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Project Collaboration: How One Company Got A Diverse Team on the Same Page

Project Collaboration: How One Company Got A Diverse Team on the Same Page

Managing a complex project with multiple moving parts and deadlines being worked on by a diverse team can get downright nasty. Here's how one company solved the problem.

As Benz notes, many companies actually end up running projects like Healthwise's new product launch in Excel, simply because the user interface is one we all understand. But that's a mistake, he adds. "Something like Word or Excel is linear, it can't deal with the different legs of the campaign."

Goodbye Lists, Hello Maps

Some people inside the company were using MindManager, an application from Mindjet that was born as a brainstorming tool but has since become more of an organizational and project management tool. MindManager lets users draw visual charts representing an idea or project, with all the related branches and pieces. "We saw that we could take MindManager to the next step, for product development," Benz says.

Compared to traditional, heavy-duty project management applications like Microsoft Project, MindManager is an unusual application because of its emphasis on graphic charts or "maps." Anyone can get going with MindManager by drawing a graphical map, which appeals to people who are not project management experts. Some project management programs force people to start with a list of project milestones, dates and team members, and this can make you feel like you're filling out an endless spreadsheet.

The MindManager program presents little learning curve for business users, Benz decided. Plus, thanks to XML functionality, it lets users link out to the related project documents directly from the visual "map." In Healthwise's case, the links take users directly to all the documents for each of the 15 campaigns inside the HealthMastery line.

The development team for the new product line (ranging from doctors to IT people) used MindManager for design and authoring at first, then later for implementation and finally as a testing matrix, to make sure all the pieces of each campaign were lined up in the proper order.

Each HealthMastery campaign sends different messages, depending on patient responses to certain questions, for example, whether they've had a setback or a change in emotional health. So there's a series of if/then branches and timing triggers on the visual maps. "People here refer to our maps as 'the bible,'" O'Toole says.

The program's visual look-and-feel won over the diverse group working on the project, O'Toole says. "I was surprised how quickly the users embraced it," O'Toole says. "When you compare it to Microsoft Visio, which is a great tool, Visio is kind of hard to use. I did have one of our writers try to do something in Visio and she ran screaming from her office," she says. "Some doctors still write everything down on paper."

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