Timebox Manager for Agile Development

I had the opportunity to speak with Nigel Goult of Olympic Limited, a MindManager developer last week about his very exciting project management application called Timebox Manager which is integrated with a MindManager add-in. TimeBox Manager incorporates the timeboxing methodology for agile development and is used primarily in the software industry. What follows is my interview with Nigel, which I trust you will find as interesting as I did. Brian


BSF: Can you share with us a little bit about your background and how you got started developing the MindManager add-in?

NG: I first became involved with Mindjet and MindManager working for M-Urge Limited in 2001. M-Urge was, at that time, the UK MindManager Info Centre. After 3 years with M-Urge and seeing 3 incarnations of MindManager, MindManager Version 4, MindManager 2002 and MindManager X5, I left and started Visual Technology Solutions Limited, (VTS), with a business colleague. VTS was also a MindManager based business and during my time as co-owner/director I became more interested in how MindManager could be manipulated through its open API and programming. I became intrigued by the way, in which other companies where using MindManager to create other applications and solutions. The result of this was Visual Project Maps, (VPM), a very simple Project Management “add-in” for MindManager X5 Pro. Over time, VPM matured and became a PRINCE2 focussed solution delivered with MindManager Pro 6/7. In July 2008, I left VTS to pursue other opportunities through my own company, Olympic Limited. One of these was TimeBox Manager developed by Agile Force Limited, which was at that stage a beta application. With our help, Agile Force was able to complete beta and enable us to bring TimeBox Manager to the market.

BSF: Before you talk about your application Timebox Manager, can you share with us how this project management technique differs from more traditional PM and which industries is it most suited?

NG: Time boxing is a Project Management technique common in software development projects. Its purpose is to manage a project, for example, the creation of a new IT system, by splitting the project up in a number of separate segments, “time boxes”, (normally two to six weeks long). Each time box has its own deadline/delivery date and budget. By incrementally finishing one time box at a time, the project delivers within the desired timeframe.

The important thing about time boxing is that the dates are not flexible, but the deliverables are. Without time boxing, when the deliverables cannot be realised, the deadline generally slips. With time boxing, the deadline is fixed, and the deliverables adjusted. This goes hand-in-hand with the MoSCoW prioritization of deliverables, (must, could, should & won’t).

Time boxing is ideally suited to software development, publishing, broadcasting and any time imperative project/task where delivery dates are not flexible. It is also finding its way into more generic time/task management on a personal level i.e. your weekly tasks.

BSF: When did you see first see the fit between Timebox and using MindManager?

NG: When I first saw TimeBox Manager, I recognised immediately similarities it had with MindManager; the properties such as Task Priorities, Start and end dates and Resources mixed with the graphical representation of status. It just seemed to be an ideal fit in the MindManager world. This led to us helping Agile Force to develop an “add-in” that provided a way to move data between the two applications.

BSF: Can you share with us how your Timebox solution integrates with MindManager? In addition, how does it work?

NG: TimeBox Manager and MindManager integrate through the installation of a free add-in for MindManager. The add-in provides the ability to either:

  • Import a TimeBox Manager Data file into MindManager


  • Export a TimeBox Manager marked up map into TimeBox Manager

The add-in works by referencing a set of customised MindManager map markers. These map markers identify topics according to their status, which includes MoSCoW Prioritisation, Timebox Type, Percentage Complete and Resources. At present, this integration is a user initiated function i.e. selected from a MindManager ribbon menu. Planned development will take this into a seamless integration where connected MindManager maps and TimeBox Manager Data synchronises in real-time as data updates in either application.

BSF: What are the benefits of using MindManager and Timebox together?

NG: Using MindManager and TimeBox Manager together provides an alternative way to manage/manipulate project information; they also provide an alternative way of viewing the project status. When presenting information in a different way, it can very often alert the viewer to things that familiarity obscures.

BSF: Who is presently using Timebox and MindManager? What are your users saying about the tie in with MindManager

NG: Currently TimeBox Manager is in use by mainstream businesses and several corporate entities. There is a strong interest in the higher end of the Education market i.e. Management Colleges, Business Schools and Universities. Because of this, we are currently running an Educational directive, which offers a free TimeBox Manager licence to College/University lecturers and department heads for them to try TimeBox Manager and demonstrate the application to their students. Anyone interested in this offer should register on the TimeBox Manager website, It is available for all approved lecturers and educational department heads from any country. You can go directly to the MindManager add-in by clicking here.

Screensharing and More with Glance

Over the years I have used Glance to do webinars and for screen sharing sessions. One of the things that I like most about Glance is the ease of use and the lack of complexity. This is crucial especially when you are supporting others who may not be technically inclined. With Glance you simply select, Start a session and you are provided with your URL and a session key that you provide to your client. It is just that simple- your client goes to the URL address provided, enters the session key you provided them and within seconds they see your screen. Like I said before, if you are working with clients that are new to this type of support it is crucial that the process is streamlined and easy. In the case of Glance, I have to say it is as easy as it gets.

Just yesterday, I received an email from Glance that they released a beta of the Glance application so that now you will be able to view your clients screen and take remote control to help provide support. To provide remote support using Glance it is as simple as selecting Start session - view guest's screen. You will be prompted if you want to just initially view or if you would like to view and take remote control of your clients computer when they log in. Again you simply provide your client with your Glance URL address and the session key. Once this accomplished they will be prompted to download a small viewing application. Having tested it out this past week the download and installation went very quickly. Once installed you will now be able to view your clients screen and remotely control their computer. This is a great tool for providing webinars and now for doing remote support without having to leave the office.

Glance starts at $49.95 a month or $499 dollars for a full year for a Glance Personal account. The program is cross platform and I have used it with my PC and my Mac with excellent results. For the Glance Personal account you can host an unlimited number of sessions and can have up to 100 users online with you- which is great for webinars. There are Glance Corporate accounts as well which you can find out more information about on their website. Some of the new features like sharing your clients screen and remote access are only available at this time on Windows. Hopefully this will change. Glance has been really good about adding support for Macintosh, so I will assume that it is just a matter of time.

In these tough economic times, tools like Glance are going to make a real difference in allowing consultants and trainers to provide high quality services without the need to travel. If you are looking for online training in Captivate 3, MindManager 7, JCVGantt Pro, Adobe Presenter or Adobe Acrobat 9 Extended give me a holler. Imagine how much time can be saved by doing training in the privacy of your home or office using tools like Glance. Glance is very easy and powerful tool that simply delivers! So if you have the opportunity download the application and give it a try, you will be glad you did.

Using MindManager 7 as a Presentation Tool

Today is a big professional in-service day for educators in New Jersey and I was lucky enough to be able to present to teachers in the beautiful Warren County. I always enjoy doing presentations and workshops in Warren County-you can count on beautiful vistas and lots of farms along the way, and there is never much traffic. Today I had the opportunity to do two different workshops-one focused on free Web 2.0 technologies and the other one was a demonstration of more traditional assistive technology.

I really enjoyed working with the teachers as I shared with them a number of free resources that can be used with their students to make the curriculum more accessible. In this economic downturn the teachers were very glad that I was able to focus on free web services and software that runs through the browser. For many of the teachers, many of the applications and resources that I shared with then were new. It was exciting to see them use NaturalReader with Microsoft Word and have it read the web. Many of the teachers saw many application for this application with the students that they work with. Because the workshop was only 90 minutes I need to have a way for them to jump from web site to web site without having them have to type in the URL. This is where MindManager 7 came to the rescue. After creating my visual map I exported it to the web and was able to publish it to my website. Using the Overview map my participants could quickly move to the links by simply clicking. This worked like a charm and it is a strategy that I will use in future presentation when I want my participants to be able to move quickly from one website to another. Here is an example of the Overview map that I used for my workshop today. Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

CrossLoop and Skype to the Rescue!

Just yesterday evening Karen Janowski and I completed and successfully submitted our NECC 2009 Proposal. When all is said and done we could not have done it without Skype and CrossLoop. Karen and I set up a CrossLoop session and I had my computer logged onto the the NECC Submission Proposal Screen ready to go. At any point in time Karen could jump right onto my screen and make edits and add text. Using Skype for the audio we were able to complete the process in about an hour's time. Having Karen have access to my computer screen as we filled out the form made life so much easier. We didn't have to email or pass text from one another or get confused as to where we were in the process. If I had to do it again I would definitely turn to Skype and CrossLoop to complete the online proposal. Having these two tools at our disposal made this a truly collaborative experience and one that allowed us to efficiently complete the task at hand. Now the hard part- waiting until December to find out if our proposal was accepted. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

Adobe Certified Expert in Captivate 3

For the past month I have been soaking up every bit of information that I could find in preparation for taking the Adobe Certification Examination for Adobe Captivate 3. What better way to master the program than to jump right in and use it day in and day out, which is what I did. The Adobe Captivate 3 Certification Test consisted of 62 questions pertaining to different aspects of the program. If you go on the Adobe website they do breakdown the various topics that will be covered on the exam and even give you 10 sample questions to show you what you can expect. The exam is administered through Pearson and I took it in a designated Computer center about 30 minutes from my home. The Adobe Certification examination is administered on the computer and was very easy to navigate and to review questions. Some of the questions had picture exhibits which were very easy to access. Of course what was nice was that once I finished the exam-I received my results almost instantaneously. I did pass with flying colors and you will see that I can now place the Adobe Certified Expert in Captivate 3 logo on my blog.

In addition to using Captivate 3, I did find a couple of resources that were indispensable in preparation for the test that I would like to share with you. One of the first books that I purchased was Essentials of Adobe Captivate 3 by Kevin A. Siegel. This workbook takes you step by step through the process of putting a project together and helps you to understand the basic concepts and ideas on how to best use Adobe Captivate 3. Using this workbook, you will get up to speed quickly as you move through the project. A CD with project files accompanies the workbook which makes it very easy to apply the skills that you are developing. This is a must for first time users of Captivate 3.

The second reference book which I relied on in preparation for the examination was
Adobe Captivate 3: The Definitive Guide (Wordware Applications Library) by Brenda Huettner. This guide proved to be more like a manual and really went into in depth on all of the topics that would be covered in the exam. As a reference guide this book was really fantastic and I was able to quickly use the index to look up information as I was studying for the exam. I must have read this reference guide 3 times from cover to cover in preparation, and it really paid off. If you are preparing for the Adobe Certified Examination for Captivate 3, I would highly recommend that you consider these two wonderful resources.

So if you are looking to do some internal training of your staff and need someone to help you develop your materials- I know an Adobe Certified Expert in Captivate 3 that is ready to help:-)