How to Plan a Project using Mind Mapping Software
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Do you struggle with planning a project? Does your boss give you unreasonable deadlines? Mind mapping software is a powerful tool for project managers to plan projects. I use MatchWare’s MindView 7 to plan Government environmental and infrastructure projects in California. This article provides some best practices for creating the work breakdown structure (wbs), project schedule, and collaborating with the team. Use these best practices to improve your project planning and execution. Benefits include:
- More effectively create and decompose wbs.
- View in mind map or outline view.
- Use text note to integrate scope information.
- Link to web pages.
- Export to excel to share content with team.
Analyze Statement of Work
The first step is to analyze the statement of work. I use mind mapping software to analyze the statement of work (SOW) and then create the wbs. Using MindView 6, you will more effectively analyze the SOW and collaborate with the project team. Mind mapping software is the most effective tool for project planning, creating the wbs, and project schedule. Using MindView 7 you will more effectively analyze, brainstorm, collaborate, and create project planning documents. Best practices include:
- Review the statement of work in detail and create a draft wbs using the top-down layout.
- Review each sentence of the statement of work and references which list the standards, codes, and specifications. The references can add deliverables to the wbs.
- After preparing the draft wbs, meet with the project team to review the draft wbs. You have the option of presenting the map view, outline view or exporting to excel.
- After creating the draft wbs, decompose the wbs into work packages. Do not perform this in a vacuum. This should be a collaborative effort with key stakeholders to establish buy-in on project scope.
- Integrate statement of work content into the mind map using the text note. This is the most powerful feature of MindView 7.
Text Note – Integrate Scope Details
My favorite feature of MindView 6 is to utilize the text note to integrate scope details into the WBS. During scope planning, I will review the customer’s statement of work and copy scope details into the mind map. In many cases the statement of work is poorly written, disjointed, and incomplete. I will copy applicable scope into the wbs to align the statement of work with the wbs. As I gather knowledge of the project scope and decompose the wbs, I will add content to the mind map. It is easy to enter content into the mind map during meetings, phone calls, and web meetings. By exporting the mind map into Word or Excel, I can share the wbs and scope information with the team. The text note, my favorite feature has been a key to quickly analyzing the statement of work and collaborating with the project team to create the wbs.
Develop Schedule – easily transition from the wbs to developing the project schedule.
Develop Project Schedule
MindView is an easy-to-use and cost effective Gantt chart software. MindView 7 allows you to create Gantt Charts, project timelines and is integrated with Microsoft® Project. Until recently, dynamic Gantt chart software was only available in expensive, complex software packages. With MindView Business, effective project management is now fast, easy and affordable. It is important to first create the wbs prior to developing the project schedule. I often get the question during my presentations on why I do not use MS Project to create the wbs. Mind mapping is the superior tool because:
- Mind mapping techniques are more effective to create the wbs as compared to a linear approach in MS Project.
- Mind mapping is more user friendly to brainstorm and add activities.
- By first using MS Project, teams tend to focus on how to perform work, work sequence, and duration instead of focusing on the project scope of work.
- Mind mapping is the superior tool analyze the statement of work and integrate scope details into the wbs and share with the project team
After completing the wbs, create a copy of the file to develop the project schedule. Using MindView software, you can easily follow the PMBOK Time Management planning processes including define activities, sequence activities, estimate resources, estimate durations, and develop the project schedule. You can share the project schedule activities with the team by exporting to Word, Excel, or Project.
It is important to develop the project schedule with subject matter experts. Enter activities into the project schedule map and then sequence the activities by dragging and dropping the activities. You can also add milestones to the project schedule map. I always use a three-point estimate technique for activity durations. Ask the subject matter experts the most likely, optimistic, and pessimistic durations for each activity. This approach also gives insights to potential risks and lessons learned. You can add this information into the text editor for each activity. Once I complete the MindView Gantt Chart including activities, durations, and resources, I will export the map to MS Project. A scheduler will then review the schedule in detail and make refinements as needed.
My experience shows the process to create the MindView Gantt Chart creates an excellent project schedule. This process begins with creating the wbs in MindView and continues with the Gantt Chart, and then exporting to MS Project. Using MindView 5 to create the project schedule is a collaborative effort which ensures team buy-in of the schedule.
Collaborate and Share – View in outline view or export to excel and word.
Effective collaboration with the project team and key stakeholders is critical to successful project planning. MindView 6 is flexible in presenting information to the project team. You have the option of the map view, outline view, Gantt view, and timeline view. The graphic shows the map view and outline view for the solar panel project. I always analyze the statement of work and brainstorm project requirements in the map view. This view leverages the benefits of mind mapping. It is also easier to add wbs elements and collapse and expand the wbs. During a web meeting, I will also use the outline view to present the wbs to the team. Some team members are more comfortable with outline view. Each team member is different and MindView provides the flexibility to present the various views. There are a number of options within the outline view, including showing text notes, numbering, columns, and text size. Present the outline view when your team is more comfortable with a linear view of project information. You also have the option to export the mind map into MS Excel, Word, and Project.
These techniques will improve your project planning results. Download a free trial of MindView 6 and view the tutorials on creating the wbs and project schedule. You can also view my YouTube videos for additional information on using mind mapping software for project planning. Send me an email at james.franklin@PMmapping.com and I will be happy to demonstrate these techniques via a Google hangout.
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