Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Olin Reams Guest Post

Olin is a results-driven, technology sales and marketing professional with experience building market presence and success for emerging companies. He has demonstrated ability to drive strong and sustainable revenue growth in both domestic and international markets. Olin has for the last 3 years been the General Manager of CS Odessa in the Americas, an innovative developer of visual personal productivity products based in the Ukraine, whose responsibilities include sales, channel development and marketing for the Americas.
Prior to CS Odessa, Olin was responsible for sales at Mindjet for the Americas and Asia Pacific for nearly 5 years. Olin has had a number of senor sales, marketing and business development roles in companies ranging in size from Fortune 500 to startup. Olin is also a frequent contributor to the CS Odessa company blog “CSO: The World of ConceptDraw Products” at http://mapthink.blogspot.com/ and can be reached at oreams@csodessa.com
Wallace Tait: Visualmapper

The Human Side of Data

Mind mapping. Visual mapping. Business mapping. These are all information management strategies that have a bit of a relationship to one another. The primary focus behind each of them is to get something accomplished—create a process, make a plan. There are lots of tools that can help with this—each of which might present information in different graphical forms. Software applications that map out processes and plans using a radial format, though, have been getting lots of attention lately. Users say there’s something about them that seems to make it easier to think quickly, creatively, and strategically.

Visual information mapping applications can be used to do an endless variety of things: from managing new product releases or developing a testing process to planning a home remodel or writing a novel. But if I was to put my finger on the one general thing they do very well, I would say it is to organize human thinking in a visual format that‘s easy to grasp, and that puts the content into a hierarchical order that allows you to use and reuse the information to do your job more creatively and efficiently.

User testing versus lab testing:

I’ll be the first to agree that very little hard scientific evidence supports my contention about the value of radial placement of information or mind mapping. But there is lots of very positive user feedback. Three such comments in particular give me the confidence I need to market and sell this kind of software—which I’ve been doing successfully for the past ten years.

The first comment is one I hear a lot when I ask users if they’ve told other people about mind mapping: “Are you kidding? This is my secret advantage, my competitive edge. Why would I want to level the playing field?”

Then there is the blunt, but very human, observation from dedicated mind mappers that they don’t want to introduce the software into their organizations because “my company doesn’t deserve the benefits you get from mind mapping.”

And then there was the sort of compliment my wife permitted mind mapping tools. My wife is a huge auto racing fan - and of one team in particular. One evening I came home and told her I’d learned that a rival racing team had bought a copy of our mind mapping software and were probably going to use it to work through their race and preparation strategies. Unbeknownst to me, my wife bought a copy of our product and sent it, along with a note, to her team—explaining that she suggested they use it to plan smarter race strategies. But she never heard back from them. Maybe it’s just a coincidence that this same team has since had to merge and be reorganized. Maybe they never installed her gift.

A Short List of Criteria

With all of the visual mapping, mind mapping and business mapping solutions on the market, how do you know which one’s best suited to your needs? Based on my experience I have four suggestions for people considering different applications.

1) The product has to be comfortable for you. Does it work the way you want it to work? Does the operation seem logical? Many products have two or three ways to accomplish the same goal. Is there a way that works for you? Be wary of marketing spin. Trust your gut instincts.

2) If you think you’ll need help, make sure you can get it from a human. Most companies say they provide “support.” Find out exactly what that means. For starters, see if you can get someone from the company to have a meaningful email or phone conversation with you about whether their product will meet your needs? Find out if the support you get before the sale resembles in any way, shape or form the support you can expect afterwards?

3) Find out if the company is planning ahead. The product might meet my needs for the present time. But will it adapt to future requirements that may become standard? CS Odessa, for example, greatly extended ConceptDraw MINDMAP capability by integrating it into the ConceptDraw Office suite. This integration enables users to move seamlessly from project inception, to detailed planning, to comprehensive reporting and even to documentation. Our InGyre technology allows you to work the way you want to work, during every step of the process. Recently, CS Odessa has also introduced new collaborative technology based on Google Wave that enable groups of any size to work together in a shared, same-time edit mode to collect and organize the combined intelligence of the group.

4) Finally, understand your total cost of ownership. What are you getting and what is it going to cost you? If 1, 2 and 3 are in place; then it is important to look at how much it’s going to cost you over time to use and maintain the application.

With so many choices on the market, it can be hard for someone to decide which product is right for them. Price is always an important consideration. The bottom line is to understand what you need in a product, compare alternatives against a clear—and short—list of criteria, and then make your best decision. Of course I always suggest you start looking here http://www.conceptdraw.com

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