Project managers may maintain a risk register, an issues log, meeting minutes, and a change request register separately, but I find that combining these items into a common document helps keep track of these tactical items. The default project log solution tends to be an Excel spreadsheet unless a web-based project management solution is available.

Spreadsheets are great for financials but not for project management. Excel is not a word processing tool despite many attempts to word wrap issue status, risk mitigation, and action items into one sortable list. A better solution is a mind mapping tool like MindGenius. (Read my previous TechRepublic post Five reasons to use MindGenius on your projects.)

With MindGenius, instead of a series of spreadsheets in a workbook, I create a project log in a mind mapping format. Each project has a major branch to organize issues, risks, action items, and change requests into a useful project log (Figure A).
Figure A

Project log (Click the image to enlarge.)

The mind mapping format allows greater flexibility in recording issue, risk, or action item status in addition to assigning resources, target end dates, and any relevant supporting attachments, images, notes, or supporting files. Like other mind mapping tools, a notepad editor can be added to each node for detailed text entry. Figure B depicts the issues branch with several issues further detailed with descriptions, progress updates, and due dates.
Figure B

Issues log mind map branch (Click the image to enlarge.)

By using MindGenius’s Resource Dropper and Category Dropper tools, you can assign resource names to specific issues. The “AM” and “EC” are initials for the resources assigned to the specific issue. You can also assign your own categories to represent review status, risk severity, and importance.

For the project log map, I modified a set of pre-defined categories to represent various issue and risk statuses (Figure C). By assigning a graphic to each issue entry, I can further filter the map based on the categories assigned to each node and the responsible resources. The ability to think and mark nodes using visual indicators and later filtering on them allows you to add more detail than the typical Excel-based issues log. Start, End, and Due dates can be assigned to each node as well, so you can track progress against the available issues, risks, and action items.
Figure C

MindGenius categories (Click the image to enlarge.)

If you’re familiar with mind mapping, you know the map can grow quite large over the course of a project. With the MindGenius Map Explorer feature, you can open the proper branch and hide all of the other extraneous information. The Map Explorer and creative filtering abilities allow you to quickly navigate the map and filter open issues, high priority risks, or action items assigned to a specific resource. The Map Explorer feature can help you navigate complex mind maps and still be able to focus on the specific item without being constrained by an Excel cell or formatting limitation. Figure D lists all of the In-Process change requests using the Map Explorer and Quick Filter options.
Figure D

Change requests (Click the image to enlarge.)

Report action items visually

The visual nature of the mind map also serves as a picture view of the items that each team member needs to follow up on.

Each action item, issue, risk, or change request is assigned to a team member for follow-up and resolution. By using the Create A Resource Map function, you can immediately generate a list of issues, risks, change requests, and action items by resource. By using the Quick Filter and Map Explorer functions, you can create custom visual reports that help visually communicate the issues, risks, change requests and action items assigned to each resource. You can’t do this easily in a spreadsheet unless you create a pivot table, and even then filtering and navigation are tedious in Excel.

Figure E

Resource Category Map (Click the image to enlarge.)

Print each team member a user-centric map, have them post it on their cube wall, and use it for ongoing follow up.

Start  your project log in MindGenius

MindGenius Business Edition Version 4 electronic download retails for $235 USD, and the boxed product with a CD retails for $295 USD. The company offers education pricing for students and universities. For more specifics about pricing, visit the MindGenius Store.

The best way to experience the features I describe in this post is to download the fully functional 30-day trial of MindGenius. MindGenius is offering TechRepublic readers a 10% discount (coupon code MGTAPR) on all versions of the software. (The offer does not include physical CDs and shipping.)