Monday, October 20, 2008

Timebox Manager for Agile Development

I had the opportunity to speak with Nigel Goult of Olympic Limited, a MindManager developer last week about his very exciting project management application called Timebox Manager which is integrated with a MindManager add-in. TimeBox Manager incorporates the timeboxing methodology for agile development and is used primarily in the software industry. What follows is my interview with Nigel, which I trust you will find as interesting as I did. Brian

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BSF: Can you share with us a little bit about your background and how you got started developing the MindManager add-in?

NG: I first became involved with Mindjet and MindManager working for M-Urge Limited in 2001. M-Urge was, at that time, the UK MindManager Info Centre. After 3 years with M-Urge and seeing 3 incarnations of MindManager, MindManager Version 4, MindManager 2002 and MindManager X5, I left and started Visual Technology Solutions Limited, (VTS), with a business colleague. VTS was also a MindManager based business and during my time as co-owner/director I became more interested in how MindManager could be manipulated through its open API and programming. I became intrigued by the way, in which other companies where using MindManager to create other applications and solutions. The result of this was Visual Project Maps, (VPM), a very simple Project Management “add-in” for MindManager X5 Pro. Over time, VPM matured and became a PRINCE2 focussed solution delivered with MindManager Pro 6/7. In July 2008, I left VTS to pursue other opportunities through my own company, Olympic Limited. One of these was TimeBox Manager developed by Agile Force Limited, which was at that stage a beta application. With our help, Agile Force was able to complete beta and enable us to bring TimeBox Manager to the market.

BSF: Before you talk about your application Timebox Manager, can you share with us how this project management technique differs from more traditional PM and which industries is it most suited?

NG: Time boxing is a Project Management technique common in software development projects. Its purpose is to manage a project, for example, the creation of a new IT system, by splitting the project up in a number of separate segments, “time boxes”, (normally two to six weeks long). Each time box has its own deadline/delivery date and budget. By incrementally finishing one time box at a time, the project delivers within the desired timeframe.

The important thing about time boxing is that the dates are not flexible, but the deliverables are. Without time boxing, when the deliverables cannot be realised, the deadline generally slips. With time boxing, the deadline is fixed, and the deliverables adjusted. This goes hand-in-hand with the MoSCoW prioritization of deliverables, (must, could, should & won’t).

Time boxing is ideally suited to software development, publishing, broadcasting and any time imperative project/task where delivery dates are not flexible. It is also finding its way into more generic time/task management on a personal level i.e. your weekly tasks.


BSF: When did you see first see the fit between Timebox and using MindManager?

NG: When I first saw TimeBox Manager, I recognised immediately similarities it had with MindManager; the properties such as Task Priorities, Start and end dates and Resources mixed with the graphical representation of status. It just seemed to be an ideal fit in the MindManager world. This led to us helping Agile Force to develop an “add-in” that provided a way to move data between the two applications.

BSF: Can you share with us how your Timebox solution integrates with MindManager? In addition, how does it work?

NG: TimeBox Manager and MindManager integrate through the installation of a free add-in for MindManager. The add-in provides the ability to either:

  • Import a TimeBox Manager Data file into MindManager

and/or

  • Export a TimeBox Manager marked up map into TimeBox Manager

The add-in works by referencing a set of customised MindManager map markers. These map markers identify topics according to their status, which includes MoSCoW Prioritisation, Timebox Type, Percentage Complete and Resources. At present, this integration is a user initiated function i.e. selected from a MindManager ribbon menu. Planned development will take this into a seamless integration where connected MindManager maps and TimeBox Manager Data synchronises in real-time as data updates in either application.


BSF: What are the benefits of using MindManager and Timebox together?

NG: Using MindManager and TimeBox Manager together provides an alternative way to manage/manipulate project information; they also provide an alternative way of viewing the project status. When presenting information in a different way, it can very often alert the viewer to things that familiarity obscures.

BSF: Who is presently using Timebox and MindManager? What are your users saying about the tie in with MindManager

NG: Currently TimeBox Manager is in use by mainstream businesses and several corporate entities. There is a strong interest in the higher end of the Education market i.e. Management Colleges, Business Schools and Universities. Because of this, we are currently running an Educational directive, which offers a free TimeBox Manager licence to College/University lecturers and department heads for them to try TimeBox Manager and demonstrate the application to their students. Anyone interested in this offer should register on the TimeBox Manager website, www.timebox.olympic-limited.co.uk/education-offer. It is available for all approved lecturers and educational department heads from any country. You can go directly to the MindManager add-in by clicking here.

 
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