They say a picture tells a story better than words, and that definitely true at work too. Using mindmaps is a professional (and easy) way of introducing a visual element into your work.
There are lots of different types of reports that we are expected to do at work, and they all have the same aim of trying to make it easy to communicate something. Whether that’s project progress, financial data or product quality, using graphical ways of sharing data can help your reports be more effective. Here are 7 ways to use mindmaps in your business reports.
1. Status Reports
A mindmapping tool is an easy and quick way to communicate status. These are often operational types of reports, produced regularly to show what the team has achieved this month.
The good thing about using mindmaps as the input to, or the presentation of, your status reports is that they can be updated regularly. As new work is completed in the month this can be added to the mindmap so that at the end of the month it is not a lot of work to get the report tidied up, approved and submitted.
2. Progress Reports
Progress reports often relate to projects or other initiatives where there is a clear end date. There are particular activities that have to be completed in order to get to the end of the project, and a project sponsor or senior manager will want a progress report to show how far the team has come in working towards that goal.
Using a mindmap you can group together related tasks and then use color or icons to show which ones have been completed. A fast way to do this is simply to put a tick beside each activity as it is completed.
Managers reading the report will be able to instantly see where the team is in relation to how much they have left to do by quickly scanning for the ticks.
3. Trend Reports
If your team has to report business or industry trends, then a mindmap is a simple way to do that. You can use bubbles to highlight key points, and even embed your trend graph in the center of the page, using the mindmapping features to draw attention to the parts so the trend that you want your audience to be aware of.
Alternatively, present the text of your report more visually by using grouped text bubbles instead of a standard bullet point list. Here are some Project Gantt Chart alternatives that can prove quite useful.
4. Forecast Reports
Similar to trend reports, this type of business report looks forward but in a more tangible way, related to business performance. Project managers will also use forecast reports to predict the outcome of their project against specified, baselined schedule and budget targets.
In a forecast report you might have a mix of graphical elements, all of which can be annotated with the features in a mindmapping software tool. You can also add in text to explain why you are forecasting this particular outcome, along with what the team is doing (if anything) to bring it back on track.
5. Variance Reports
Forecast reports look broadly at a project or initiative and how it is going to perform in the future. Variance reports dive deeply into one aspect of a project or team’s goals to find out why there is a variance against what was originally predicted.
This type of report can be used to explain to senior management why a team has been unable to achieve its objectives or goals for the year and to flag the differences between target and achievement along with the reasons for that.
6. Lessons Learned Reports
A lessons learned report should be used at the end of a project or initiative. You can also use them regularly throughout the year, so operational teams could capture lessons learned every quarter, for example. This is a good discipline to get into as it promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
However, you need to act on what you have learned in order to be able to get any real benefit from it. That’s where the report comes in: it’s an easy way to circulate that information to your colleagues in a format that is digestible, attractive and quickly points out what they should do to avoid making the same mistakes.
Group lessons learned together on a mindmap or use colors to categorize the different types of lessons. The best thing about a mindmap is that it is easy to update, so the report you produce today can be quickly amended when something new needs to be added. It makes the document a central repository for everything that was learned on the project and means that anyone looking at it gets the whole picture.
Finally, you can incorporate mindmaps into dashboards. Dashboards are used in business reporting and communication for tracking numerous things. Essentially they are a way of consolidating all the metrics that the management team want to hear about on one single report. It’s often a slide or a single page where the key performance indicators are reported monthly, often with an indication of whether this metric is trending up or down against last month.
You can make part of your dashboard a mindmap. It does depend on what metrics and other information you are showing on your dashboard but there are many points, bullets and lists that would benefit from being displayed graphically.
How are you going to incorporate mindmaps into your business reports?
About the author
Elizabeth Harrin is the author and award-winning blogger behind A Girl’s Guide To Project Management. Get her suggestions for being more productive at work on her blog.