Mindjet: turning over a new (or old) leaf?

Recently James Gardner, Senior Vice President Product at Mindjet, responded to a conversation I’d started over at LinkedIn on some of the problems Mindjet seems to have been having lately, especially with the release of the iOS 7 update of the MindManager app. He commenced with the following apology:

Firstly, I want to apologize to all of you for the issues we experienced with the IOS7 update of our mapping client. There were many reasons, but I shan’t make excuses. We did a bad job. And we’re sorry.

He then went on to discuss the re-release of the app which now works as it should, with “some defects”. He also committed to multiple updates in the coming months and to speed up development so that next time the issue is discussed it will be because “we’ve met your expectations on mobile… and even exceeded them”. He also noted that Mindjet had recently moved to a quarterly update schedule for MindManager for Windows to be more responsive to customers and will release 14.2 “any day”. He concluded with these comments:

Finally, as to our recent acquisition of Spigit (the online enterprise innovation tool), I want to assure you we’re very conscious of our roots, and of the needs of our very loyal user base. We want you to have the best mapping tool in the world, and we’re committed to delivering that…

I thought it might be useful to post my response to James’s apology (especially for those who aren’t on LinkedIn):

Hi James,

As the initiator of this thread I’d like to join the others in welcoming your response in relation to the iOS app issues and more generally regarding the Mindjet’s direction and intentions for MindManager for Windows.

I think your strategy of stabilising the iOS app and then enhancing it through future upgrades makes a lot of sense, though frankly for some of us it’s too late. I’ve like many others have switched to iThoughtsHD which is a stable, well-designed and easy-to-use app with a lot of features which I think the Mindjet app will never replicate (for example, the ability to read and write in multiple formats). However I welcome your commitment to get things right for those who do want to stay in the Mindjet fold.

As for Mindjet for Windows I think the commitment to quarterly upgrades is a great idea and I look forward to seeing the redesigned ribbon. There are a few minor things I’d like to change or add to the desktop version (like reinstating Power Markers or upgrading conditional formatting to be a meaningful equivalent) but I think the main thing is to ensure that there are no more nasty surprises accompanying these upgrades, like the removal of the PDF facility that came virtually unannounced with the 14.1 version.

As for the acquisition of other products and merger with other companies, again I don’t have an in-principle objection but admit I’m a little confused about the direction Mindjet is taking and how all these will affect MindManager, which remains the core (and virtually only) Mindjet product I use. I assume that there is an intention to integrate MindManager more closely with these other products down the line, which is fine, as long as it does not negatively affect MindManager’s core competencies or its rich feature set.

An essential aspect of that feature set is MindManager’s ability to integrate and interact with non-Mindjet products like Word, Excel and Outlook. This interoperability is a critical component of MindManager for me and I hope that Mindjet resists the temptation to follow “walled garden” approach of some other software companies by making it difficult to link with software outside the Mindjet “family”. I mention this only because there was a ham-fisted attempt to do this once before with the upgrade to version 9 when critical aspects of the program’s ability to link with Outlook were arbitrarily removed. This took a customer revolt to fix.

Then there is the business of the poor cousin of the family, Mindjet for Mac, whose feature set has not been upgraded for ages and which seems to be kept on like some embarrassing relative kept in some Dickensian cellar by a family too ashamed to admit its existence or to seek help. When is the poor thing going to be let out into the light and given the same diet of features as its Mindjet for Windows sibling?

Finally there is the need to build and maintain a good relationship with your customers. In this regard I welcome your response but I hope I’m not too cynical in saying we’ve seen this several times before, only to have the commitment to be more consultative, responsive, etc, peter out as the company changed direction and/or key personnel moved on.

I hope this is a fresh start and this time things really are different. If the commitment to engage is maintained I’m sure there are many customers who would love to give Mindjet another chance – and hopefully some former customers who will come back to it.

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