Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Using a mind mapping tool to develop the WBS

I used Freemind to develop a WBS for a recent project.

Go here to learn about mind mapping if you are not already familiar with it, but basically, it is a way of hierarchically structuring your thoughts on any topic.

For project planning, you can structure your mind map to show deliverables, and then attach activities to the deliverables, as discussed here.

Freemind proved to be a useful tool, having most of the functionality I thought necessary. The main challenge was saving the output in a format that was useful to others on the project, and that could be used to develop the project schedule.

It turns out that Freemind supports exporting to an XML format that can be read by MS Project. You'll need an XML translation file (e.g., "filename.xsl") which can be found here:

Follow these steps to export your file and read it in to MS Project:

  1. Copy the XSL code from the Freemind SourceForge page and save it to a file such as mm2project.xsl.
  2. If you want to save notes from Freemind into your MS Project file, you'll need to modify the XSL file slightly to include some additional lines. Read the comments on the Wiki page for the details.
  3. In Freemind, select File --> Export --> Using XSLT ...
  4. Browse for the XSL file (mm2project.xsl) in the "choose XSL file" field.
  5. Browse to your target folder and name the exported file, such as project.xml. Note: The filename must have a .xml extension.
  6. Press the Export button to create the export file.
  7. Open the file with MS Project (using File --> Open ...).
  8. Follow the MS Project dialog to open the file.
  9. "Save as" to the standard .mpp format.


Anonymous Glen B. Alleman said...

I've used MindJet's Mind Manager for many years to build project scehdules, starting with the WBS. It's a great tool for defining the requirements tree as well.
MM can export dirctly to MSFT Project and Word. So the WBS dictionary can be build as well.

10:38 PM  

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