Thank you to Alex Gooding for this guest blog. He is a strategic planning, management and governance consultant based near Sydney, Australia. He uses MindManager in almost every facet of his business. See Gooding Davis
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One of the things I really like about MindManager is its versatility. Not only can it be used for a wide variety of specific tasks, but these can also be combined to produce all sorts of different applications based on the program.
A good example of this is how MindManager can be used to assist in the somewhat arcane and dry process of analysing Request for Tender and Expressions of Interest documentation, preparing responses and, if you’re successful, managing the resulting project. Most people may have used MindManager to brainstorm a tender response or to manage a project when they’ve won the contract, but in this post I’d like to show you how to use MindManager in different ways throughout the whole process.
First you need to download the tender documentation. This will usually consist of a main tender document and a number of attachments, links etc. If you’re lucky, these will be available in Word format; if you’re very lucky they will be available in Word AND the person who put the documentation together will have used consistent heading styles.
However, most tender documents are likely to be PDFs, so you will have to convert them to Word; once you have done this (or if the documentation was already in Word but styles have not been used) you will need to go through the document and apply heading styles. This may not be as onerous as it sounds; most documents will at least rely on consistent formatting of headings and you may be able to use Word’s Find and Replace feature to search for the relevant formatting and replace with an appropriate heading style.
Convert the main tender document first, then check out the attachments. If these have additional requirements they will also need to be converted, but those attachments which just provide background information can be left as they are. Once this is done you can import the documentation into MindManager, starting with the main tender document; sections and sub-sections of the document should now be topics and subtopics in the map, with the text in each sub-section imported as topic or subtopic notes.
Repeat the process for the other tender documents. Unless these attachments are very complex, copy the resulting maps to the main topic map and attach them as branches in the appropriate places or paste as floating topics with relationship lines to the main map (the growth direction of the map does not matter at this stage, though I generally use a tree).
Then hyperlink or attach the tender documents themselves (including the documents with background information) to the map at the relevant topics. When it is completed this map will give you a much more structured view of the tender and is a great basis to analyse it thoroughly. It will also act as a repository and single access point for the original tender documentation (I’ve attached a simplified version based on an actual tender document).
Review the material you have “captured” on the map carefully, checking with the original documents at the end of each section that everything has been imported properly. As you go through the map, mark topics based on the following two categories, using a separate marker (or topic colour if you wish) for each:
- Tender response tasks: the activities involved in preparing the response to ensure it is compliant with the tender requirements;
- Project tasks/deliverables: that is, what activities you will need to undertake and what outcomes you need to deliver to complete the project if your tender is successful.
In a well-structured tender document these requirements will be grouped appropriately but might fall into several different sections if the tender is complex. It is also surprising how many tenders are poorly structured, with the project tasks and response tasks mixed together and/or appearing at random places throughout the documentation. You will need to read carefully through all the documentation to ensure you have identified every potential task.
At this stage you are primarily sorting out the key activities, but you should also add an additional flag for those things which stand out as potentially significant issues or problem areas in either the tender response or the project itself. Add callouts to summarise each issue.
The next step is to create a new map (either a split tree or an org chart) with two branches, one for the tender response tasks and the other for the project tasks. Search for the marker or topic colour you used for tender response tasks and copy them to the relevant branch and then repeat the process for the project tasks (you can set up a separate map for each category but there are advantages to keeping them on one map at this stage).
One slight problem you might experience is that while numbered headings in the documentation should be reproduced in the topic numbering in the initial map, numbering of the topics selected for this second map are unlikely to match the original. If you need them, you may need to consider manually including the original number in brackets as part of the topic name. You should link this map as a two-way hyperlink with the original map of the tender and you may also want to link at least the major tasks back to the relevant sections of this map.
You can now plan what you have to do, starting with the tender response tasks. Arrange these in a logical sequence and then plan the development of the response, looking at issues such as the resources you will need and the time frames required. You also need to think about what you will have to do to address the potential problems you identified earlier.
For each task, try to identify all the additional steps you will need to undertake to complete the work involved. For example, the tender might say, for example, “provide a fee schedule including hourly rates and all expenses “. You might want to add “Get Michael to prepare fee matrix” and “ask Karen to update mileage rates”, etc. Add these tasks as additional subtopics, callouts, task info, resources etc, but retain the topics you imported from the other map to provide the overall framework.
Repeat this process for the branch containing the tasks relating to the actual project. This will probably involve a bit more brainstorming than for the tender response tasks and you may find that as you develop your strategy for delivering the actual project, your approach to the tender response tasks may change (and vice versa). Obviously the map can also be circulated or made available through catalyst for others to contribute to this process.
This iterative process is the main reason for keeping both branches on the one map (see the example). However, when you have completed the development phase you may want to set up two, three or even four separate maps.
The first of these maps will be based on the tender response branch. This map is relatively straightforward; it is used to manage the process of developing the tender response documentation. This can be done directly through the map, by using the Gantt view or by exporting it to MS Project, Word etc.
The branch relating to the actual project tasks and deliverables is a little more complex. The next map will be drawn from this branch and will provide the basis for the documentation which forms your response to the tender. Use the headings as the framework to prepare this material to ensure you address all the tender tasks, following the same approach outlined above for the tender response branch.
While the content of this map will draw mainly from the project tasks and deliverables, it is likely to use elements from the tender response branch (for example, a requirement to attach copies of current insurance certificates). You can then export this map to Word for additional work before lodgement, thus reversing the process you started off with.
If you need to make a presentation on the tender you can also create an additional simplified map based on this map. And if things go your way and your tender is successful the project tasks branch will also form the basis for your final map – the one you will use to manage the actual project itself!