Monday, September 14, 2009

SmartDraw 2010 & Project Management

I have been a SmartDraw user for some time now and was delighted to learn that SmartDraw 2010 was soon going to be released with some new mind mapping and project management features that I was interested in exploring. As I shared with you in a previous post I was introduced to some of the new features of SmartDraw 2010 by the CEO Paul Stannard who is extremely passionate about the product. One of the markets that SmatDraw realizes there is a strong need for their product is in the area of project management. So with this release they have added more functionality and have made the product easier to use and have cut down on the steps it takes to go from mind mapping a project to creating a Gantt Chart or a timeline.

In SmartDraw 2010 you will still find it easy to create a basic mind map using the the SmartPanel. If you want to create your mind map even faster in SmartDraw 2010 you can quickly create a mind map using the Control and Arrow keys to create your ideas on the screen. I found this quite intuitive and within minutes was able to complete a mind map. If you like there are several mind mapping templates that ships with SmartDraw 2010 can be a great starting point for your session. I personally would have liked to see more templates and be able to have the option to change the direction of the mind map so that I could have top to down or left to right. You will find in SmartDraw 2010 that you can easily apply styles, so that your finished mind map has a a very professional and polished look. You will also find that SmartDraw 2010 spaces everything just so that branches on your mind map are equidistant from one another which is a nice touch. There are lots of ways to share you maps in SmartDraw 2010- you can export it 12 different file formats- everything from PDF to HTML or send it to Microsoft PowerPoint. The list is extensive! SmartDraw 2010 has also added the ability for users to add Comments on the mind map so that when they are shared they can be reviewed somewhat similar to the feature found in Microsoft Word. This is a wonderful feature especially in corporations that are using SharePoint. SmartDraw 2010 integrates seamlessly with SharePoint and lets you browse your server and open SmartDraw files.

Going from your mind map in SmartDraw 2010 to a Gantt Chart or Timeline is very easy. Simply select the View As button and select Gantt Chart or Timeline. Within seconds your Gantt Chart is displayed on your screen. SmartDraw 2010 has been updated and will allow you to manage much larger projects than in the previous version. I believe that in SmartDraw 2009 the limit was 100 tasks. You will also find that moving around SmartDraw 2010 even with larger data sets is easy to do and the program doesn't even skip a beat. SmartDraw 2010 now shows a Summary bar when you have subtasks under a topic- which works really well. HOwever, I would have like to see the Summary bar automatically reflect the percentage of the work done based on the completion entries in the subtasks. For now you will have to enter a the percentage completion value into the Summary task manually. You now more control of the information that is shown on the Columns in your Gantt view and it is easy to add Start Dates, End Dates, Cost, Duration, % Complete, Department, Number, & Resource to your Gantt chart. Whiel SmartDraw 2009 supported Finish to Start dependencies, it is a lot easier to set them up in the SmartDraw 2010. Unfortunately SmartDraw 2010 does not support Start to Start, Finish to Finish or Finish to Start dependencies. When you have completed your Gantt Chart in SmartDraw 2010 you can also export it to Microsoft Project. Likewise, you can also import data from Microsoft Project and bring it into SmartDraw 2010.

It is now just as easy to create a timeline from your mind map which is just a click away. Simply select the Timeline option from your mind map and within seconds you have a professionally delivered timeline of your project which for some will be able to comprehend more easily than if it were presented as a Gantt chart. You will find SmartDraw 2010 a flexible and easy to use application to handle small to medium projects. It is an ideal tool for communicate your project and getting all of your stakeholders on board. You will find it easy to print our comprehensive Gantt charts and timeline which can go a long way to keep your projects on time and within budget. For more information about SmartDraw 2010 click here.

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