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By Yulia Aspinall


Abstract:

A variety of project management software exists that can assist with project initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and completion. A new trend towards using mind-mapping software is gaining attention. These tools are powerful enough to handle complex projects, yet intuitive enough for most users to pick up quickly. 


Item:

For information professionals, like those in many other positions, the ability to effectively and efficiently manage projects is an essential skill. There are a variety of project management software on the market, each of which offers different solutions to assist with project initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and completion.

However, whilst software packages can make life easier, they are not all straightforward or simple to use and sometimes it can take longer to update the software than to do the work.

As an alternative, mind mapping software is becoming increasingly popular as a project management tool since, as Chuck Frey describes it, mind mapping purports to "save time, gain productivity and improve communication with the team members in an effective and creative way".

What are mind maps?

Mind maps are defined on Wikipedia as "a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea."

By presenting ideas in a radial, graphical, non-linear manner, mind maps encourage a brainstorming approach to planning and organisational tasks. Pictorial methods for recording knowledge and modelling systems have been used for centuries, but modern mind mapping was introduced in the 1970s by British popular psychology author Tony Buzan.

Whilst existing mind mapping software allows the users to build and manage mind maps, some can also assist with project management. For example, Edraw Max software includes templates of commonly-used project management diagrams. iMindMap, MindGenius, Mindjet, and MatchWare Mind View (amongst others) allow users to manage projects using complex and graphical features.

Each of the above packages operates in roughly in the same way: First, topics are added to a mind map, representing each of the project elements. Next, individual tasks, time estimates for each task and the assignment of tasks to team members are added. It is also possible to attach files with information that will support each task.

Once the project plan is built as a mind map and tasks allocated, it can be viewed as a Gantt chart or Timeline and can be exported to Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Project.

A project manager can track the status of the project as it progresses. The software allows users to view the entire project timeline, examine the critical path, assign priorities, set completion values, check deadlines and milestones and avoid scheduling conflicts. Users can also generate various reports such as a project summary.

Overall, mind mapping packages can be a powerful, flexible and highly productive approach to project management once the users become familiar with the software. It’s recommended to use online training material, provided by the software developers to be able to apply relevant project management tools in the most efficient way.

This is a short version of a FreePint Subscription article on the same topic. If you have a FreePint Subscription, you can view the full article now (login required). Full article describes pros and cons of different packages and includes 4 screen shots.


 

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Yulia Aspinall, PhD is an independent consultant in biopharmaceutical strategic information and intelligence. Her consultancy YVAInfo specialises in applying the tools and processes of knowledge and information management (KIM) to establish channels for collecting, analysing and sharing intelligence on competitors. Yulia also developed PharmaInfoLine - a free website for information professionals in pharmaceutical industry. Her articles on competitive intelligence and information resources are published in FreePint and in Business Information Review.

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