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

Thursday, December 17, 2009

We Are Spelling Your Language

ConceptDraw MINDMAP has a language interface for English, French and German. But, did you know it can also spell check your content on your PC in English (multiple), French, German, Russian, and Spanish (multiple)?

For Mac users, the language options also include Italian, Portuguese, Svenska, Dansk, and Polish.


This feature is easily accessible from the Edit menu, under Preferences.

Figure 1: ConceptDraw Speller Checker Specification Screen (PC)


Figure 2: ConceptDraw Spanish Language Speller Checker in Action(PC)


Language selections on the Macintosh can be found from the Edit menu, under Spelling.


 Figure 3: ConceptDraw Speller Checker Specification Screen (Mac)

Figure 4: ConceptDraw English Language Speller Checker in Action (Mac)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Project Reporting Using ConceptDraw MINDMAP and Microsoft PowerPoint

The ConceptDraw Office Suite has a very powerful built in project reporting tool that generates a variety of reports. Such reports range from visual scoreboards to mind maps reports that show the critical details.

Figure 1: Map template for Report Presentation in Microsoft PowerPoint.

For those of you looking for a way to quickly prepare a PowerPoint presentation for status meetings, you can easily prepare your content in a mind map format, and then export to your template of choice using ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Figure 2: Sample of PowerPoint output using a ConceptDraw template.

Download a sample ConceptDraw MINDMAP template here:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Customize Your Maps with ConceptDraw PRO and ConceptDraw MINDMAP

Do you ever wish you could customize your mind maps more professionally?

Using ConceptDraw PRO (our powerful business graphics software) you can have complete control of how your mind map topics look.

Here is an example of a mind map that uses an image of a 1964 Mustang convertible as a topic type. Add a first level topic and up pops a Mustang! If only it were this easy for Ford to build automobiles.

Download the map here to see how it works.

Figure 1: Portion of a mind map showing a '64 Mustang as new topic type. Main topic and sub-topics have also been modified to show the range of change available.

Customize Topics
  1. The first step is to select a picture or choose one of the 15,000 professionally drawn objects that come with ConceptDraw PRO.

  2. Place the object or picture on to ConceptDraw’s canvas. Then drag and drop the object on to the topic you want to change, if you want to make a change to all topics at that level in your map drag the object to the 1 o’clock position.

  3. When you drag the object from ConceptDraw PRO over to the topic that is in place, note the topic behavior in the topic. You will see a yellow rectangle that is divided into 3 boxes.

  4. Drop the image on to one of the boxes and the image will then be part of the topic.

  5. The location of the image is determined by the box that you place the image in.

  6. Drift the cursor a bit to the right or left and there will appear a blue box.

  7. Drop the image in the blue box and it becomes the topic.

Figure 2: Drag a ConceptDraw PEO object to your mind map. Once you see the blue rectangle place the object for a new topic type.

Figure 3: ConceptDraw MINDMAP changes to the margins increase the size of the topic.

Build a Theme

  1. Click on the topic you have changed.

  2. From the Format menu, select Map Theme then Apply to Current Level

  3.  Once you have completed all of your modifications, go to the Format menu, and select  Map Theme then Save Theme. This new theme can then be applied to any map you build in the future.

  4. You can modify the topic size, spacing tab, and margins. The topic will increase in size.
Now you can build unique and custom maps with ease!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Add a New Project to Your Multi-Project Document

Often times, project managers must organize, manage resources, assign tasks, and generate reports for multiple projects.

With ConceptDraw PROJECT, it is easy for anyone to manage multiple projects within one easy-to-use document.

1.    To add a new project to your multi project workspace, select Project View.

2.    Click Enter or double-click your mouse.  Enter the new project name.

It is so easy to add additional projects to ConceptDraw PROJECT.  Not only have you added a new project, you now have the ability to manage all of your projects’ resources in a single resource view.

Format Notes in ConceptDraw MINDMAP

In ConceptDraw MINDMAP you can easily add and edit notes to topics using content from Microsoft Excel and Word.

Add Microsoft Excel Tables to MINDMAP Notes

You can add tables, created in Microsoft Excel, to ConceptDraw MINDMAP Notes.

1. Copy the selected text from MS Excel.

2. Paste the selected text in the Notes field in ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

3. The table format is preserved in the Notes field.

Add Bulleted Lists from Microsoft Word to MINDMAP Notes

You can add a bulleted list, created in Microsoft Word, to ConceptDraw MINDMAP Notes.

1. Copy the bulleted list from your Word document.

2. Paste the bulleted list, in the note section of any topic within your mind map.

3. The bullet formats will be preserved in the Notes field.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Everything You Need to Know About ConceptDraw and Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard) Support

Due to the popularity of Snow Leopard from the first day of its launch, the ConceptDraw Customer Support team, has continued to receive questions on the suitability of ConceptDraw products with Snow Leopard.

All of our latest products are compatible with Snow Leopard. The latest versions of ConceptDraw Office, ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw PRO all run very smoothly with Snow Leopard.

However, if you are currently using the following products and versions, you will need to update to the latest version to become compatible with Snow Leopard.

The product versions that require updates are:
  • CD MINDMAP version 5 or earlier
  • CD PROJECT version 4 or earlier 
  • ConceptDraw 7 or earlier 
If you have our latest products you can update to the newest version and gain Snow Leopard support.

If you decided to update to Snow Leopard, CS Odessa suggests that you update each of your ConceptDraw products to the latest version.

The latest versions of are as follows:
  • ConceptDraw PRO (or greater)
  • ConceptDraw MINDMAP 6.2.8 (or greater)
  • ConceptDraw PROJECT 5.1.2 (or greater)

Once your ConceptDraw software is up to date, you can then update your Mac OS X.

To update your Mac OS X:
  1. Insert the update disk, and then follow the on screen directions. 
  2. You will need your Admin Password to complete the upgrade. This may take up to an hour to complete, so make sure to set aside ample time to do this. 
  3. After you have successfully upgraded to the latest version, check for available upgrades and run the install a second time.
  4. The second upgrade only takes about 15 minutes. 
  5. Once you have completed your Mac OS X upgrade, you are then able to run your ConceptDraw applications. 
  6. If you need to upgrade your ConceptDraw product from an earlier version, please call our sales team for upgrade information by telephone 1.877.441.1150  (ext 3), 1.408.441.1150   (ext 3).

Friday, October 23, 2009

Adapting, Change Is The Name of the Game

When you are in the middle of working on a critical task, and need to rapidly make changes, the last thing you want is your mind mapping software getting in the way and slowing you down.

Many times throughout a project life cycle, there are global changes that need to be made to the processes or project documentation,  that need to happen immediately. ConceptDraw MINDMAP enables you to rapidly perform a Find and Replace across single-page or multi-page maps.

You can easily and selectively find-and-replace from one topic, sub-topic text, topic notes, hyperlinks and resources. Imagine the power of being able to rapidly change resources in a large project!

This great feature adds incredible flexibility to how you work, giving you a tremendous ability to quickly and effortlessly, make changes within your mind map documents and projects.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Effectively Communicate Project Status to Stakeholders by Gregory Zhukov

Gregory Zhukov is CEO of CS Odessa and he has a passion for visual communication and building tools that effectively assist in the communication of status.

There are two critical area of communication during a project life cycle. The first is the communication of task assignments and the status of the tasks assigned. The second is the accurate and timely communication of project status.

The ability to communicate project status in real-time is not a common functionality that Project Managers expect out of the software tools they use. The irony is that all too often the information that is necessary to communicate is hard to retrieve, because the data is locked in their application’s project file. Day-in and day-out, during the life of a project, it is a critical for success that Project Managers exchange timely project information and report on a project’s status to all active participants and stakeholders.

There are many tools on the market that enable users to report and communicate task assignments. While some of these tools are rich with reporting features, they also tend to be very complex and not intuitive for users who need to create vital reports on current task situations and the impact of the current status on projects. More times than not it is complicated to determine and communicate accurate project status, and understand inter-project impact of resource allocation.

The most important part of any project is to effectively coordinate and work with project participants. This sounds like a simple task at first, but in the transition from theory to practice, things can get very complex and spin out of control before a project even starts. Clear and concise communication becomes very important as the number of resources in your project increases.

Scheduling tasks for individuals on your project team is easy to do, but when Project Managers attempt to balance resource loads across two or more projects a major challenge occurs. In my experience, I have found that managing people requires a keen focus in communication and must become the top goal of every Project Manager. This focus on communication requires a tremendous amount of time and effort, and becomes major part of any project.

Project managers need to work with people, manage the project team, report and communicate status and manage stakeholder expectations, and manage all the other aspects of a project to keep it on track and on budget.

The best Project Managers know the importance of proper information flow on the project team and how important it is for their and their team’s success. Project Managers often are required to use a combination of verbal, written and visual communication to quickly and efficiently transfer project knowledge to everyone involved in the project they manage.

Project Managers understand that their communication tasks can be much easier by using the right software tools for the job. Today’s project management position is all about effective and timely communications, the right software tools make this job easier.

Project Managers constantly talk about task status, issue resolution and changes that need to be made in a project to circumvent obstacles that have been identified. Project Managers need to be able to understand and explain project details at any level of granularity via telephone, email, project meetings, flow charts and diagrams, project presentations, and sometimes even white board presentations. The most critical skill set a Project Manager can have, without question, is the creativity to communicate and manage people.

There are some simple and basic guidelines that are important to follow when reporting project status to project and non-project managers:

• Intuitive. The report must be a straightforward and concise presentation of critical project information that represents project status and details.

• Brief. Report presentations should have a simple yet informative layout. One page is optimum to make project information easy to review.

• Compelling. The audience must be able to quickly locate what requires attention and/or immediate action.

• Easy to Learn. No special instruction should be needed to read the project status.

When reporting on projects it is necessary for us to write about currently occurring unique situations as well as having a standard report format to record conclusions. The automatic formatting and visualization of a project’s attributes help us with our communication tasks and saves a lot time on explanations during update meetings. Visualization plays a significant role in the communication process.

How many reports of a visual nature are required to communicate with your project team? There could be any number of reports that are needed for project communication, but I can think of two distinctive reports that I feel are critical for project communication:

1. Executive Overview

o For senior management, stakeholders and project sponsors.

o Often seen as a brief one-page report designed to quickly address core project issues.

o Information Addressed:

     Is the project on time?

     Is the project in budget?

     Is the staffing up to planned levels?

2. Project Team Reports

o Conveys project status to project team participants.

o Typically a one-page report intended to keep project team on track.

o Information Addressed:

     What tasks are currently assigned to each participant?

     Which of my tasks have the highest priority?

     Are all of my tasks tracking to the current schedule?

     Are any of my tasks impacting the project’s critical path?

ConceptDraw Office – A Powerful Tool to Create Visual Project Status Reports

ConceptDraw Office is suite of software applications which that were developed to specifically prepare project status reports and to communicate status effectively in one single step.

ConceptDraw Office has innovative and versatile capabilities that can used every day by managers and knowledge workers. ConceptDraw Office includes:

• ConceptDraw Project

A powerful and comprehensive software application for project planning, project tracking, and budget handling.

• ConceptDraw MINDMAP

A great visual planning and presenting tool for the construction and automatic visualization of project related structures.

• ConceptDraw PRO

A business graphics and diagramming tool that is easy to learn and has the ability to build professional project and technical documents and highly detailed presentations.

In my capacity of managing tasks and people, the question often comes up: Is it better to be Analytical or Subjective when working or managing a project?

My response: Does it matter?

Each of us has a preference for how we work and look at things. Most people are not 100% analytical or subjective, but are at some point between the two extremes. The important thing is to recognize that when communicating to project participants, everyone will want and see information different from each another.

ConceptDraw Office, developed by CS Odessa, has taken all these important elements into consideration, by building powerful real-time report functionality into ConceptDraw Office that accurately conveys status to all individuals.

Monday, September 28, 2009

2nd Annual 2009 CS Odessa Customer Survey Results

In August 2009, we here at CS Odessa, sent out our 2nd annual User Satisfaction survey, which went out to over 3,700 customers selected at random who had bought one of the ConceptDraw products in 2008. Almost 20% of our customers who were emailed participated in the survey process this year.

The survey was designed to depict:
  • product satisfaction on the Macintosh and PC platforms
  • satisfaction level with product support received

Compared with the feedback and responses we received from our initial Customer Service benchmark survey from 2008, we at CS Odessa are excited about the results of 2009. In comparison to last year, our scores have increased. Based on the responses from our customers we are also able to identify areas that need improvement.

By using a random selection of customers we recieved a good picture of the value our customers see in the products they purchase from us.

A score of 5 represents the highest degree of satisfaction with the product or support level

We would like to thank all the participants of the survey. We highly appreciate the ranking given to our products and services by our customers. Our objective is to work for our customers to further improve the value they recieve from us.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Project Status Reports, Map Progress

by Gregory Zhukov

Project status details are very important to keep project managers and participants informed and continually moving towards accomplishing goals.

Detailed and professionally presented project status descriptions enable stakeholders to remain fully informed about project performance. For the Project Manager, it also means being ahead of the game when it comes to being alerted of any necessary changes to original project plans or issues that may arise-- way before any long term damage is done. Project participants are also able to maintain a common vision and goal in regards to project progress.

Professional and visually appealing status reports create a clear view of project performance process to all project participants. The objective of a well developed report is to break in the gyre of chaotic information flow and present in a format that transforms hundreds of hours of work into a visual representation that takes an average of 30 seconds to interpret.

You can use mind mapping to depict and describe project status. Only five different mind map types are needed to completely describe project status. An easy way to do this is by using the innovative Visual Reports functionality within ConceptDraw Office.

Visual Reports of ConceptDraw Office:
  • Project Status Mind Map
    Displays the whole picture of a project process in one single view. It can assist one in making adjustments in current project strategy during implementation.
  • Task Status Mind Map
    Shows what tasks were completed, what tasks are in, or scheduled for the future, and if they are on time or critical. This mind map is used to track current status of project tasks.
  • Completed Tasks Mind Map
    Contains all completed project tasks. This mind map presents an overview of work that is already performed.
  • Task in Progress Mind Map
    Relays project tasks which have not yet been completed. All tasks that are on time and are critical are displayed. This a great map for task management.
  • Milestones Mind Map
    All project milestones are displayed here. It shows whether a project is on track for completion as expected. This mind map displays a project’s progress.

Project reports are an important part of project management communication. There is a huge need to deliver project status data to all project participants in the most effective manner. While visual formats have proven to be the most effective form of information perception, email is also the most powerful tool for sharing such information.

Visual reports generated using Visual Reports in ConceptDraw Office are delivered to designated recipients as email attachments with a message body preview. The generation and delivery of these mind maps is a great way to keep everyone on your team on the same path.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Selling Solutions

In any economic climate it is important that your sales force stays focused on the tasks at hand to maintain product sales and development, be well trained in product and business processes, keep motivated, and communicate in consistent and effective languages and format.

Training is critical to sales force alignment. Having your sales team go through continued sales training gives everyone on your team a boost in performance and motivation.

My personal favorite type of sales training is “Solution Selling”. Unfortunately, many organizations are unable to budget time or money for this.

With time and money being a universal roadblock with most companies in this tight economic period, a good alternative and cost effective training program is a seminar by Fred Pryor Seminars called “The Ultimate Sales Workshop”.

The seminar is one day in length and is very affordable for even the smallest of businesses. By sending a group of trainees, the cost per individual goes down significantly, making it even less expensive.

With enough attendees, an interesting learning dynamic occurs at the seminar, as groups learn from their participation and the participation of others.

Below is a ConceptDraw MINDMAP that outlines the content covered in this budget sales seminar. To see the entire interactive mind map please click here.

For more information on the “Solution Selling” seminar by Fred Pryor Seminars, please visit their website at

Monday, September 14, 2009

Taking Notes With ConceptDraw MINDMAP

Aggghhh. September! School bells ringing, books-a-buying, and mad rushes for necessary supplies for classes….

If this time of year means anything to you, there is a good chance you are a student or teacher of some sort. It also means lots of reading, studying, homework, projects, and study groups. All of these tasks have one thing besides hard work in common. Notes.

Notes are necessary when reading textbooks or other course material, attending a class or lecture, studying for an assignment or test, brainstorming or getting projects started, and when working in study groups.
With so many students obviously taking notes as part of their academic career, it’s a wonder why so many times, notes go unread, are hard to read, fail to have any structure or organization, and sometimes… are just incomplete.

Some basic principles on effective and traditional (boring) note taking:

• Always be prepared with necessary tools to take your notes.
• Use visual effects to help the brain interact and store information.
• Leave blank spaces so you can add comments or notes later.
• Use abbreviations and symbols whenever possible. Phrases are also better than sentences.
• Highlight or underline unfamiliar terms or concepts as a reminder to look them up later.
• Pay attention to content, especially information that is repeated, written on the board, or is followed by charts or diagrams.
• Review and edit your notes frequently.

These are really useful tips, but wouldn’t it be absolutely fabulous if there was a magical software program, catered for academics, tailored for note taking, and contains functionality to organize and enhance information?

There is!

With ConceptDraw MINDMAP you can easily take notes, brainstorm ideas, and facilitate study groups using images, links to other documents, mind maps, and websites, graphs, and the use of sub-topics.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP is an effective tool for creating, managing, and sharing notes in the form of learning maps, otherwise known as mind maps.

A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.

If you are not familiar with mind maps, ConceptDraw MINDMAP is an easy tool that doesn’t take long to get used to. Before you know it, you will be taking notes faster, retaining more information, and have more time to spend… reading more textbooks.

Here are some (exciting!) tips and hints for effective and easy (awesome) note-taking using mind maps:
• Determine the central theme of your mind map. For example, if you are reading or in a class lecture about Economics, your main topic might be “Fair Trade Movement”.

• As you continue reading or listening, add sub-topics to your main topic. You can even add notes to your sub-topics, add links to websites and other documents.

• You can add images, icons, and change fonts/colors as you go along or when you are done. Who says notes can’t become pieces of art (or at least enjoyable to look at!).

• As you continue reading, brainstorming, or paying attention to a lecture, you can add more sub-topics to other sub-topics.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP has tons of features and functionality to make your mind map and brainstorming sessions as interactive and functional as you want. But don’t take our word for it! See for yourself here.

Contact the ConceptDraw Sales Department at  1-877-441-1150 x 3, for special pricing for students and faculty!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

CS Odessa Announces Support of Mac OS X Snow Leopard, Ahead of the Pack.

CS Odessa, the leading provider of business productivity and visualization software solutions for both the Macintosh and PC, has recently announced that all of the current versions of their ConceptDraw productivity software product line now fully supports the Apple Macintosh OS X 10.6, Snow Leopard.

This is a no charge update available for all CS Odessa customers who have the current shipping versions of any of the ConceptDraw products. Customers who currently have previous versions of the ConceptDraw products can upgrade to their products to the latest release for a nominal charge.

Oleg Bocharnikov, Head of Product Management Department for CS Odessa, commented, “Snow Leopard is extremely important to Apple and their customers. Therefore it was important for us to get this right. With Snow Leopard shipping earlier than we had anticipated, we were absolutely focused on achieving platform support as quickly as possible.”

Yuriy Varbanets, Product Manager for ConceptDraw MINDMAP, also added, “Our Development and QA team worked inexorably to ready our support of Snow Leopard. We invite anyone who may still be waiting for a Snow Leopard supported application to trial our available solutions. We have 30-day, no obligation trials that enable users to really get to know the products completely before purchasing. Our focus on great customer value has been winning us many friends over the last 12 months.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Resource Management Using ConceptDraw PROJECT

ConceptDraw PROJECT makes it easy to change and adapt project calendars
Management of people resources in any project is a titanic task. As your team grows it is difficult to track all of your resources and their availability. With a growing number of resources the likelihood that all members of your team will be working 8 to 5, five days a week is a flight of the imagination. The product management solution you select needs to be flexible enough to accommodate whatever your project schedule is. Maybe your team for a project adopts 6 day work weeks during a critical project period, or maybe there is an individual who is only available for 4 days a week. Or your team works 10 hours a day 4 days a week during a project phase. No matter what your teams’ schedules or individuals’ schedules are, your project management solution needs to flex matching the resources you have available. Without this flexibility your projects will veer from their planned trajectories quickly, and projects that exhibit this behavior are seldom successful.

ConceptDraw PROJECT has the ability to maintain calendars that reflect the schedule of an overall project, a team and its availability for projects, or the work schedule of an individual. In the screen image you can see that the calendar that is associated with Tom S and how it has been modified from a standard schedule. Tom is available for work on a Sunday, but he will not be available on the 16 through the 19th. Once the calendar has been selected it is easy to make the necessary changes to Tom’s days and even the hours he can work. You can see that Tom’s calendar has been changed to show that he is available on the 12th. Once his calendar has been changed, you can then see on the Gantt chart, in the background, that a task assigned to Tom now starts on Sunday the 12th. Unless you made the change in Tom’s availability in his calendar, you could not have scheduled him to work on a Sunday.

ConceptDraw PROJECT has incredible flexibility that adapts to how you and your organization work. This plasticity in project workflow, improves the efficiency of you and your team. Efficient use of resources is critical in maintaining your projects on their planned path to successful completion.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

ConceptDraw PRO Has An Easy and Powerful Export to HTML

If you are looking to produce custom professional business graphics in HTML format, look no further then ConceptDraw PRO. With ConceptDraw PRO one can easily export a single page or multipage document with just a few clicks of a button. Above is an example of a 3 page test document that was exported using the HTML export wizard that is available in ConceptDraw PRO. The template selected of the export automatically adds a header which displays the name of the file as well as placing navigation buttons, making it easy to move to any page in the document. The page thumbnail images on the left of the main viewing area in the above example indicates the page being viewed, by selecting a different thumbnail image the new image is then displayed in the main viewing area. The page being viewed and its relation to other pages in the document can be easily identified in the column of thumbnail images on the left, a visual display indicator indicates the page selected. It is straightforward for anyone of any skill level to generate professional graphics in HTML format when using ConceptDraw PRO.

ConceptDraw PRO comes with many templates that span a wide variety of subject areas from flow charting to room layout, also included with ConceptDraw PRO is an extensive image library that is easy to use and modify. ConceptDraw PRO is a powerful solution that is right for your business and personal needs.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Business is all about Accomplishment. ConceptDraw Office is all about Business.

To accomplish something, is to bring about a desired result. The individual components of accomplishment can be broken down as either tactical or strategic. Tactical is often viewed as small-scale actions that contribute to a larger purpose, while strategic accomplishment is more focused on the integrated planned effect of a company. Strategy comes in many shapes; likewise there can be varying levels of impact. The one given is that attaining a successful strategy is critical to any business.

A Strategic Accomplish Map can be used for keeping your strategy visible at all times. This example [] may be used as a template. A company’s strategic plan must be broken down to department and individual levels. If this is not done, the company’s strategy may never be effective, as participants will not understand their roles.

“If the building blocks are clearly defined, the essence of even the most complex strategy can be expressed on one page.” ----An excerpt from, Execution. The Discipline of Getting Things Done.

At CS Odessa our version of this quote is:
“If the building blocks are clearly defined, the essence of even the most complex strategy can be expressed on ONE MIND MAP. “

Mapping Strategy Implementation
Many times strategy, after the initial planning stage, is elusive in its identification and implementation. Mind mapping is a great starting point to sort through this, as many of our customers use ConceptDraw Office to assist them in attaining their goals.

ConceptDraw Office is a business solution that combines business productivity methods and data visualization with project management technologies. There is no other product on the market equipped enough to enable one to observe and analyze accomplishment processes inside and out. ConceptDraw Office makes it a snap to plan, develop, manage, and document quality processes. ConceptDraw Office is comprised of ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PROJECT, and ConceptDraw PRO and is packaged as one seamless software tool kit.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP
ConceptDraw MINDMAP is an excellent tool to record observations and development of goals. Moving from observation stage to early process development is as easy as dragging-and-dropping items or objects that can be used to structure a process and then immediately assign resources.

ConceptDraw PROJECT
With a single push of a button, all observations and task information are automatically moved over from ConceptDraw MINDMAP to ConceptDraw PROJECT. From a project vantage point it is then easy to manage all the resources available to you and ensure proper management of all the processes put into place.

ConceptDraw PRO
ConceptDraw PRO is a professional business graphics and drawing tool that is an integral part of ConceptDraw Office. ConceptDraw PRO is well known for its ability to produce eye popping business graphics and flow charts in professional formats, and to build score card documents that report on project status.Plan, Do, CommunicateConceptDraw Office is a proven and powerful software solution that can assist you in the common challenges you are faced with when working towards accomplishing your company’s defined goals.

Works Cited
Bossidy, Larry, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck. Execution The Discipline of Getting Things Done. New York: Crown Business, 2002.
Hunger, J. David, and Tom Wheelen. Essentials of Strategic Management (4th Edition). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Friday, July 3, 2009

ConceptDraw Office’s Role in Quality Improvement

When planning for your next product roll out, there are a number of well-known variables that impact how well a product is received. Superior product quality is a proven contributor to market success as it has a positive impact on how customers perceive the value of the products they purchase. Many companies take their product standards so seriously, that they publicize them to consumers to influence their purchase behavior.

Exceptional quality also has a great impact on the user experience and encourages word-of-mouth advertising for product offerings. In addition, achieving superior quality standards has a positive impact on increasing customer retention. Excellence in product quality is important for both the retail and business-to-business markets. Quality can be used as a strategy by companies to build effective competitive barriers to market entry.

Six Sigma Role in Quality
One way to measure quality, is to calculate the number of defects over a given sample size. A methodology that is widely used to reduce the number of defects, thereby improving and maintaining quality, is Six Sigma. Six Sigma is a quality process that specifies the number of defects in a product cannot exceed 3.4 defects per million. This is a quality goal that many companies, from commercial bakers to computer chip manufacturers, strive to attain. Reducing the number of defects to 3.4 per million or less does not happen by chance or luck, and requires proper planning and discipline to keep the number of defects to appropriate levels.

Six Sigma provides a number of tools that are used to reduce variability in an organization’s business processes. There are two common methodologies used in Six Sigma which are used in different situations depending on if the process under review currently exists or is a new process being developed.

Define, Measure, Analyze, and Improve Control (DMAIC) is a Six Sigma method used for examining existing processes that fail to meet desired quality specifications. Define, Measure, Analyze, Design and Verify (DMADV) is a Six Sigma method used to ensure that proper levels of quality are built into the product and development processes from the very start.

Many of our customers use CS Odessa’s ConceptDraw Office to assist in their Six Sigma implementation. ConceptDraw Office is a unique business software solution that combines business productivity methods and data visualization with project management technologies. It is well adapted to support both DMAAIC and DMADV methodologies. There is no other software product on the market as well equipped to enable one to observe and analyze quality processes inside and out. ConceptDraw Office makes it a snap to plan, develop, manage, and document quality processes.

ConceptDraw Office is comprised of ConceptDraw MINDMAP, ConceptDraw PROJECT, and ConceptDraw PRO and packaged into one seamless software tool kit.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP
ConceptDraw MINDMAP is an excellent tool to enable the recording of observations and development of inclusive quality processes. If you have multiple processes to observe, ConceptDraw MINDMAP has the unique ability to capture all of those processes, each on with their own respective page, in a multi-page master mind map. Moving from observation to early process development is as easy as dragging-and-dropping items or objects that can be used to structure a process and then immediately assign resources.

ConceptDraw PROJECT
With a single push of a button, all observations and task information are automatically moved over from ConceptDraw MINDMAP to ConceptDraw PROJECT (you can also convert data to Microsoft Project). From a project vantage point it is easy to manage all the resources available to you and ensure proper management of all the processes put into place. With ConceptDraw PROJECT all your projects are available in a single view, which is critical when you have a common pool of resources that are utilized and managed across all ongoing projects. The built-in powerful reporting functionality keeps all project participants on track to ensure objectives and goals are met.

From ConceptDraw PROJECT, a number of visual scoreboard project reports can be opened in ConceptDraw PRO, a professional business graphics tool.

ConceptDraw PRO
ConceptDraw PRO is a professional business graphics and drawing tool that is an integral part of ConceptDraw Office. ConceptDraw PRO is well known for its ability to produce eye popping business graphics and flow charts, in professional formats.

Plan, Do, Communicate
ConceptDraw Office is a proven and powerful software solution that can assist you in the common challenges you are faced with when working towards meeting quality measurement and process definition goals.

Macworld Awards 2009

Macworld UK recently asked their editors and readers to select Macintosh supported products that they felt were best of class. On June 19, 2009 Macworld announced that in our first year of competing, CS Odessa’s ConceptDraw MINDMAP was nominated for best “Education product of the year” and “Best software”. Congratulations to the winners of “Macworld awards” 2009.

Friday, May 1, 2009

ConceptDraw MINDMAP for Projects

Quick video demo of ConceptDraw MINDMAP for Projects

How many times does something start out as simple and easy to use, but then get more complicated overtime with additional information and updates? Many mind mapping tools have a mix of user focused capabilities, which typically focus on brainstorming, organization, process development and then some tack on a set of features that attempt to address project management. This can cause a simple mind mapping program to get complicated for the general mind mapping audience.

The CS Odessa solution to this Gordian Knot dilemma of the need to balance powerful project functionality with simplicity, is addressed in our latest product offering, ConceptDraw MINDMAP for Projects. We have tightly integrated our ConceptDraw MINDMAP and ConceptDraw PROJECT applications into a compelling and economical solution.

There are many benefits of ConceptDraw MINDMAP for Projects

  • Same functionality and file structure for both Macintosh and PC.

  • Common file format between ConceptDraw MINDMAP and ConceptDraw PROJECT so information is kept up to date automatically in each program.

  • Better suitability for tasks at hand, as tasks are segregated to the most appropriate application.

  • ConceptDraw PROJECT can import and export Microsoft Project files in XML file format.

  • Tight integration between ConceptDraw MINDMAP and ConceptDraw PROJECT simplifies workflow and improves task efficiency.

  • Ability to manage multiple projects in a single view, using a common pool of resources
    There are many more advantages, but I think you get the gist from the above list. All of this power at an incredible price!

    To find out more please visit us at

Friday, April 10, 2009


Article written by Julia Fedorenko, Head of Marketing at CS Odessa

ConceptDraw Office allows you to easily apply Agile project management techniques to real projects. The unique toolset in ConceptDraw Office makes it easy to combine project management techniques with complete information visualization in a single software toolset. Every project management methodology is unique in what is required to implement and all projects must be adapted to fit within the methodology used by your organization. Looking at the project through the Agile Modeling lens it is important to remember the following crucial ideas:

• The use of User Story mapping helps Agile teams create a clear model that reflects user requirements in the context of the project.

• UML diagramming defines project direction without dictating how you do it.

• Effective communication facilitates the successful management of a project’s allocation of time and resources.

An Agile Model User Story is a very high-level definition of user requirements so that the development team can better estimate the effort required to implement the described functionality.The basic components of a User Story are often defined as the three C’s (Card, Conversation & Confirmation). The Card is a written identification of what is being built, the Conversation contains recorded notes, mockups, drawings, and documents exchanged with the end users, and the Confirmation is a description of acceptance test criteria, the User Wish. ConceptDraw MINDMAP is a great tool to build and explore the User Wish and then to share with the project team. Using a mind map is an effective way to capture a user’s requirement in a visual format that is easy to read and to work from.

With ConceptDraw PRO, you can visually represent project progress using Unified Modeling Language (UML) case diagrams and class diagram, generated from information contained in the User Wish exploration mind map. ConceptDraw can be used at two stages; the User Wish Exploration stage and the Requirements Modeling stage. By using MINDMAP during the first or the User Wish Exploration stage, you can capture and share ideas and keywords at a high level view.

When using UML during the second Requirements Modeling stage you are able to model domain objects and use cases from the keywords gathered from the User Wish exploration mind map.Our project management tool ConceptDraw PROJECT is a powerful application that allows you to effortlessly manage and communicate project status between project team participants. The entire process is very easy to incorporate into your workflow processes. ConceptDraw PROJECT enables you to keep project files current as team members read, contribute, and complete their tasks. By using ConceptDraw PROJECT and ConceptDraw MINDMAP, the tasks of communicating and exchanging data to individuals or the entire project team in a convenient mind map format keeps everyone informed.Discover more about Agile Modeling using ConceptDraw Office and the best of class products included in ConceptDraw Office

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Strategic Accomplishment Mapping with ConceptDraw MINDMAP

Business is all about moving ahead; in one word it is all about ACCOMPLISHMENT.

To accomplish something, is to bring about a desired result with effort. Completion. Accomplishment comes in many forms. I like to break accomplishment down into tactical and strategic accomplishment.

To be tactical is mostly viewed as relating to small-scale actions serving a larger purpose, while being strategic is more focused on the integrated whole or planned effect. A good friend of mine who is a wiz in public relations once described the amount of interest she was able to generate for her company by using a tactical strategy. She understood the market dynamics well and was utilizing such knowledge to bring attention to her company.

Of course tactics are just as critical to any company as strategy. The difference is the potential leverage you can take advantage of with strategy. Tactics is most similar to using a sledge hammer to tear down a brick building where as strategy is most similar to using a wrecking ball to break down the wall barriers. Strategy also comes in different formats and with different levels of impact. The one given is that attaining strategy attainment is critical to businesses of any type or size.

I have built a sample Strategic Accomplishment Map (SAM) using ConceptDraw MINDMAP that can be downloaded from MindMapPedia.

With this map being used as a template your strategy is visible at all times, this enables you to focus more accomplishing your goals. All company strategic plans must be broken down to department, group and individual levels; if this is not done the company’s strategy may never be realized.

“If the building blocks are clearly defined, the essence of even the most complex strategy can be expressed on one page.” ------------- An excerpt from the book, Execution. The Discipline of Getting Things Done.

My own version of this quote would be

“If the building blocks are clearly defined, the essence of even the most complex strategy can be expressed on ONE MIND MAP. “

What Is Mapping Strategy Implementation?

I find that tactics are easy to identify and measure, but many times strategy after the initial planning can be elusive in its implementation. Strategy implementation is the inventory of all of the activities and resources that need to be identified and organized so that a strategic plan can be put into practice. Implementation always follows strategy formulation, and I find mind maps to be an excellent way to keep the strategy in view and at the same time be focused on the right implementation plan to accomplish the strategic objectives.

Works Cited

Bossidy, Larry, Ram Charan, and Charles Burck. Execution The Discipline of Getting Things Done. New York: Crown Business, 2002.

Hunger, J. David, and Tom Wheelen. Essentials of Strategic Management (4th Edition). Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How We License ConceptDraw Products

We are often asked by our customers, “Basically, I am in a situation where I have two computers (my desktop PC which I use most of the time), and then when I travel I have a MacBook Pro. Is it possible for me to get a break on a second license as I would only ever be using the desktop or the laptop at any given time and not both?

Yes, it is possible to get a break on the second license with any of the ConceptDraw products. We license per user. So to the person who asked the question above, we have good news, you only need to purchase one license to be legally compliant in your use of our ConceptDraw products as you describe.

A Strategy Mind Map

Strategy Maps are often used by management to determine the appropriate alignment in a company, and to also identify and measure the metrics that support that alignment. Strategy maps can be a useful tool to focus your company’s finite resources so that they are effectively utilized.

A strategy map is not a sales or marketing tool, but rather a management tool that that reaches across all departments.Most of the time you will see a strategy map represented as a 2D graphic in ConceptDraw PRO or Microsoft Visio, which will show all of the dependencies between the identified areas in the company that are being measured and what is being measured. I have built a mind map that does this in a mind map format rather than a static 2D business rendering.

The great thing about using a mind map is that once the map is complete it can then easily be exported to PowerPoint, as a slide presentation. This makes it is then easy to communicate to larger groups of stake holders. The strategy map template I developed, I have placed at MindMapPedia as a free download so any one can download and use it, this strategy map was built with ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

3P: Pre Pitch Planning

Figure 1: A ConceptDraw MINDMAP used in a presentation

Baseball pitchers know all about “Pre Pitch Planning”. They use this technique to carefully plan out each time they are going to throw a baseball. They need to think about how they will hold the ball, the release point, the motion placed on the ball, the velocity at the time of release, the intended destination point, and of course-- the batter.

The same 3P technique can be use when presenting mind maps created from ConceptDraw MINDMAP. ConceptDraw MINDMAP is a great tool for creating informal presentations or when you what to interact with the group you are presenting to.

I have built a small map that is located at You can easily download this mind map to see how you can configure some of the items discussed in this posting. Keep in mind, this post is focused on how to present using ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Here is a list of some of the things you want to take into consideration when you present your mind map.

  • Not everyone is familiar with how to read a mind map. Knowing this, I like to have my main idea left aligned and all the topics aligned to the right.

  • Ensure the default font is big enough at each level being presented, so it is legible to your audience.

  • Adjust your background color and topic colors to match your team or company style.

  • Ensure “Auto Arrangement” is on, and if you want to eliminate the distraction of the menu, press F5 (this toggles full screen mode on and off)

Auto Arrange toggled on

  • To present press the plus symbol to fold out a branch for display. When you are ready to move to the next branch, you collapse the branch you are viewing, using the minus symbol

  • If you fold all of the subtopics out, when you open the branch they are attached and will be revealed at the same time.

  • If the subtopics are folded in, when you open the branch, they will be revealed one at a time.

  • For easy and rapid zooming on any topic or group of topics in your map, just rubber band the topics you want to view by holding briefly, and the objects will automatically zoom.

ConceptDraw zoom demonstration

  • When you want to return to normal size, release the mouse and the map is restored to the previous view.

It is easy to present your map, but like baseball, you should always practice before you go in front of a live audience.

There are two other features contained in ConceptDraw MINDMAP that can come into play here and that is templates and themes. In the next few future postings I will delve into templates, because they are great tools with the potential to save you time. Templates can contain both a theme and information. A template has many uses.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mind Map Topic Relationships Inside of ConceptDraw PROJECT

In the January 29, 2009 post on this blog which can be viewed at, I described how one could build different types of project management relationships between two different topics in a mind map. In today’s post I am going to show you how those relations that are visually represented in a map, are depicted in a Gantt chart.

Start to Start
The first of these is a start to start relationship in a Gantt chart. Both tasks need to start on the same day, but their ending dates depend on the size of the task and the level of resources assigned. Here both tasks start on March 27th with one of the tasks scheduled to take one day for completion and the other taking three days for completion. You will notice that Task Two occupies 5 days because the 28th and 29th are weekend days and with the current project settings there is no work scheduled for the weekend.

Notice the relationship arrow between the two tasks signifies that they both start at the same time. The task relationship can be unlinked or changed by highlighting the two tasks in ConceptDraw PROJECT and doing a right click to view the “Tasks Link” option.

Finish to Finish
The second of these topic relationships are the finish to finish relationship in a Gantt chart. Both tasks need to finish on the same day, but their start dates depend on the size of the task and the level of resources assigned. Here both tasks end on March 27th with one of the tasks scheduled to take one day for completion and the other taking three days for completion. You will notice that Task Two occupies 3 days in this example, because Task Two does not cross a weekend. Notice the relationship arrow between the two tasks signifies that both tasks end on the same day.

Finish to Start
The third example is a finish to start relationship in a Gantt chart. One task starts, when it is completed the next task starts. Task One occurs on a Friday and is only one day long, Task Two starts on the next Monday (no work is scheduled in this view for weekends). Notice the relationship arrow between the two tasks signifies that when the first task is completed the second task starts.

Start to Finish
The forth and last example is a start to finish relationship in a Gantt chart. One task finishes, when it is completed the next task starts. Notice the relationship arrow between the two tasks signifies start to finish relationship.

Now if only it was that easy for people to establish a great relationship! Next post will be on using ConceptDraw MINDMAP for presentations.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gaining Group Consesus

Map showing importance of fire safety to management team looking for new office location

Making a decision can be a hard task to accomplish, add more people and it becomes MUCH harder. As you add people the task becomes exponentially harder. Using a mind map is a great way to work with a group of people and to identify what is really important. We recently had this map shared with us on an exercise that a local company’s management team went through to determine where would be a suitable place for them to locate. Each member of the management team was given points that they could allocate to a set of criteria that was determined by a brainstorming session. Nineteen criteria were identified and then randomly placed on the map. No topic could receive more than 100 points. They then had each of their managers determine how many points they wanted to spend in each category. This company broke the decision into two small meetings a day apart, but the decision could have been made in one meeting. The marketing person who built the map added clip art to each item, which helped them visualize what the criteria was and kept everyone on track.

The brainstorming session was finished in 10 minutes. The allocation of points among the managers was 15 minutes, with the CFO putting most of her points on the cost factor. The points were added up and placed in the task portion of the topic as a percentage complete of that topic, then ConceptDraw MINDMAP’s auto numeration was turned on and the topics were sorted by percentage complete. Starting with the largest percentage of completion at the 1 o’clock position and moving clockwise to the smallest percentage of completion.

Next the managers had a discussion among the team. Was a variety of places to eat lunch really number two in their selection criteria? Is not the type of landlord more important than a last place ranking? By looking at each of the criteria and seeing where it fell in relation to the other criteria they were able to make better assessments. Once the criterion was ranked in an appropriate manner it became easier for the company to conduct their site search, and make a decision based on the reasons they identified. They were happy with their final results.

The decision map that was built can be downloaded from here

Monday, February 9, 2009

Work Break Down Structure Generation is a Snap With ConceptDraw Office

An important tool in project management and systems engineering is the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS defines a project and a group’s distinct work elements that helps to organize and define the work scope of a project.

WBS also provides the necessary framework for estimating cost along with a high level view that can be used for schedule development and control. ConceptDraw Office is a dynamic tool that builds a WBS by copying the tasks you wish to diagram from the Gantt view in ConceptDraw PROJECT and then pasting them ConceptDraw PRO. ConceptDraw Office makes it so easy to revise and update your WBS as needed.

In ConceptDraw PRO the WBS is editable, for changes and/or presentation. ConceptDraw Office has many features that help eliminate wasted time in report generation and permit team members to focus on the project at hand rather than building diagrams.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

ConceptDraw MINDMAP Top Selection in March MacWorld

ConceptDraw MINDMAP was selected as “Our Pick” by MacWorld. MacWorld tested and compared nine mind map candidates in the March edition. We are very proud of being selected.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Porter's Five Forces in a ConceptDraw Mind Map

Porter's Five Forces in a Mind Map

Like analysis tools? How about a mind map template for Porter’s Five Forces which is often used for industry analysis?

I have placed a ConceptDraw MINDMAP template here for anyone to download that is setup to help you capture and display your data using Porter’s Five Forces. I placed a small example in the same map on page two so you are able to see how to build the map. I used Ford Motor Company as my example and I would like to place a disclaimer here that I am not an automotive industry expert, but built it to show how the data could be structured and displayed.

One other benefit from this map is that when you use this template and get it setup for your industry it exports really well into a PowerPoint slide presentation using the ppt outline mode export. I find this very handy for presenting observed results.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Using Maps Not Built With ConceptDraw MINDMAP

Importing into ConceptDraw MINDMAP

Occasionally you might have the need to open a mind map that was built in a software product other then ConceptDraw MINDMAP. With ConceptDraw MINDMAP you have the capability to import mind maps with different file formats. Many products have the ability to output to either text outline format or Outline Processor Markup Language (OPML). Both of these formats can be easily imported in to ConceptDraw MINDMAP for review and editing purposes:

If you use FreeMind, there is an easy export function that that can provide an OPML structured file which can then be imported into ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

  • File -> Export -> Using XSLT...

  • Choose XSL File -> browse to the directory where you installed FreeMind -> then to 'accessories' -> select 'mm2opml.xsl'

  • Choose ExportFile -> browse to wherever you want and give a file name ending in .opml

If you use Mindjet MindManager, you can utilize the direct import function within ConceptDraw MINDMAP to import and edit mind maps from MindManager in ConceptDraw MINDMAP.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Building Relationships Between Mind Map Topics

Screen shot from ConceptDraw MINDMAP showing how to setup a relationship type

In ConceptDraw MINDMAP there are many ways to establish a relationship from one topic to another topic. The simplest is a visual representation that this topic here has a relationship to this other topic over here. For instance you need to get budget approval to make that new hire. It is easy to draw a line between the two topics to show that there is a connection. We call this a general relationship.

When you are looking at relationships from a project manager’s point of view there are four other types of relationships that can be built between topics in a ConceptDraw MINDMAP map. These different relationships determine the order of how things are done. For instance the example I have used, about hiring someone is a “finish to start (FS)” relationship in project management. One would not start the hiring process, until the budget for the position was approved.

There is a “finish to finish (FF)” relationship where to finish either task they need to finish together. For example you cannot receive final payment for a project until the client has signed off, or you are not able to see the last commercial of the Super Bowl, until the Super Bowl ends.
The next type of relationship is a “start to start (SS)”. Here both tasks need to happen in the same timeframe. An example of this is that project outcome goals need to be approved by stakeholders before project management activities are started.

And of course “start to finish (SF)”. Here a task does not finish before another task starts. An example of SF would be that in a factory the next shift of workers can not start until the current shift ends.

The ability to setup these relationships in a map is very handy for maps that pertain to project management tasks. To establish a relationship, just click on the “Insert relationship” icon. Click on the first topic in the topic pair you want to build a relationship with, and then drag the line to the second topic in the topic pair. Release the mouse button, and you have just setup a general relationship.

It is also possible to click on the “Insert” menu item and then select “Relationship”. Click on the first topic in the topic pair; drag the line to the second topic in the topic pair. Release the mouse button, and a relationship has just been established.

By clicking on the relationship line to bring up the related menu for that relationship it is then possible to determine the type of relationship that exists between these two items. That is all there is to it. It is very simple. Now if only it was this easy to setup relationships between people.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Guidelines for Efficient Team Brainstorming

In this post I am going to be discussing brainstorming as a group. It is very much like working as an individual, the primary differences being that it is necessary to have one person designated as a facilitator and some guidelines to work by. The facilitator should be a person who understands the brainstorming process well and has the knack for keeping people on track. I find that an electronic projector connected to a computer in a conference room with a projection screen or wall, and of course ConceptDraw MINDMAP is just about all the hardware and software that is needed.

It is good to pick a facilitator who is a strong typist who can capture the ideas as they come up. I have seen brainstorming meetings were the keyboard is passed to the individual whose idea it is. This takes too much time and is disruptive to the process. It is much more efficient to have one person type. It is OK to pass the keyboard to someone else when starting another session. But during the session the keyboard should be with one person.

I am going to present a few guidelines here that I find helpful when brainstorming with a group.

  1. The facilitator controls the keyboard, clock and reminds people to stay on track (if a person is not cut out to be a facilitator, replace them).
  2. Mention at the start that there is no such thing as a bad idea (this rule is only for during the session) and that everything that pertains to the discussion topic is recorded and then sorted out later
  3. Spelling is important but not in a brainstorming session, all typos can be fixed after the fact.
  4. When doing a drill down or brainstorming session on a subject it is good to break the brainstorming into two sessions. For the first session 10 minutes is a good time frame, and then make the second session much shorter (say 2 minutes). If after 5 minutes there are no contributions that are still coming from the group, cut the session short. No need to look at one another with a blank stare for 5 or 10 minutes.
  5. Watch the clock. The clock is so easy to use in ConceptDraw MINDMAP. Just go to the box labeled with a numerical 2 and type the amount of time you are going to spend on the session. The default is set for 10 minutes, and I find that a reasonable amount of time for the first session. Click on the clock icon and the timer starts to count down. Someone who is involved in the process has to step out for a minute; it is easy to pause the time by pressing the icon a second time. Session back in, press the timer again. It is very easy to toggle the clock on and off. And when your time is up a small screen comes up and says “Time is up!” Press OK and the window goes away.
  6. When session is complete you can press “Finish Brainstorming” in box 4. You are now in map mode and can start to place the items in their appropriate places on your map. Let’s say your map is not complete and you feel it is appropriate to brainstorm some more just go into brainstorming mode again.
  7. I have found that these basic rules work in the meetings I have participated in. One last item that I feel is important and I would like to share with you is that it is important to share the results by giving everyone who participates an electronic or paper copy soon after the event. This goes a long way to building agreement on the team. If you send out the map a week later, people will have forgotten and it will not be as impactful.

So as you can see there are not many guidelines and they all are very logical. The next step is to get your ConceptDraw MINDMAP out and be productive. If you have any experiences you would like to add about brainstorming I would love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Individual Brainstorming Using Mind Mapping

FIgure 1: Sending brainstormed topics to a map page.

Mind mapping software can be a great tool to make all of us more productive.

How? Mind mapping software provides us with the ability to capture our thoughts, shape them into a visual format that is useful to us, and then enable us to make changes as our thinking evolves.

With the right software, you can communicate, plan, resolve, and view. Mind mapping is a great tool that is metaphorically similar to an electronic file drawer with some relative Post-It notes attached. Mind mapping is a very visual technique of creating and organizing ideas. With mind mapping you have the ability to transofrm linear data into a mapped representation of thoughts and ideas.

“That is exactly what I was thinking about.”

There are many aspects of a mind mapping tool that are helpful to us. I am going to start with a very basic benefit and describe how I use it, and why it benefits me.

This diatribe is from the perspective of ConceptDraw MINDMAP version 6. Not all mind mapping tools are the same, and not all of them provide the same benefits.

ConceptDraw is in its 6th release and provides great value without burning through your pocketbook.

ConceptDraw MINDMAP is available as a native application for both Windows and Macintosh. The file structure for both platforms is exactly the same and is a great benefit to people who use a Macintosh and want to share with people using Windows, and vice versa. The application and the user interface are completely different, so this is not a PC application that was ported to Macintosh.

(I will always try to include at least one image on each posting, and at times will switch from a Windows image to a Macintosh image.)

OK, now on to the subject at hand: Using ConceptDraw as a personnel brainstorming tool.

When I am at the starting point of a new project, I like to think through all of the elements that will make up that project. I like to also consider what alternatives there might be. I find that by using a mind map, I can capture the overall plan (and many times one or more contingency plans), this improves the quality of the end product.

As a side note, I like to think about many of the alternate plans upfront, because if I do not care for any of the contingencies and their associated outcomes, then I will sometimes modify my primary plan.

Brainstorming with ConceptDraw PRO is easy to do. On the PC you type (Ctrl+Alt+B), or press the jagged lightning bolt icon at the top, or start brainstorming mode from the tools menu. With ConceptDraw products, you will find there are many times two or three ways to go about and do something. I suggest you look at two or more ways and then figure out what works best for you.

Once you have placed ConceptDraw MINDMAP in brainstorm mode you will see the words “Theme of Brainstorm” at the very top of the page. This is the title of your map that identifies what you are going to brainstorm about. It could be “Product Launch”, “Merger Plan”, “Finding a Job” or “Planning a Vacation”.

You then enter the words that describe part of the idea or process in very high-level terms, and keep entering until you are satisfied that you have addressed all of the variables.

I do not set the timer when I do individual brainstorming, as at times I will get called away, without looking at the time remaining. Without setting the timer I can just come back and finish what I started. The timer is great for when there is a team brainstorming session, but for now I am just going to cover how to use the tool as an individual.

By dragging and dropping items, I can start to build up a structure for the most recent brainstorm session. To link one topic to another topic, just drag it over the topic you want to link to, until the parent topic has a blue outline, then drop it.

You can “rubber band” a number of topics and drop them to make a connection to a single topic in one single move. Organizing has never been easier, and if I make a mistake I just go back and move it to where I want it placed.

One other neat thing that I like about ConceptDraw MINDMAP is the ability to right-click a word, and send it to another page. I will give you a quick example, let’s say that “Communicating to Champions” has a separate team managing it. just send it to another page and a hyperlink is established between the topic on your primary map and the topic that is now on another page. This is a powerful way to segregate topics that may have a lot of structure that goes into one idea.

This is just the start of the entire formulation process, but you can see from this example how easy it is to go from your ideas, to a visually organized structure in just a matter of minutes. With mind mapping you can take very complex and involved problems and processes and break them down to manageable size.

That is the end of my first posting on brainstorming. You can now plan to your heart’s content.