Agile Planning with MindGenius Mind Mapping Software


Mind mapping techniques can be applied to Agile planning concepts in addition to traditional project management processes. Agile project teams tend to favor low-tech solutions like note cards, sticky notes or a simple spreadsheet list of user stories. As Agile teams become distributed, it is helpful to work off a common product log and be able to quickly adjust the priority of the user stories.

In an Agile implementation, requirements are organized by iterations and iterations are included into specific releases. Each release produces a functional solution that the product owner (i.e. business customer) determines if the functionality should be launched or integrated into the next release. This method of delivery for software projects lowers overall project risk, delivers functionality sooner and results in better defined product at the end of a project.

MindGenius is a useful tool for managing a digital product backlog since MindGenius’ categorisation capability reorganises and maintains a product backlog for future release and iteration planning. This tutorial will show you how to use MindGenius to organize requirements into a product backlog and support planning for prioritization, user story complexity and story point estimation and detailed iteration planning.

16 Step 1. Brainstorm the product backlog

Figure 1. User Stories Mind Map

In an Agile implementation, the product backlog is a prioritized list of requirements that the project team reviews with the product owner. By meeting with the business customer to identify specific requirements or user stories, the project team is left with a list of needs (Figure 1). Scope definition and requirements gathering are common in both traditional and Agile software projects although the process artifacts are different.

Figure 2. Manual Release and Iteration Plan
Each user story can be prioritised and organised into specific releases and iterations using a manual Release and Iteration node approach (Figure 2). Each major node is a release and each sub node represents an iteration containing a few user stories. Each user story can be further elaborated with requirement details using additional branches or specifying the detail in the MindGenius note editor.

Building the release plan manually is ok but if the project team really wants to leverage MindGenius’ categorisation feature, the team should categorise each user story by release.

31 Step 2. Categorise each user story by release

Figure 3. Categorise by Release

In the MindGenius template, I’ve included several custom Release category items including release names and a backlog category. In an Agile project, new requests simply get added to the backlog and the project team works the backlog based on the business customer’s priority. Using the Analyse – Category Dropper, I can add specific user stories to the relevant releases.

Figure 4. Organised by Release
MindGenius will format each user story according to the icon and colour for each specific release. By creating a category version of the map (Analyse – Create Category Map), the product log looks similar to a work breakdown structure organised by release (Figure 4). User stories can be moved from release to release and re-categorised based on the team’s priority.

51 Step 3. Organise by iteration

Figure 5. User stories by iteration and complexity

In Figure 4, I used MindGenius’ Picture Gallery to assign numbers for each user story’s priority. The hierarchy of user stories can also be used to guide the priority of user stories. As the team works on each release, each user story will be further elaborated so the team understands the specific end user requirement.

In Figure 5, I used the Difficulty category icons to identify each user stories complexity. As project teams organise project backlog user stories into release and iterations, each user story will be assigned a complexity value usually in the form of story points. The abstract estimation and the project team’s velocity will determine how many user stories can be accomplished within the fixed iteration.

61 Step 4. Develop the detailed iteration plan

Figure 6. Develop a detailed iteration plan

By using the Map Explorer, the team can focus on a specific release or iteration and start developing detailed tasks and target dates for each user story. Since iterations follow a fixed duration (i.e. 2 weeks or 4 weeks), the date range for each iteration and release is known. Team members can safely apply the “pick a date” task management to forecast when the specific tasks under each user story will be completed.

Next Steps

By adopting an Agile approach using MindGenius Mind Mapping Software, project teams can better organize the project backlog and develop release and detailed iteration plans. Using the MindGenius note editor, additional user story detail can be added as well as basic test acceptance criteria. For traditional project managers who still need a Gantt chart, the iteration map can be exported to a Gantt chart format for tracking during the iteration or release. However, for an Agile project, the project team can simply track using the mind map.

Download the attached Product Backlog Template and get started brainstorming user stories and prioritizing the project backlog. I’ve also included the completed iteration plan for reference.


About Author

Colin Cooper is the CEO of Boost Your Business, the leader in marketing and business development for both large and small scale businesses. As one of the most innovative marketing specialists for over a decade, Colin and his team of business and online experts collate their years of know-how and experiences with the Boost Your Business: Body Armour for Business, an online magazine created to provide a holistic resource avenue for everything business, health, and wellness.