I recently discovered a mind mapping program for Lotus Notes that integrates project management tools to an extent that I have never seen before. MindPlan was created by a German developer, Haus Weilgut, and it makes project management tools like GANTT charts, milestones, resource allocation and progress tracking an integral part of the application, not an afterthought.
I wasn't able to run the trial version of MindPlan on my laptop because I don't use Lotus Notes, but I did download a very impressive PowerPoint "demo" (click on the "MindPlan Usage" button) that does a surprisingly good job of highlighting the program's main features. Here are some of the things that impressed me the most about MindPlan:
- You can start to develop an outline of your project plan in a mind map view that appears to be well designed and easy to use. A right-hand panel contains a very helpful tab called "your next steps" that makes it easy to understand what you can do at each step of the project definition and management process. Each task is a hyperlink; when you click one, a dialog box pops up on screen that enables you to carry it out. This is a very nice usability enhancement that should be appreciated by new users!
- You can insert pre-defined map segments with a single mouse click. The PowerPoint demo shows a "project structure" branch being added to a sample project map, which already contains sub-topics for project concept and planning, realization (implementation) and project closure. Nice!
- The task and activity dialog boxes are quite comprehensive, with multiple tabs that let you do everything from noticing a task's estimated duration and who is responsible, to attaching supporting documents.
- An integrated GANTT editor lets you view your developing project in a tabular view, with all topics and sub-topics in a hierarchical outline view.
- As part of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) process, costs for activities are accumulated and consolidated numbers are compiled at each topic and sub-topic, making it easy to see total estimated costs for a project in a very visual presentation.
- At the top of the workspace, tabs provide access to numerous views and reports, including resource allocation, milestone and date overview, activities that are exceeding their target duration or where actual costs have deviated from estimated costs. These views provide a depth and clarity of reporting that is really quite impressive!
- Nearly all projects require meetings of team members, so it's not surprising to see that MindPlan provides tools for adding meeting planning details (an agenda, send meeting invitations via Lotus Notes, etc.) to your project maps. MindPlan can automatically calculate meeting duration from the estimated times you have entered for each agenda item.
If my brief description of MindPlan's notable features sounds intriguing, then I recommend that you download the PowerPoint demo (available as a ZIP file). This page also contains 2 Flash presentations that are designed to familiarize you with the program's key features.
The only disappointment, in my opinion, is that MindPlan is only designed to work in Lotus Notes environments. Hopefully, Haus Weilgut will expand support for other operating systems in the future!