4 knowledge mapping tools you should know about
By: Leanne Armstrong:
Mapping your company’s knowledge is the best way to structure and share information so it’s quickly understandable and easily put into practice. To do so effectively, you’ll want to use the best possible knowledge mapping tools for you and your team.
Knowledge mapping does more than just visually demonstrate the flow of information: it’s also a dynamic process. That means that with the right knowledge mapping software and tools, you can adjust and improve your knowledge resources in real time, ensuring they stay current and useful.
Ready to take advantage of knowledge mapping to promote greater project and planning success? Then it’s time to take a look at a few of the knowledge mapping tools and programs that will help get you started.
Use knowledge mapping tools to improve performance
Knowledge mapping tools are fundamentally designed to improve performance. They do this by providing structure and clarifying direction – whether your group is planning a project, constructing a timeline, outlining a strategy, or using different brainstorming techniques to generate ideas.
No matter which knowledge mapping templates or visualization aids you choose to work with, they should make it easier for you and your team to:
- transform thoughts, ideas, and knowledge into a digital format;
- determine the concepts most relevant to your objectives; and
- break key ideas down into specific actions.
From a single workflow system to the redesign of an entire division, knowledge mapping tools are the most effective way to document and update critical company knowledge while also identifying red flags, weak links, and informational bottlenecks.
Knowledge mapping software: the right tool for the job
Knowledge is an important strategic asset – but only when knowledge management is properly handled.
Make too much data available, and the user is likely to feel overwhelmed and distracted while completing the task at hand. Use the right tool to provide the right information at the right time, meanwhile, and you can expect every project to run much more smoothly.
The best knowledge mapping software is the kind that puts you in control of the information for a particular process by helping you gather scattered resources into a single, organized platform.
Knowledge mapping software not only streamlines communication around the knowledge mapping process, it provides a flexible framework for integrating and managing assets like:
- documents and templates,
- diagrams and charts,
- spreadsheets, and
- contact information
Many business professionals rely on knowledge maps to track project priorities and stay on top of what they need to do or sign off on. The tools they use daily range from standalone supports, to comprehensive knowledge mapping systems.
Let’s take a brief look at both.
4 knowledge mapping tools to get you started
Using knowledge mapping tools to unify the steps and resources associated with a given process will ensure everything a user needs to know is connected, coherent, and accounted for.
Bear in mind that while you’re more likely to benefit from using multiple knowledge mapping tools, finding the right combination to meet your needs will ultimately depend on your mapping objectives.
Here are four examples of knowledge mapping tools that you can consider for your organization.
1. Spreadsheet programs
If your data gathering needs are relatively basic, a simple spreadsheet program may very well suffice as your tool of choice for mapping out knowledge.
With a built-in capacity to organize, sort, analyze, and store data, spreadsheet programs like Microsoft Excel can assist you with everything from creating project budgets to producing graphs and charts around specific knowledge resources.
Just remember that a spreadsheet’s main strength lies in its capacity for calculating values using mathematical formulas.
And while that can be a pretty useful feature in certain applications, the limitations of using a tool like Excel on its own become clear when you need to engage in conceptual knowledge mapping techniques like brainstorming. Instead, it’s best to pair a spreadsheet program like Excel with a more robust software that allows you to seamlessly transfer your data from linear cells to a more versatile digital canvas.
2. Diagraming tools
For a step up in performance, you might consider pairing your spreadsheet tool with a diagraming platform. Diagraming tools take many forms – many of which are collaborative – making it easy for you and your team to visualize and map relationships between ideas, concepts, and related knowledge data.
Some examples of commonly used diagraming tools include:
- fishbone diagrams;
- block diagrams;
- organization charts, flowcharts, and decision trees,
- timelines and calendars, and
- wireframes and mock-ups
Take a look at two examples of how diagramming tools can be used in your knowledge mapping process.
Example 1: Fishbone diagram template
Example 2: Flowchart template
One of the biggest advantages of using the diagraming process as a knowledge mapping tool is that it’s fast and non-linear, similar to how our brains function naturally. As a result, diagraming can be a fun and engaging way to capture and explore ideas quickly and fluidly.
3. Gantt charts
When it comes to project scheduling and management, Gantt charts are many organizations’ go-to tool for illustrating dependency relationships between timelines and activities.
Using software to include interactive Gantt charts in your knowledge mapping process not only lets you view the overall schedule and expected completion date for a particular project, it can help you keep tabs on the sequencing and duration of individual tasks as well.
4. Knowledge mapping templates
As ready-made, visual layouts for any process or project you want to map, you’re sure to find knowledge mapping templates invaluable for:
- guiding your group through the assembly of ideas and information around a specific topic, and
- standardizing, customizing, and reusing your knowledge maps.
Knowledge mapping templates are such useful tools, in fact, that many software programs like MindManager incorporate pre-built versions right into their products, allowing you to dive in and get started that much faster.
Bringing it all together with knowledge mapping software
Specialized, collaborative software that combines multiple tools into a single program is usually the best way to start taking advantage of everything knowledge mapping has to offer.
As a minimum, the knowledge mapping software you choose should promote better visual work management by making it easy to add, correlate, and view files, images, links, media, and other knowledge resources.
It should also allow you to produce a full set of interactive maps, charts, and diagrams with the help of:
- mind mapping, concept mapping, and brainstorming functions;
- activity and knowledge mapping templates; and
- project cost tracking tools.
You’ll find that some knowledge mapping software goes even further, providing advanced capabilities like cloud-based co-editing, extensive mobile applications, robust conditional formatting, and the ability to capture virtual content with the click of a button.