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Dashboards for Project Management

by Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D. & Wallace Tait

Sitting in any vehicle; what’s the center of visual control? It’s the instrument panel, better known as the “dashboard”. Every vehicle has one, we require them and they give us an accurate measurement of performance and capability. Consider the vehicle analogy while using information mapping software. It makes perfect sense for the information manager to use a dashboard to measure key process variables (KPV”s) within business.

Have you considered a dashboard approach as a “single point of access” to all of your KPV”s while using the tools, methods and mindset of visual mapping? Another pertinent question may be asked of the developers of visual mapping software. Why is a dashboard approach unavailable in most of the applications that utilize a mind mapping approaches to information management?

A visual map can, when used effectively, be an ideal tool for graphically communicating ideas and gaining team buy in right at the genesis of a project; and as a dashboard, an excellent way to graphically track the progress of any project. While a visual map is extremely effective as a communication tool, it’s much more effective and powerful when used as, or synchronized with a dashboard.

ConceptDraw Office is a product suite that, in our opinion, has a very unique and powerful dashboard function that enables tracking and reporting of critical KPV’s within a business management project. Analysing CD Office through the eyes of a busy project manager; the power of the dashboard function is evident. For those of you who may not be familiar with ConceptDraw Office; it consists of three distinct applications:

All of this is supported by the CS ODESSA InGyre technology; the tool that seamlessly synchronises the information exchanges between the three products within CD Office. In any business there are many shift points where data is transformed to meet particular audience requirements. InGyre Technology Adds Value at any Stage of a Business Process. InGyre Technology supports delivery of information in an optimal visual manner for specific audiences.

CD Office provides a turnkey approach to creating, managing and exchanging information and knowledge, while easily generating reports and utilizing the graphical power of the product. Using the “Generate Reports” function, the project manager can generate an impressive report of KPV’s within seconds.



The process from mind mapping your project in CD MindMap and sending it to CD Project is processed with ease while using CD MindMap. Making it easy to communicate ideas and brainstorm project paths before moving into project management is what CD Office does well. You can determine which branches of your mind map are moved over to CD Project which gives you lots of control. Once you have synchronised the mapped information with CD Project you are in the full featured project management function and ready to go.

CD Project has several different views which are useful in planning your project. Most users of project management software will spend most of their time in the Gantt Chart as they set up the dependencies, schedule, and track the tasks. You can also view the Resource Sheet, Network Diagram, as well as Resource Usage from within CD Project.

The absolute power of ConceptDraw Office is the generation of the business system reports. Simply chose the “Generate Reports” function, and you can create highly visual reports to keep you and your team up to date with project status, capabilities and performance measures. Communicating project information in a clear and succinct manner ready enables the elimination of ambiguity for stakeholders and shareholders alike. So we encourage you to take a closer look at ConceptDraw Office, use the dashboard approach and manage your projects, while keeping them on time and within budget.


Adobe Presenter 7 Updated

Adobe Presenter, one of the key rapid authoring tools in the Adobe eLearning suite, has released an important product update. Paresh Kharya, the Project Manager for Adobe Presenter, has covered some of the key highlights of this release in his post on the Connect User Forum.

A couple of key feature enhancements that are sure to get users excited are:

  • Improved PowerPoint Conversion and PPTX format support: This update would include support for various PowerPoint SmartArt Animations. It would now be possible to work with and synchronize PowerPoint SmartArt animations. This release would include enhancements for improving the flash conversion fidelity of embedded images in PowerPoint. The release would also enhance the conversion fidelity for various text and shape effects created in PPTX format. Resolved issues where alternative text inserted using PowerPoint was not being exposed to screen readers. Based on what I’ve seen, the PPT conversion capability with this update will whip the other presenters out there.

  • Tighter integration of Captivate Content in Presenter: We have enhanced the support for embedding Captivate created flash content in Presenter presentations. Captivate content having full motion recordings would now play properly without the need to manually copy the Captivate output files to Presenter data folder. We have also fixed issues related to loss of display fidelity when Captivate content would sometimes get imported with incorrect dimensions.
  • Fixed some of the audio errors and sound clipping
  • This update addresses a number of issues related to making Presenter content more accessible.
You can download the Adobe Presenter 7 Update by clicking on this link. I plan on demonstrating how I use Adobe Presenter 7 at the DevLearn 2009 Conference in San Jose, CA in mid November. If you are planning on attending please stop by my session and say hello.

TheBrain Expands Worldwide

FYI:

TheBrain Expands Worldwide through Rapidly Growing Partner Network

A Complete Turnkey Affiliate Program and Global Alliances with Top Tier Resellers Augment PersonalBrain’s Market Reach for Growing User Community of Dynamic Mind Mapping.

Marina del Rey, CA.—August 25, 2009—TheBrain Technologies announces the expansion of the PersonalBrain product line, securing key partners in Europe, North America, South America and Asia Pacific.

The company reseller program now in full swing makes its acclaimed PersonalBrain software available for resellers to pass on to their clients. With PersonalBrain any idea or file can be linked to anything else. Users can connect their ideas associatively and create networks of information that concretize thinking, illustrate complex relationships and visualize business processes. In contrast to static mind maps or folder structures, PersonalBrain’s dynamic visualization shifts contexts, enabling multidimensional data organization. The program’s fluid interface and unlimited linking capability is popular with Fortune 1000 companies due to its context rich view and scalability.

TheBrain Affiliate Program and Reseller Network

TheBrain offers several programs for both small and large resellers. TheBrain’s affiliate program offers a turnkey purchasing system that allows participants to receive commission for users who purchase from their web site. This highly accessible program makes it easy for anyone with a web site to sell and market PersonalBrain. Additionally software resellers gain access to latest product releases, special marketing and training. Although the program has just started the company has signed up key partners worldwide including: SHI, Creation Engine, Mindsystems Pty Ltd Australia, Dynamic Logistics Systems GmbH Germany, Boss Japan Co. Ltd. Japan, Olympic Limited and Draughtmark Limited both in the United Kingdom.

“TheBrain has enabled Olympic to offer a powerful alternative to the current choices for information mapping applications,” said Nigel Goult Managing Director of Olympic Ltd. “TheBrain’s unique way of navigating and representing information makes it a popular consideration for customers who value simplicity and speed when it comes to organizing and accessing data.”

Benefits of TheBrain Partner Program include:

  • Increased market distinction by providing award-winning knowledge management software
  • New powerful solutions to help customers succeed who are struggling with organizing and accessing information
  • Access to TheBrain Partner Network which includes: marketing materials, updates on product releases and go-to market sales tools
  • Training on how to organize information and implement visualization software

“We are thrilled with our new partners and the traction our affiliate and reseller programs have gotten” said Shelley Hayduk, Vice President of Marketing of TheBrain Technologies LP. “This program underscores the worldwide demand and need for solutions to overcome information overload and provide a more intelligent context for information organization and delivery.”

For more information on TheBrain Partner program potential partners can go to http://www.thebrain.com/partners to apply online or email dberman@thebrain.com.

About TheBrain Technologies
TheBrain Technologies helps people see, share and find information faster. TheBrain’s PersonalBrain™ dynamic mind mapping software helps users see and organize their information the way they think about it. TheBrain also offers an Enterprise Knowledge Platform, BrainEKP™, which combines a natural language search engine with a compelling visual display of topics so users can see and discover critical information relationships. TheBrain’s customers include: Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, Navy Special Warfare, Tyco, Accenture, Park Nicollet, Medtronic, US Department of Defense, California Casualty Insurance, a leading media research company, retail chain, financial services company and other Fortune 500 organizations. Download PersonalBrain at www.thebrain.com or e-mail info@thebrain.com for more information.

If you are interested in learning how theBrain can help you or your business, please consider contacting me for a free on-line session. If you decide to purchase theBrain from this link I will provide you with a free 1-1 on line session to get you started.

Interview with Brandon Conrad from Matchware Inc.

I had the opportunity last week to interview Brandon Conrad, Sales Manager for Matchware the developers of MindView 3 Business Edition to get his insights about their new release and the visual mapping field. It was great having the opportunity to speak with Brandon to find out about Mindview 3 Business Edition and how it is positioned in the visual mapping marketplace.


Brian S. Friedlander: Tell us about the Matchware organization and the products?

Brandon Conrad:MatchWare is a leading provider of multimedia, screen recording and visual thinking software that enhances individuals' ability to create, visualize, manage and distribute information. MatchWare's easy-to-use professional software empowers business, education and government worldwide to produce and deliver dynamic multimedia content that will engage and inspire. A fast growing, highly profitable, and self-financed company, MatchWare has its headquarters in Denmark with subsidiaries in the USA, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and France.


BSF: Please share with us about the latest release of MindView 3

BC: While retaining the user friendliness of previous editions, MindView 3 Business Edition has introduced several new and innovative features that make it more powerful and flexible than ever. Firstly, MindView 3 Business offers the industry’s most intuitive Office 2007 interface. The new Office templates ensure seamless integration with MS Office, increasing productivity and making the use of Mind Mapping more efficient than ever.


Secondly, to complete its integration with the MS Office suite of tools, MindView 3 Business now offers integration with MS Excel using impressive new Excel import and export functions.

Thirdly, MindView 3 Business includes a new calculation module. This module allows users to associate numbers with each mind map branch and to instantly perform complex calculations. The data can then be exported to an Excel spreadsheet with the simple click of a mouse. Conversely, users can also import numbers from Excel to MindView. This new calculation module makes budgeting, forecasting and calculating costs faster and easier than ever!

Other features include an advanced filter, a numbering scheme, and “focus” mode, which allow you to optimize your work, boost your productivity, and communicate more effectively than ever before. Read on to find out why MindView 3 is the only mind mapping tool you need!

BSF: How do you differentiate MindView 3 from the other leading visual mapping tools?

BC: Simplify put, we classify ourselves as an overall business tool and not just a mind mapping software. We substantiate this claim by referencing out multiple views and our full integration with the MS Office suite. When I say full integration, we can import/export to the entire MS Office suite. We cater not only to the right brain thinkers (organic) but also to the left brain thinkers (linear) too. We do this by adding different views such as the Gantt, Outline, WBS, Org. Chart, Timeline etc. So are we a mind mapping software, project managemnt software, Timeline software etc? We are both none of those and all of those. We have successfully developed the complete business tool to increase efficiency and maximize productivity.


BSF: What do you see as the benefits of users using MindView 3?

BC: It's pretty simple, this tool is optimized for planning brainstorming and project management which initially captures our customer base. As our customers become more involved with the tool they see it as an overall productivity tool and efficiency tool because of the multiple views and superior MS Office integration. This tool has endless capabilities across multiple business departments. That being said, the tool is extremely successful in all environments too, from middle school children to top CEO's. Everyone has the need to communicate more effectively and we all look for ways to make our work more efficient and productive. MindView 3 Business satisfies these needs.



BSF: What do you see in the field of visual mapping as trends going forward?


BC: To stay on top of the software industry you have to listen to your customers and produce software that captures the majority of the market. Our customers have been wanting a more collaborative tool which can be a tricky venture when referencing a desktop application. Also, customers define collaboration many different ways. For instance, web based tool which have their pitfalls of refreshing and internet speed. As a trend, collaboration is the road most desktop applications will be traveling down if customers keep requesting these features. It's very difficult to predict long term technology trends because it moves and changes too quickly. We listen to our clients which drives out product development.


Thanks so much to Brandon Conrad, Sales Manager for Matchware. For more information please visit the Matchware website. If you are interested in purchasing MindView 3 you will be glad to know that I have become an Affiliate Partner and would be happy to support you should you decide to invest in MindView 3.

Going it Alone with my Blackberry Curve

I just got back from a short vacation in Las Vegas with my family and I decided to leave my laptop at home and fly solo with my Blackberry Curve on the Verizon Network. As much as I like to always travel with my laptop, I would only be away for a short period of time and wanted to see what it would be like to rely on my Blackberry for accessing my email and the web in case I had to get in touch with clients. With the fall right around the corner, I needed to be in reach and be able to email my clients if they contacted me. As we all know Blackberry's are great for emailing and I was able to stay in touch and respond to several key email requests while I was away. While in Las Vegas I was able to look up some of the attractions using the web browser on my Blackebrry without a problem-with fairly quick response times on the Verizon network. Using Twitter on the Blackberry to keep up with things was fairly straight forward but on occasion the application did freeze my phone. Now that my Blackberry Curve is about 1 1/2 old you can sense that the processor in the Curve is under-powered, which at times causes the phone to crash. About the only thing that I wasn't able to do on my Blackberry Curve was to complete a PDF form that I needed to email to a colleague of mine. All in all, the Blackberry Curve really performed well and makes you question at times if you really need to carry your laptop when traveling. I knew that I would not have the need to do word processing or edit a spreadsheet on my vacation so going it alone with my Blackberry Curve proved to be the way to go. I would be interested in your experiences using your smartphone in lieu of toting your laptop or netbook with you.

Camtasia for Macintosh to Be Released - August 25th

I know it has been a long time coming and I am glad to announce that Techsmith will be releasing Camtasia for the Macintosh on August 25th for a special promotional price of $99 dollars until the end of the year. After that Camtasia for the Mac will be priced at $149. I know I have been waiting for this awhile now and I am sure this will become an important part of your instructional toolkit once it is released. I will be talking more about Camtasia for the Mac in future posts.

Ginger Software Updated

I have been following the development of Ginger Software for the past couple of months and wanted to let you know that a new version is available at their web site. Ginger Software is a very innovative spelling correction tool that works with Microsoft Word and well as with Outlook. Students can do their writing in Microsoft Word and with a click of the F2 key bring up the Ginger Software application.

The Ginger Software interface has changed significantly since the last version and I trust that once you try it you will find it even easier to use. Once you invoke the F2 key the Ginger Software interface drops down from the top of your Word document and provides you with the suggestions for your misspelled words. If you click on the suggested word which is underlined, you will have some alternative words to select from. I think that you will agree that the new interface is much more intuitive and easier to use. You will note on their website that built-in text to speech support is coming to Ginger Software. So if you have not had a chance to experience using Ginger Software give it a try and let me know what you think. Click on the word demo to see Ginger Software in action. The algorithms that are used are fantastic for students with dyslexia. I would be interested in your feedback and how your students have found using Ginger Software.

WizCom ReadingenTS

I had a chance at NECC 2009 to meet up with Chris from WizCom Technologies to see some of their new reading solutions. For those of you who may not be familiar with Wizcom, they develop handheld reading tools with built-in optical character recognition (OCR) software that can scan text from a book and read it using text to speech (TTS). Once the text is scanned into the device, the WizCom Readingpen using text to speech (TTS) will highlight each word and read the text on the screen. The WizCom ReadingPens also includes extensive dictionary supports which allows students to look up words they are unfamiliar with and hear them being read with the text to speech. Over the years I have used the ReadingPen Basic Edition K-12 which includes the American Heritage® Children’s Dictionary and Thesaurus with good success with elementary and middle school students.

Like all technology the key is to match the features of the tool to the student. I can remember quite vividly that when I demonstrated the Readingpen to my graduate students (all of whom are certified teachers) , that one of my students got quite excited with what she saw. After class my student approached me and asked if she could try out the Readingpen with one of her students, which I said of course. My graduate student went back into her classroom and implemented the Readingpen with her student with great success. I can recall that at the end of the semester my student brought a card into me from her student who was using the Readingpen thanking me for introducing it to her and how it helped her throughout the year with reading text. What a great feeling to know that the Readingpen made a such a difference in the student's life. These are the stories that keep me motivated to teach others about new tools and gadgets that can assist students with reading and writing disabilities.

While at NECC 2009, I was able to see first hand the recently released ReadingpenTS, which includes a touch screen technology along with the option to choose between two different dictionaries, as well as the ability to connect the ReadingPen via a USB cable to a Windows based PC. The ReadingpenTS now includes a Children's and College level dictionary to choose from- giving the student more ways to cutomize their experience. The ReadingpenTS is a little larger than previous models which may make it a better tool for a middle to high school students. Having access to a touch screen allows student to directly interact with the text making it easier to select the word they want to have read or look up in the dictionary. The ReadingpenTS also gives students the ability to use a stylus and a virtual keyboard to manually enter words to be looked up which is a nice feature. The virtual keyboard will try to suggest works once you begin to input letters to help you along the way. The stylus is tucked away and secured within the slot provided on the side of the ReadingpenTS. The student will need to have good fine motor skills to use the stylus and virtual keyboard since the letters are small due to the limited real estate of the touch screen. The ReadingpenTS is designed to let you navigate the features using a 5 Way Toggle button located towards the front of the pen. I found the navigation system to be intuitive and work well for moving about the options. The ReadingpenTS can syllabicate words, provide you with definitions, synonyms as well as provide the student with English to Spanish translation. I found it very easy to move about the various options with the 5 Way Toggle and feel that students will find it easy to do as well.

If you have not taken a look at the Readingpens in awhile I urge you to do so. While some of the earlier models did have difficulty with recognizing the text, you will find that the ReadingpenTS with its faster microprocessor and advanced OCR software does an extremely good job of recognizing the text. I would say that if the quality of the text you are scanning is good and you get your technique down that you should achieve somewhere in the 96%-98% accuracy when scanning the material. Students can listen to the text being read discreetly using the headset that is supplied that plugs into the device. The ReadingpenTS is an ideal accommodation tool for students with reading disabilities during testing situations. The ReadingpenTS would allow student the ability to take the test independently without the need to have a reader. Likewise, if you need to, teachers can turn off the ability for the student to access the built-in dictionary or thesaurus when using the ReadingpenTS in a testing situation.

One of the new features of the ReadingpenTS is the ability to connect it via a USB cable to a PC. Right now this feature is only available for students using a Windows PS. Prior to connecting the ReadingpenTS to your PC, you install the PenExplorer application and drivers from the CD that is provided. Once you have installed the software you can view the contents of the History.txt file on the PC to review the words that the students has looked up in the dictionary. More importantly, The PenExplorer application lets teachers upload text files (.txt) to the Readingpen TS with up to 9000 characters that can then be opened and read on the ReadingPen TS. Using the Notepad application I copied and pasted some text from the book Call of the Wild and saved it to my desktop. I then dragged the Call of the Wild text file to the Notes folder within the PenExplorer. I then plugged in my ReadingpenTS and selected Connect to PC on the Main Menu on the ReadingpenTS which automatically, in the background, uploaded the Call of the Wild text file to to my Radingpen. Once I disconnected the Readingpen TS from the computer I was able to open the file and have the Radingpen TS read it aloud. Just think of all of the ways that you could use that to accommodate your students with reading disabilities in the classroom. Once they have access to the text in the pen they can also look up words and provide them with a context for developing their personal vocabulary. I was very impressed with the features of the ReadingpenTS and urge you to take a look at it for your middle and high school students with reading difficulties. Of course there always has to be a good match between the tasks, tools and the learning style of the student-but it is important to have lots of tools at your disposal for those students that you work with. For more information about the ReadingpenTS go to the WizCom Website.

Presenting Your Proposal as a Mind Map

As I am gearing up for the fall consulting season, I am often asked to provide various schools and business organizations with proposals to give them a sense of how I can help them reach their goals. During the course of the year, I am providing a great deal of professional development and training professional staff on many different educational software titles and computer technologies. For the past year or so I have decided to practice what I preach and have been presenting my proposals visually in a mind map. As a result of this decision, I have found that it takes me half the amount of time to put together the proposal in a mind map but more importantly, the presentation to my clients adds a degree of clarity and conciseness which they all favorably comment on. Many of my clients are unaware of this modality and often comment what a great way to present the information without the need to plow through pages and pages of text.

One simple mind map convey volumes and is easily digested getting to the crux of the matter. Of course if you must, you can always export your map to Microsoft Word and present them with a traditional proposal. I recently created a proposal in MindManager 8 and then exported it as a Mindjet Player which I emailed to my client. For me having the Export as a Mindjet Player feature is the real killer feature in MindManager 8. Being able to open the Mindjet Player file with the free Adobe Acrobat 9 Reader makes it easy to share my mind maps. After emailing my client the mind map it wasn't before too long that I received an email back commenting how wonderful the proposal presentation was. For me it was a win-win situation all around! My proposals take me less time to prepare and my clients find the presentation easy to read and digest. So if you have the opportunity to prepare a proposal think about the prospect of delivering it as a mind map- you will be glad you did!

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