News and thoughts from CS Odessa, maker of the ConceptDraw product line: ConceptDraw PRO, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Ultimate Parents Christmas Map

Yep, this is pretty much the only map you'll need for your Christmas shopping. (And let's face it, lots of us are not finishing up their shopping but just starting out.)

You can add branches to capture such things as how he or she was bad, maybe how bad they were on a scale of 1-10, and what kind of present might be suitable (along, of course, with links to the appropriate website, whether that be or

You can make a master map, and attach your annual maps so that you can track behavior over time.

Or, you could just forget the whole thing, remember that Christmas is for kids, get something that shows how much you love them, wrap it up nicely, and put it under the tree! :o)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

How much do you pay for team communication? Look at Skype and ConceptDraw MINDMAP as low-cost highly-effective tools

With growing demand for support of virtual teams, the presence of ubiquitools with omnifunctions on platforms for everything from a phone to a computer has exploded in the past decade. Consultancies, small businesses and virtual teams have their pick from a wide range of options to assist in the management of remote staffers.

One low-cost service that has seen increased use since its inception to improve communication is Skype®. With over “250 million active users each month [and] over 115 billion call-minutes logged in quarter 2 (of 2012), alone,” Mark Gillet, Skype’s Chief Development and Operations Officer Skype is a clear leader in cost-effective communications. Now, CS Odessa has capitalized on that popularity and released a new feature for ConceptDraw® MINDMAP that instantly shares and opens presentation documents for each attendee before the presentation begins. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to communication tool-sets, many developers miss the mark when it comes to cross platform applications. Often, the practical solution is a piecemeal of software, email, and phone services that can result in an adequate level of communication; adequate, but not ideal. If some users are not using the preferred platform, a meeting can get congested with dissemination of information, as users can’t all read the same documents.

Since both ConceptDraw MINDMAP and Skype are Windows and Mac compatible, all users have the freedom to access and edit documents mind map documents on their own system while a presentation is underway. Furthermore, even if a mind map was created using other ConceptDraw products, such as ConceptDraw Project, the users can still view the entire document using just ConceptDraw MINDMAP and Skype.

One of the best features of ConceptDraw MINDMAP its cost-effectiveness. For $199 per license, you get a powerful mind-mapping and presentation tool. Using MINDMAP with Skype Presentation, MINDMAP delivers empowering interoperability features that can support meetings, briefings, and brainstorming sessions from across the world with heretofore unseen accessibility, ease-of-use, and power. Combined with Skype’s low or no-cost, Skype Presentation Solution for ConceptDraw MINDMAP gives users a high-powered efficiency tool raises project success-rates dramatically.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Attention Marketing Professionals: Get Ready Now for 2013

I blog about all kinds of things. But lately, after working with a number of marketing companies, I'm going to try to put a little more focus on using MINDMAP for market campaign planning.

I've touched on this before. But mind mapping is such an exemplary way to plan that, with the New Year fast approaching, I hope to convince at least some of you that a modest investment in ConceptDraw MINDMAP will transform the way you plan your campaigns.

Mapping enables you to visually see your entire marketing or PR campaign on one screen. This is so helpful to strategic thinking. Try it once, and you will wonder how you ever did it before with spreadsheets, lists, or project management software. And with mind maps you see the big picture--and still have immediate access to all the nitty gritty details upon which success hangs.

So if you're in marketing, public relations, or communications, stay tuned to this blog for the next couple of weeks to learn about some interesting ways to work with your clients to get 2013 off on the right foot!

Make Holiday Gifts Decisions Wisely

More on living a retro life
My wife and I decided to buy our daughter a new camera this year. Originally, it was because she's going to take a photography class at school. I started looking at all kinds of digital SLRs, was overcome by the selection, and called the photography teacher to see what kind of camera she recommended.

"Well, it just needs to be a film camera," she said. I did a doubletake. A film camera? Why?! "Because I'm going to be teaching the class some darkroom techniques." In fact, she said, the entire first semester will be spent learing about cameras and darkrooms. The kids won't shoot any pictures at all.

A short rant about dank darkrooms
I think it's great to spend time learning about the camera itself. But it seemed/seems odd to me that people are still using darkrooms. I didn't even know companies made film anymore. I can appreciate that there is nothing like actual film for getting the best image (Ansel Adams et al). But these are young kids--middle schoolers. It seems to me like the appropriate thing to teach at this age is how to compose a picture, not how to develop film. And to make them wait an entire semester to shoot one frame?

But I'm not the teacher, am I? Okay. No problem. I think I have an old Nikon around she can use for the class. But I know my daughter. She loves to snap away. And there's no way we can afford to do that with actual film.

To the hunt
So once again, I started researching cameras, but this time for a camera our daughter could use until she mastered her darkroom techniques. I did some quick searching around and came up with three candidates (Click on image to enlarge it):

You can see that little paperclip icon at the upper right corner of each branch. That means there's a hyperlink attached. When I click on the link, it takes me right to the page that features that particular camera.

When I open up the next level of branches, I can see some of the detailed info I've collected on this camera: Its name an product cousins, how it's powered, its zoom, whether you can override auto and get manual control, how big the censor is, what kind of preset modes there are and, last but not least, a collection of product reviews.

Details, details...
As I keep drilling down, more information becomes available to me. I really like being able to see a photo of what I'm thinking about buying. Yes, it's good to make decisions based on what's under the cover. But come on, you want it to look nice too, right? And then there is a list (again, with hot links to the actual sites) of some product reviews.

Comparing apples to apples
The hardest thing for me when trying to make an intelligent buying decision is keeping track of the main variables I want to track: Which camera(s) needs special batteries? How long is each zoom? What is the size of the sensor? What does it cost? Are there any rebates?

MINDMAP is a great way to keep track of these variables. By capturing each individual feature on its own branch, I can easily drag and drop branches to quickly compare each of these features side by side.

Make your Christmas a little calmer this year
Once I have a good sense of what I want to buy, I print out the map and take it with me to a local store--in this case, a local photo store. Having this information with me makes it much easier to ask the right questions, and to make sure the salesperson isn't blowing smoke up my... wallet.

Think Global. Buy Local.
I like to do research the internet, then buy locally--giving the local vendor a chance to match or beat online prices. But if they can't, I usually go with them anyway unless the price is just crazy high. I paid $30 for a 3-year, no-questions-asked warranty on my daughter's camera. If it breaks, I drive right up the street, drop the camera off at this same store, and it goes to the front of the repair line.

Supporting local businesses means that you help them stay local so they'll be around if and when you have a question, need a repair, or are ready to upgrade. The difference between online prices and local retail prices can evaporate when you consider all of the benefits of having stores in your immediate area.

Alas, you can't buy ConceptDraw MINDMAP at a local store, so we're the exception to that rule. But we like to think that we treat each customer as if he or she were our neighbor. So drop on by our website and see what you think!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How to Create a Content-Rich Blueprint of a Website

What decade is this anyway?
For all the years I've been involved in mind mapping, I've never heard very much talk about using maps as part of the web design process. I've never understood that. Having designed more than a few websites myself (and I mean "design" in the sense of my role in the process, which is usually "information design"), I can tell you that mind mapping makes web design insanely easier.

By their very nature, mind maps immediately capture the sense of layers that is the backbone of every web site. You have a home page with its own content. And then the home page links out to layers and layers of other pages. This layering a very tough concept to convey with the kinds of business tools most clients use.

Creating a visual picture of something visual: What a concept!
I use MINDMAP to create guide to the site--a kind of blueprint. A while back, one mind mapping company developed a way to go directly from a mind map to a fully functional website. But it was a pretty crude process. So I stick to using the map as simply a guide--but a very good guide.

The nice thing about using MINDMAP to do this is that you can map out not only the links from one page to the next, but the actual content that will appear on each page.

Think of what this means to you as a web designer. Imagine if your client could send you ONE SINGLE DOCUMENT that clearly communicated:

  1. How each page is linked to the next.
  2. What text goes on every page (along with notes about how and where the text should appear, what color it should be, etc.)
  3. Whether there should be links to documents, images, sound or video files.
  4. All of those text, image, audio, video, etc. files, added as attachments or links to the map.
(And remember, this is all in one, easily reorganized, easily added to document-- produced with software that is very affordable and ridiculously easy to learn.)

Every mind map tells a story, don't it?
So what you would have before you is a complete, self-explanatory, self-contained guide to how the client wants the site to be organized, and the content for each and every page.

Call me crazy. But when I've seen how other people try to communicate information this complex, the results are usually... scary. We're talking pages of notes, Dropbox folders full of documents with instructions on what goes where--but in yet another document. At best, we're talking Visio diagrams that contain some--but not all--of the information you need to understand the information architecture. At worst, you're on a conference call taking notes, trying to understand what in the world the client is talking about.

Here's just one simple image of what a map like this might look like. I think your imagination can fill in all the blanks:

Christmas is coming (hint hint)
So here's an idea: Get your clients the gift that keeps on giving: Get them a copy of ConceptDraw MINDMAP. It will take the each of you about 5 minutes to figure out how to do all you need to do to create a map like this (create branches and sub-branches, insert notes, and attach hyperlinks). From that point on, it will be so much easier to communicate information back and forth that you'll feel as if you've jumped ahead a couple of decades.

And compared to the way most people plan websites, you have.

Behold, Ye Timid Mindmappers: Integrated Marketing!

I comped a license of ConceptDraw MINDMAP to a business acquaintance of mine, Jenn Neal of Kane & Associates, a marketing company here in Boise. It was good timing. It just so happened that she was in the middle of rethinking her marketing model.

Sometimes when someone tries mind mapping for the first time (and this was hers), the create some very simple maps. And that's great! I do that all the time. I'll just open up a map when I just want to think a couple of things through. Just getting them down on the page always help me think more clearly.

But Jenn isn't like that. She is, in fact, a maniac. Here's the very first map she showed me, having tried mind mapping for the very first time (click on map to enlarge):

How impressive is that?! I asked Jenn why there were so many relationship lines. Because, she said that that's how she looks at a marketing campaign. Everything Kane does for a client is integrated into everything else or... integrated marketing.

When Kane send out an email for a client, they make sure that the same content gets onto the client's Facebook page and goes out as a Tweet. They put the copy on the company's website--and post about it on their blog. It seems to me that doing it this way really adds a multiplier effect to the message they client is trying to get out.

As you peer closer at the map, you get more of a sense of what she's trying to convey with the map:

Maps like these revive the discussion of a map's intended audience. I think some people believe that a map--any map--should be immediately intelligible to anyone, simply by virtue of the fact that it's a mind map. But maps like this make it pretty clear that while some maps are, indeed, immediately understandable, some have meaning only for the person who made them.

If, for some strange reason, you haven't tried mind mapping yourself, go to and get a free trial. See if it makes sense to you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I Use MINDMAP for My Daily To-Do List

I keep trying different ways to keep track of the things I need to do each day/week/month. But I always seem to come back to ConceptDraw MINDMAP. I think it's because MINDMAP is unique in allowing me to keep track of not just tasks, but the content that usually accompanies the tasks.

At the moment, for example, I am serving as the editor of a local organizations's website and newsletter. Part of my responsibility to it assign writing tasks to board members, and to write a new member profile each month.

The CCC section of my To-Do list looks like this:

Keep Track of More than Just Tasks
Focusing on the Newsletter branch (below), you can see how I can use Callouts to keep track of the actions I've just taken. There's also a "Notes" Icon on the "Schedule blog post..." branch. This Note contains the language I use to ask the board member for the content. I leave this language in a note in the map so I'll know right where to get it when I have to ask again next month.

In this way the map, which I created to manage tasks, is becoming a repository for content that I need to accomplish tasks. This becomes more evident when I open the branch one more level:

Does Your To-Do List Help You Understand Context?
At a glance, I can look at the map and see which months are set (the ones that have a checked box next to them) and which ones still need more work. I can immediately see contact info for the people we hope will present the program. If they send me content, I put it in a Note window for their month.

Having all this information in one place makes it really easy for me to create my To-Do list for this organization--and to actually accomplish the tasks on the list. Everything I need (contact info, the context of what information I need and why, dates, times, etc.) is right at my fingertips. (Hidden in this view, but just a click away.)

Dabble around. But Settle on MINDMAP!
Yes, there are many ways to keep track of your tasks. But not many ways make it so easy for you to keep track of all the information, ideas, and context that helps you make sense of and accomplish the tasks you have set for yourself.

So go ahead and try different ways to do this. But when you find that they approach you're taking isn't giving you the kind of information you need, try ConceptDraw MINDMAP!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Do Your Spouse/Family a Favor: Get Your Financial House in Order

We recently had a death in the family, and it brought one thing (among many) into a harsh spotlight: The necessity to leave behind a clear picture of your financial life.

People often say that they have this picture in their heads. They know where all the documents are. They know the passwords and locations of all their accounts. They know the names of their financial and tax advisors. And they know--to the penny--how much they have in each account, when the bills are due, and where all the income comes from.

Give your loved ones a fighting chance
That's great. If only people could see into your brain when you pass on or are incapacitated due to illness. And building off of Toni Krasnic's post yesterday, a ConceptDraw MINDMAP is a great way to capture all this information. This one isn't quite a fun as a vacation map, but it can still relieve your stress--and the stress of those around you:

(You can download this My Earthly Possessions Map for free at

Protect your most important information
Your life may be a lot more or a lot less complicated than what is represented in this map. But you get the general idea. It is, of course, critically important that you keep this map secure, both digitally and if you keep a paper copy. Just be sure that those who may need access to it know how and where to do so.

The mind map format enables you to put in all the information your survivors will need to put your affairs in order. Contact numbers, access codes, hot links to your account pages...

Include notes to help others navigate your accounts
In addition to this "macro" information, you can also add notes to provide more granular information on any element in the map:

Your legacy as a thoughtful, organized person will live on!
Creating a map like this really is one of the more considerate things you could do for your family. Yes, it will take maybe an hour or two. But then you can rest easy knowing that, in the unfortunate event that something happens to you, those you love will not have to rummage through file drawers, emails, and random piles of paper to piece together your financial life on earth.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Reduce Travel Stress with the MINDMAP Trip Planner

The Mind Map Trip Planner
With the holidays fast approaching, many will take a vacation to go visit family or just get away from work. For most of us, the few days before traveling can be quite hectic. Checklists help but they are often too busy and too long.

An alternative is a mind map trip planner. With a mind map trip planner, not only can you capture to-dos, but you can also incorporate all the important information and resources within a single mind map.

Here’s an example mind map trip planner:

Download this mind map from Biggerplate.
Download the mind map image file.

Notice how the mind map, unlike a checklist, presents an uncluttered view of your to-dos. More importantly, it also serves as a trip dashboard from which you can easily access copies of airline tickets, web links to Embassies and travel sites, notes on contact information and phone numbers, and more, all in one mind map.

I hope this mind map trip planner helps make your travel planning more fun and less stressful.

How do you use mind maps when traveling?

Guest post by Toni Krasnic. Connect with Toni on Tumblr, Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Pinterest.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

What Makes Companies go from Outsourcing to Insourcing? The Need for Innovation!

Was Outsourcing a Mistake, or Just a Blip?
The December 12 Atlantic Monthly has a couple of great articles on the rise of insourcing. In The Insourcing Boom, author Charles Fishman makes a pretty stunning assertion:

What is only now dawning on the smart American companies, says Lenzi, is that when you outsource the making of the products, “your whole business goes with the outsourcing.” Which raises a troubling but also thrilling prospect: the offshoring rush of the past decade or more—one of the signature economic events of our times—may have been a mistake.

People Working Together IN THE SAME PHYSICAL LOCATION to Innovate a New Product

The gist of Fishman's article is that markets move too quickly now for manufacturers to outsource production. To evolve a product at the speed consumers expect, companies need to draw on the skills of all the people involved in the production process--from engineers to line workers to sales people.

And as great as web collaboration software is, as helpful as Skype calls can be, companies are seeing the most benefit by putting people together physically--not virtualy--to reeeningeer old processes and innovate new products.

Fishman has some great examples of how this works in the real world. He tells one story of how a team of GE employees in the U.S. got together and reimagined how to build a dishwasher. When they were finished, they had eliminated 35 percent of the labor required to build one.

Less, but Smarter, Use of Labor
That's pretty amazing. But what is even more stunning is what they did with that extra 35 percent. GE management asked the team to pick a dishwasher part they thought they could build better here in the U.S. They chose a part, reinvented and improved it, and then went on to try to improve other parts.

And that, Fishman says, is how "the outsourcing cycle starts to turn. Once you begin making the product itself, you get the itch to make the parts, too."

How cool is that: The turn of the cycle from outsourcing to insourcing. This change points to the importance of innovation, of real-time collaboration across teams. I can't help but imagine one of these teams in a room, with MINDMAP up on the wall, brainstorming how to "build a better mousetrap."

Can Your Company Do Better Through Cross-Team Collaboration?
This global turn of events is pretty exciting for companies like CS Odessa, which has always believed in the power of creative people working together to solve business challenges.

So what about you? Does your company outsource? What would happen if you started manufacturing your products right here in the U.S... if you put your U.S. workers together to help them innovate the next product. You would be in some very good company if you gave it a try!

Note: Fishman's article provides a number of other very tangible reasons why the insourcing trend is gaining strength here in the U.S.

Visit to see how our products can help your teams innovate.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Brainstorming is Great--When It's Tied to Action

If you've ever been in a corporate brainstorming session (and I've been in more than a few), it's easy to get pessimistic. Yes, we've spent all this wonderful time together, filling up giant sticky notes, using different color markers--maybe even playing with slinkys, modeling clay, and yo-yos. But what do we actually accomplish?

Too often, months go by until you or one of your coworkers asked that inevitable question: Whatever happened to all those ideas we generated way back when? Is there a new service in the works we haven't heard about yet? Is our tagline changing? Or have all those flip charts ended up in someone manager's bottom drawer?

What if those "Big Idea People" had to take ownership of their ideas?
When was the last time you started with a brainstorming session and ended the session by assigning tasks to each participant to help make those new ideas become a reality? Have you EVER had a session that ended like that? The beautiful thing about ConceptDraw MINDMAP is that it makes this transition from brainstorming to concrete action easy to accomplish.

The general flow of a brainstorming session like this actually starts before the session itself. In fact, there has been a lot of discussion lately about how to conduct brainstorming sessions. I won't go into all that. Suffice to say that I think a really good way to prepare for a brainstorming session is to tell everyone in advance what you are going to be brainstorming about, and give them a chance to get some ideas together before the session starts.

(Click on image to enlarge.)

The Lean, Clean, Effective Brainstorming Machine
Once you've done that, then the session steps are:

  1. Conduct the brainstorming session by getting input from each participant. Take the ideas they've come up with prior to the session and add them to a mind map projected for everyone in the room to see. If you have more than one topic on the agenda, address each topic one at a time.
  2. For each topic, have the participants discuss and debate the merits of each person's ideas. People should be respectful of each other. But they don't need to be overly polite: If they don't like an idea, they should be encouraged to say why; to be honest--and maybe to offer an alternative.
  3. Hopefully, with honest, creative exchanges like these, you can come to a point where everyone agrees on some great new ideas. But now, rather than simply congratulating each other on your brilliant thinking, go one step further: Have everyone is the session take personal responsibility to move one or more ideas forward.

    Enter their commitments right into the map. If one ideas is to gather research, write down who will do that, and when they will do it by. If someone else needs to be brought into the discussion, make sure someone is assigned to do that--along with when they will do it by.

  4. Instruct people to record the actions or information they were responsible for right on the map, like they have in the following map image (Click on it to enlarge it.)

One Seamless, Efficient Process
Now with this last step, something interesting has happened: Your Brainstorming Map has just turned into your Meeting Map. The next time this groups come together to discuss this project, you simply open up the map and you instantly have at your fingertips the kind of information that can sometimes takes the larger part of a meeting just to find.

I'm sure you can see where this leads: Ideas once lost in the bottom drawer are now front and center, with resources and due dates assigned. This is a big deal. Because companies are nothing more than the ideas of the people who work there--put into action.

Give ConceptDraw MINDMAP a try the next time you want to go beyond brainstorming and right into action to make your ideas a reality.