to get all customers using the same version of Mindjet’s mind mapping software provides benefits to both developers and customers.
Subscription-based pricing also opens up many new capabilities to people who have never ventured beyond the desktop version of MindManager, such as sharing maps via Mindjet’s Connect environment, managing tasks outside of the program (useful for collaborating with people who don’t currently use mind mapping in their work) and more.
What about the price issue?
MindManager was already a “Cadillac” product in the mind mapping software genre, commanding a price higher than many of its competitors. But that’s OK because it’s an excellent product, clearly aimed at business users who have bigger needs for information and project management. Annualized, $360 isn’t that much more than Mindjet was already charging for the desktop version of MindManager alone – and now you get it along with Connect and all of the mobile apps. Sounds like a good deal to me.
By the way, keep in mind that I’m impartial. I don’t show favoritism to Mindjet or any other software developer. If someone releases a steaming pile of crap or appears to be really off base in terms of how they’re approaching the market, I’m willing to say so. It’s part of my responsibility as the number one blog serving this niche. But that’s not the case here. Mindjet’s business decision is a sound one that benefits most of its customers.
Mindjet’s new direction
Mindjet has clearly communicated that it is focused on helping teams to collaborate, and is assembling tools and resources to enable that. I applaud their move to expand the conversation about mind mapping to include productivity, collaboration and other key business issues, which invite new users to the world of visual thinking. Their blog, for example, doesn’t talk all that much about their product line, but shares a lot of great information about these business topics. It’s a breath of fresh air, and is helping to spur some great conversations on business issues that matter.
If you’re a Lone Ranger who doesn’t collaborate with others much, perhaps it’s time to find a new mind mapping solution. Mindjet is headed in a different direction than you’re going. It’s that simple.
Otherwise, if you do need to improve your collaboration capabilities with others on your internal and extended teams, then Mindjet’s family of visual thinking solutions and its simplified pricing are worth a look. My personal opinion is that US$30 per month is reasonable for what you get for the money. I’m looking at it from the standpoint of use value: How much value can you create with this tool set compared to its cost? Seen in this light, I believe it’s still a good investment. It is, after all, only $30 per user per month – a “sweet spot” that makes it affordable for individuals and corporations alike. They could have easily priced it much higher, based upon its value. But they didn’t.
Please share your opinions in the comments area below. I’d really like to hear from some corporate users of Mindjet’s products. Is this a concern, a move forward or a non-event?