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

Friday, October 21, 2011

ConceptDraw MINDMAP v7 Helped Organize and Communicate Information About Complex Energy Systems for the State of Hawaii

ConceptDraw MINDMAP v7 provided Mitch Evan, Hydrogen Systems Program Manager at Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI), with a powerful way to organize, understand, and communicate complex information. The resulting insights led to multimillion-dollar funding to support early solutions to Hawaii’s energy needs.

Industry: Energy Generation
Location: Honolulu
Challenge: Organize and communicate information about complex energy systems
Toolkit: ConceptDraw MINDMAP
Solution: Solution #1: Client used MINDMAP to create a big-picture view of complex information. The view helped client gain valuable insight into project. Solution #2: Client used MINDMAP as a tool to systematically select and evaluate appropriate energy-generation technologies.

Mitch Ewan
Hydrogen Systems Program Manager
Hawaii Natural Energy Institute
Honolulu, HI

As America’s only island state, Hawaii faces unique problems in supplying its million and a half residents with energy to live and work. Five years ago, the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute co-hosted a workshop with members of the local agricultural community to investigate bio-energy as a possible solution to the state’s energy needs. HNEI program manager Mitch Ewan used ConceptDraw MINDMAP to do some breakthrough thinking on this topic.

Make Meeting Worthwhile
The first part of the workshop featured panels and PowerPoint presentations on identifying bio-energy production issues and potential solutions with Hawaii farmers and farm communities. The afternoon included breakout sessions, in which groups of people got together to brainstorm around particular issues related to bio-energy. Each session was run by consultants whose job was to gather ideas that came out of each group discussion and put them together as a final report.

“Typically,” Ewan says, “you have this kind of an event and a few days later everybody forgets about it.  I decided to create my own report and see if I could actually harness the brain power in that meeting to move our bio-energy planning forward.”

Ewan says he wasn’t planning on using mind mapping when he started to create the report. But once he pulled all the workshop information together, all he could see was an overwhelming jumble of ideas. The enormity of the task before him got him thinking about a blog he had been following on mind mapping. It occurred to him that mind mapping might be just the thing he needed to make sense of such complicated information.

Effective Right out of the Box
“So I went out and bought my first version of ConceptDraw MINDMAP and thought, ‘I’ll lay out all the ideas graphically and see if that helps make them any clearer.’”

He keyed in the workshop ideas to create a visual diagram, and then dragged and dropped the ideas around into logical subject groups. As he did this, a picture began to emerge of Hawaii’s energy and agriculture situation. It was a very complicated picture. 

“As I studied the map, I had a big ‘Eureka!’ moment. I realized that because there were so many issues—water, land rights, infrastructure, all this stuff—what the state really needed was a master plan.”

Communicate Complex Ideas Simply, Quickly
With that idea in mind, Ewan rearranged everything on the map around the concept of a bio-energy master plan.  Once he had a plan that made sense to him, he plotted out a very large copy of the map on a 3 ft x 4 ft piece of plotting paper and took it around to all the various stakeholders. He asked each of them to take a close look at the plan and write their comments on the map itself.

“I went through a bunch of iterations of the map, capturing everybody’s ideas. Then I took the finished map around to key political people. The legislators got it because the map helped them instantly understand the problem—that there were all these interrelated issues that needed to be addressed if we were going to make progress on this issue.”

According to Ewan, the Hawaii legislature voted in $600,000 for a two-year effort to complete the master plan. He says the mapping project was a great success and demonstrated the value of reducing a complicated problem into something that people could instantly grasp—and see the solution popping out. 

“ConceptDraw MINDMAP was a great way to wrap our brains around all the intricacies and interrelationships between the various elements of this huge problem. And in the end, it was a great sales tool.”

More recently, Ewan used ConceptDraw MINDMAP to create a list of targeted renewable energy technologies and evaluation criteria for the Hawaii Renewable Energy Development Venture, funded by the Department of Energy. The goal was to investigate renewable energy technologies, write up the evaluation criteria for each kind of energy, and then evaluate each technology for development in Hawaii.  This was used by HREDV to develop an RFP to solicit proposals from companies to address particular technologies.

Reduce Paperwork That No One Has Time For Anyway
“As with the bio-energy project, I was faced with a very complicated problem: Of all the possible energy-generation technologies available, how could we go about choosing the best ones? What evaluation criteria or scoring matrix should we use to pick the best ones worthy of funding?”

Ewan says that typically with projects this big, each stakeholder gets a big thick document to wade through.

“I just don’t find that kind of documentation easy to deal with. So once again, I decided to create a mind map. Two of them, in fact.”

The first map listed all the possible renewable energy technologies that could conceivably work in Hawaii, along with the pluses and the minuses of each. The second mind map laid out how the team could evaluate each technology.

“When I presented the maps to the program manager, he said, ‘Hey, print me a wall chart version of these maps. I want to put them on my wall because they show me exactly what the whole project is all about.’  He was pretty well thrilled with what the maps showed him.  He used it to develop his program, issue an RFP, and award several contracts totaling over  $6 million dollars a year, to target specific renewable energy technologies.” 

Gain a Strategic Viewpoint
Ewan says that ConceptDraw MINDMAP has since become one of his most-used business tools.  The first thing he does when he gets a new proposal is to reduce it to a mind map so he clearly understands the client’s requirements. Then he builds a second map to develop the strategy he’ll use to win the business.

“I use [ConceptDraw] MINDMAP to make sure my strategy maps directly to the requirements. By working this way, I know my strategy addresses all of the customers’ needs. And creating this kind of visual document makes it’s easier to show my partners and team members exactly where they fit in the total scheme of my solution. And they totally get it.”

The Perfect Client-Facing Tool
When it comes time to present his solution to the client, Ewan includes a mind map.

“They’re usually just small maps that help the proposal evaluators quickly understand what we’re trying to say. Instead of having to wade through the entire document to understand what we’re proposing, they can scan the map and get it right away. And then they can dive into the big document to get all the details. It just helps them to be able to glance at a map and get a mental picture of what we’re trying to tell them. I’ve observed that when you help people build a picture in their minds, and then provide a narrative that supports the picture, then your audience totally gets what you’re trying to say—no matter how complicated it is.”

“In my experience, mind maps just keep you focused.  You don’t kind of wander off, because you’ve laid everything out in very precise way, using very few words to communicate information. And you communicate in a way that seems to work for everyone. People learn in different ways. Some people are graphically orientated: Show them a picture or a graph, and they totally get it.  Other people prefer to see some words on the page. But when you meld the two together in a mind map, then you have a better chance of making yourself understood by more people.”

Close the Sale or Move on
But more than furthering understanding, ConceptDraw MINDMAP leads to sales. Ewan says that whenever he shows prospective clients a map of his solution, they understand the concept right away.

“Once they get the concept, they’re either going to like what you’re doing or they’re not. If they like it, they’ll read on. If they don’t, they’ll know it right away and move on. The way I look at it, the maps help you save everybody lots of time and trouble. “

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

CS Odessa Reduces Price on ConceptDraw MINDMAP v7

Many have discovered the benefits that mind mapping brings to their work, studies, and personal development. Mind mapping helps manage all daily tasks faster than ever before. Use mind mapping to power through obstacles, leap from one work scenario to another without missing a beat.

Professionals after seeing the benefits of mind mapping, have also seen software prices climb. The cost to be more efficient has just gone up. Want the increased productivity, but the thought of paying more is not appealing.

In response to customer feedback, CS Odessa is reducing the price of ConceptDraw MINDMAP to the pricing of our previous product version (single quantity) from $219 USD to $199 USD. We are rolling our prices back to the same level as our previous products. Now buy our newest version, and get:

- Apple® OS X Lion® compatibility

- Microsoft® Windows® 7 (32bit/64 bit support) w/ ribbon interface

- Import and export Microsoft Project® files

- Built-in presentation mode with export to Microsoft PowerPoint® or Apple Keynote®

- Import and export Mindjet® MindManager® maps

- Generate, publish and track Tweets from a mind map

- Embed documents into your mind map file for easy sharing of information with others

- Multiple display capability

- ConceptDraw Solution Park adds valuable plugin solutions to core ConceptDraw MINDMAP

- Generate task and milestone reports based on project data
  • Organizational Charts *
  • Risk Diagrams *
  • Fishbone Diagrams*
  • Etc.
Continue to receive our no charge technical support (phone and web-based tickets), all minor upgrades at no charge, and access to new ConceptDraw Solutions as they are released. The combination of product functionality, exemplary support, innovative solutions, and lower cost of ownership make ConceptDraw MINDMAP a winning strategy for any individual or organization.

* also requires ConceptDraw PRO v9 to be installed