I’ve been an advocate of mind mapping for years, and have recently talked about my preference for using MindJet.com’s mind mapping product, MindManager. I even demonstrated its power, while leading a discussion about rich digital media, at an UnGeeked Conference in May. I find the system a huge time-saver. Now MindJet has upgraded their software to include a valuable way to share project roles, deadlines and milestones: Gantt charting.
Since the 1990s I’ve appreciated the ability of Gantt charts to bring teams to agreement on project roles and deadlines. It’s an equally valuable way to show clients how any delay in supplying crucial content or sign-offs can push web launch dates out. Below is an example:
The detail is intentionally too small to make out, because I’ve used live client details. From left to right, this chart shows the task name, and start date, end date, and duration in days. After that is the chart itself. Milestones are the green bars. Every task within that milestone must be completed before the milestone is reached and the next milestone and task set begins.
My web development team would “own” some of the tasks, and the client would own others. At a glance, everyone knew what they needed to do and when. They also knew the effects on the project as a whole if they missed their deadline. Great stuff.
Now, the just-released MindManager 9 includes this feature. Below shows a simple Gantt chart, from MindJet’s introductory video:
Needless to say I’m eager to give the Gantt charting a test spin. What’s especially exciting is it takes the collaborative strengths of building a mind map as a team and fairly quickly converts that shared map into a full-blown project plan.
Regular readers know I’m a fan of the work of Edward Tufte, who the New York Times once described as The da Vinci of Data. The unifying theme of his many books and papers is finding ways to make complicated data simple and immediately understandable.
This is rarely easy. That’s why there is so much data presented in less than ideal graphical formats. Difficult-to-process-tables are one of the contributors to the Death By Powerpoint syndrome.
Is boring your audience a crime? No. But especially in an era where so much is changing so fast, the need for nearly instant understanding is even more important. There must be understanding of the facts before the right decisions can be made. Obviously, companies whose people make decisions based on what’s really happening have a significant competitive advantage.
Reshaping How Information Is Shown
I was reminded of this when I looked over an old post, Survey of marketing tech types finds ROI strongest for search and internal email tactics. Its source was this table of survey information, from eMarketer:
Consider this the “Before” example, to be compared with the image below.
I found the insights in these survey results interesting and occasionally downright provocative. (You can click on the link above to read the observations that I thought were worth discussing.)
My problem: For me, at least, pulling insights from a table of percentages alone was nothing short of agonizing.
My solution was to convert it into this:
The Same Data Made More Understandable
Below is what I came up with (click for a slightly clearer version). After looking for other types of charting, I realized that the benefits of the table (many different comparisons can be made) could be combined with the benefits of a bubble graph (intuitive comparison of visual “volume”).
I don’t pretend to be a charting innovator, but instead present this as encouragement. If I can improve data using a simple graphics program (I used Visio), so can you.