When good software goes off the rails – how to fix MindManager 9

Some time ago I posted an article on my StrategyMatters blog about the virtues of mind mapping and subsequently on this blog about web-based mind mapping applications. I’ve been a little tardy in following this up with the article I foreshadowed on PC-based mind mapping tools with a web-based interface. That article will have to wait a little longer while I tackle some issues with the latest version of my favourite mind mapping program, MindManager.

While MindManager (MM) has a web-based incarnation, Catalyst, I have to confess that I use- and have become addicted to – the PC-based version. MM is the Rolls Royce of mind mappers- it’s big, it’s expensive, but it’s got everything and it does everything.  And I use it for everything, from brainstorming, to project planning to article outlining to – well, you name it.

The numbers back up Mindjet’s claim that MM is the market leader, with about 1.5 million users, roughly a third of the 4 million plus mind mapping market (though I’m not sure if these figures include the web-based applications).

A month or so ago Mindjet, who produce MM, released the latest version (MindManager 9) to much fanfare. I’m the first to admit it’s got some great features, including a new slide view which allows you to present the map in sections to an audience and interact with it at the same time, and a built-in Gantt view.

Unfortunately the changes have come at too high a cost for many users. Mindjet appears to have embarked on a strategy to attract new users by repositioning MM as an Outlook task and appointment manager. While there are many worthwhile aspects to these new features, key aspects appear to have been rushed to market and as a result they seem to have been poorly implemented.

Furthermore the new features seem to have compromised the product’s fundamental role as a brainstorming and product development tool from which tasks will eventually be exported and linked to Outlook, rather than the other way round.

The story from here on in is a bit technical for non-MM users, but it illustrates some of the difficulties that can occur when companies make a major change in direction in search of new market share which leaves their existing user base stranded. It’s even worse when some of these changes are not fully thought through.

A request for feedback on issues with the new version which I placed on key MM forums has elicited a strong response. Based on these I’ve prepared, appropriately enough, a detailed mind map in consultation with key members of the MM user community. I’ve forwarded this to Mindjet with an open letter seeking changes in the first and subsequent MM9 service packs.

It will be interesting to see if this small exercise in consumer protest has any affect. For those of you who are interested in this issue, click here to see the map  (requires Flash), go to Biggerplate to download the map or click on this link to download the letter to Mindjet – and if you are a concerned MindManager user, pass these links on, post comments on the Mindjet and Yahoo MM forums and write to Mindjet yourself.

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