When it comes to information experience, users seek solutions that will provide as little friction as possible between finding information and putting it to use. Information mapping tools have been steadily gaining ground as a means of helping information workers cope with the increased flow of structured and unstructured data in which they function.
Blaine Mathieu is chief products officer at Mindjet. The company's MindManager solution provides a visual productivity application, commonly called mind mapping, combined with a comprehensive collaboration platform. Mathieu says that with the volume of raw data created both in a user's personal and organizational world, "It's hard to capture information, make it actionable, and then make sure that an action is taken."
The goal of information mapping tools such as MindManager is to facilitate visualization of complex data, to create hierarchies of information that can be followed logically, and to enable content to be dynamic, hidden, or exposed as is helpful. Mathieu provides the example of a marketing planning project. "It used to be siloed-there was a marketing manager, a website team, a direct marketing team, and maybe a social media team. Now all those managers have to take an integrated approach to marketing planning." A tool such as MindManager enables all players to see a complete marketing plan, both by enabling a big picture view and letting team members drill down into the details of execution.
Via its cloud-based architecture, MindManager also enables customers to integrate the visual mapping technologies with other data sets. "MindManager is integrated into Salesforce.com so sales teams can visualize how a deal is progressing," Mathieu says. Similar initiatives with SharePoint and Twitter are designed to help Mindjet's customers more easily visualize the data resident in those environments.
Getting the Right Information to the User Faster
In some situations, demand for improved information experiences hearkens directly back to economic pressures that are making companies do more with less. Not only are information experiences that are unnecessarily complicated or duplicative annoying to end users, but in many cases the resources simply don't exist to cope with them anymore. In this context, vendors who can offer solutions that offer improved productivity or direct cost savings through their information design are going to have an advantage.
Jep Larkin is the director of sales communications for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida (BCBSF), which serves 4 million consumers in the state of Florida by providing health insurance to group employers and individual consumers. "We have thin margins as it is, and we're always trying to control costs," Larkin says. But at the same time, "Healthcare is complex, and there's a real need for people to explain it." His group's challenge is to attract and engage new customers who don't have coverage, to welcome them and help them understand BCBSF's offerings, and to provide ongoing care and service to consumers regarding claims, coverage, and the like.
In an effort to lower costs and improve end-user engagement, Larkin turned to Brainshark to create on-demand multimedia presentations that could take the place of a team of employees who were traveling around the country presenting open enrollment options in person. Brainshark's technology enabled Larkin's team to create materials that could be viewed on demand, without having to use professional video production tools.
"We've seen a savings of $500,000 in direct administrative costs," Larkin says, primarily from travel budget reductions. But there have been other benefits. "The information retention is higher," he says, consistent with findings by the U.S. Department of Labor that "retention of information three days after a meeting or other event is six times greater when information is presented by visual and oral means than when the information is presented by the spoken word alone."
Larkin also appreciates the fact that presentations made on the Brainshark platform are easy to update. "Things change all the time with regard to benefits, so we can be sure [when] using this platform that users are always getting the most current information." An unexpected benefit also surfaced with regard to compliance: Because digital presentation of the materials enables tracking of who has seen what information, BCBSF's compliance team can confirm that a member has received and reviewed information on benefits more easily than before.