Mind mapping software as a lifecycle management tool

Mind mapping is the kind of term that would normally make me switch off immediately. It’s right up there with ‘blue sky thinking’ and ‘call to action’ as some of the most unnecessary management-speak I’ve heard in a while.

Mind mapping is the kind of term that would normally make me switch off immediately. It’s right up there with ‘blue sky thinking’ and ‘call to action’ as some of the most unnecessary management-speak I’ve heard in a while. So is it a worthy concept or just hogwash?

Coined in the sixties by educational consultant Tony Buzan, mind mapping is described as diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. From this point you can probably see why it has some potential for management within the software application development lifecycle.

But is it popular? Well, according to analyst David Tebbutt from Freeform Dynamics, “Over sixty commercial applications are available for the PC, the Mac and the web. A sprinkling of others are available for the Pocket PC, iPhone and BlackBerry and you'll even find open source and freeware versions.”

Mind mapping software is said to deal with ideas management rather than process management. As a process it even claims to help people such as dyslexics to be able to visualise concepts more clearly. So who makes it and is it of any real worth?

Mind mapping vendors like to label their technology in the business process management application category. Our random OEM vendor du jour for this blog is MindGenius due to the recently released Version 3 of its business mapping application. According to its makers, inside this product you will find tools for analysis, task management and brainstorming.

Having just bought my first whiteboard from Staples and feeling pretty darn pleased with my home office’s new swanky corporate look and feel as a result – I do have to step back and say that this sounds like a whole bunch of whistles and bells.

Indeed, Freeform Dynamics’ Tebbutt has pointed out that, “Mind-mapping started out as a very personal thing. The aim was to enable you to take notes effectively, learn quickly and plan easily. When personal computers came along, outliners grabbed our attention first, then the more graphical mind-mappers came along. As screens got bigger and resolution improved, so the visual mappers came into their own. But most people were either ignorant of the technique or they saw nothing wrong with sticking with paper and coloured pens.”

But surely there is more substance here than I am making out. There is a market for business process management software and I have written about it before. There is also an interminable debate centred around when and where we will ever find the holy grail of application lifecycle management.

Giving voice where it’s due, Dustin Newport, commercial director for MindGenius is quoted as saying, “The ethos for MindGenius has always been about facilitating the journey from unstructured data capture through to analysis, actions and ultimately results.” Not quite so fluffy after all then.

So your team leader announces a team huddle and walks in with a huge box of Krispy Kreme donuts to let you all know that a new mind mapping strategy is being put in place to help everyone meet the wider project goals more accurately.

Does everyone jump up in the air and whoop with delight? Or do you all feel the hideous internal crushing feeling of another process being brought online to mess up your already fragmented mix of currently deployed software development methodologies.

You decide.