A Brief Guide to Mind-mapping

As Business Analysts, we manage, consume, process and refine vast amounts of information on a daily basis. Indeed, the sheer volume of data that we will interact with even on a daily basis can be almost overwhelming. A key to successfully managing this is learning how to capture information in a way that:

  1. Accurately reflects the information discussed
  2. Organises the information in a way that is easy to understand (and legible!)
  3. Enables the information to be interpreted and communicated on clearly and effectively.

There are a number of different methods that BAs can use to do this, and the best tool for the job is entirely dependent on the skills and preferences of the individual business analyst and the needs of the client. However, a simple yet effect approach may be to utilise mind-maps. If you haven’t come across these before, it helps to think of them as being closely related to a brainstorming diagram. You define the mind map and use it as a method to sketch out thoughts and concepts that you might think about or discuss relating to the subject at hand.

At its core, a mind map consists of a central idea with nodes branching out from it expressing different ideas or concepts. Here’s a very basic example I put together during a workshop for a client who wanted to explore possibilities for implementing a new HR information system.

A basic Mind Map example

You can break nodes in the map down into their own individual mind maps, while central concepts can be nested so that they form part of other mind maps. You aren’t just limited to using words; BAs often incorporate pictures and images in them too – often to really great effect. Many clients find it easier to understand the ideas and concepts captured using images as opposed to lots of words on the page. However, there’s no right or wrong way to produce a mind map – it’s entirely up to you.

Mind maps are a useful tool for organising and conceptualising ideas and capturing outline requirements for further analysis. Once again, they are simply a tool – you may find that something else is more suited to capturing notes and ideas in workshops and meetings. It’s perfectly okay to choose something else that you feel comfortable using.

Mind maps can be as creative as you are – so get mapping!

– André

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