Brainstorming Made Easy

 
 
By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2003-10-20 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

MindManager bridges whiteboard-to-workflow gap.

Brainstorming goes only so far if ideas from a whiteboard never make it to a workflow. Mindjet LLCs MindManager Pro X5 update fills that gap by helping record a meetings content and decisions and using that information to generate tasks and workflow.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
MindManager Pro X5
Mindjets $229 MindManager Pro X5 is a useful organizational tool for moving planning and brainstorming meeting information into actionable tasks and events. MindManager integrates with Microsofts Outlook and Project, allowing users to manage tasks and milestones in familiar applications.

KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
USABILITY EXCELLENT
CAPABILITY GOOD
PERFORMANCE EXCELLENT
INTEROPERABILITY GOOD
MANAGEABILITY GOOD
SCALABILITY GOOD
SECURITY GOOD
  • PRO: Integration with Outlook and Project works well; easy to learn and use; supports linking to external data sources; maps easy to distribute.
  • CON: Lacks integration with team collaboration applications; pen support wont be available until next year.

  • EVALUATION SHORT LIST
    Norcan Data AS Visual Mind SimTech Systems Inc.s MindMapper
    The $299 MindManager Pro X5, which shipped this month, uses the learning and organization discipline of mind (or concept) mapping to help teams and individuals organize thoughts and processes. MindManager did a good job of helping organize information and tasks in eWEEK Labs tests and showed that it delivers value as an organizational tool.

    However, despite some good integration features, we would like to see MindManager take enterprise integration further and include seamless integration with existing directories, decision support, knowledge management and expert systems.

    Mind Mapping Explained

    Mind mapping organizes information by branching ideas from a central idea or theme, rather than the usual linear method of note taking. The radiating branch method simplifies adding ideas when compared with typical outline-based, note-taking tools.

    MindManager extends the idea of mapping thoughts, objectives or tasks by integrating with other applications to share maps, tasks and project plans with other team members. For example, we created a list of tasks that could then be exported to and later synchronized with Microsoft Corp.s Outlook. We could also create and synchronize Outlook contacts, appointments and notes.

    This integration generally worked well, but wed like a little more power to streamline this feature through directory integration. For example, we could associate resources when creating a task, but the resources dialogue does not connect back to the directory for look-ups. Having a broader view into the directory or messaging system could also simplify checking resource availability and workloads.

    We could also connect to information resources that would be helpful in making decisions or planning, including Web and document links and RSS (RDF Site Summary) feeds. MindManager allowed us to package a map and all related files in .zip format for distribution via a shared folder or e-mail. For users not running MindManager, maps can be exported and saved in Microsoft Word and PowerPoint formats or can be saved as Web pages or in PDF format. A dedicated map viewer application will be available in January, officials said.

    The product is fairly extensible using an XML export capability, which should allow a company to integrate map data with other applications. We could also use the product in close conjunction with Microsofts Project because it imports and exports Project files. Here again, seamless integration with other team collaboration applications such as IBMs Lotus QuickPlace or Documentum Inc.s eRoom would help because those applications also have project management components.

    From a usability standpoint, we found MindManager easy to learn. It has an interface that relies on a number of Office elements, including the task pane and tabbed document views. One of the nicer features of the product is the adaptive way it remodels itself as branches grow. At times, we did find it somewhat difficult to manually align branches.

    Pen-based input would be a natural fit for this type of application, since brainstorming is typically done using whiteboards and flip charts. Mindjet has separate versions for the Tablet PC and Pocket PC, but support for those platforms has not yet been added to this version. Mindjet plans to add support in January, company officials said.

    Technical Analyst Michael Caton can be reached at michael_caton@ziffdavis.com.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

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