BigPicture Example Series: Investment Decisions

In the BigPicture Example Series, we’ll show you different ways you can make BigPicture work for you.  You can check out all these example files with your copy of the BigPicture software, which you can download here. Get BigPicture today and start playing with these fun and informative example models. The possibilities are limitless.

The BigPicture map below illustrates the investment decisions a company must make over multiple time periods. The purpose of such a map is to help the decision maker understand the various aspects of the problem. These include the inputs to the problem (monetary values and other inputs), the decisions involved, any uncertainties, and important outputs. Each of these is represented by a topic (an object of some color and shape), and the topics are connected logically by arrows to show what affects what.

Screenshot 2015-09-15 15.55.58

 

Normally, problems like this one are represented, and solved numerically, by Excel tools and possibly add-ins such as Palisade’s Evolver optimization add-in. However, a map like the one shown here is useful as a preliminary step to a formal analysis. It lets decision makers see the important issues in the decision problem and how they are related.

By studying the map (and using the Topic Key at the top left), the elements of the problem should be fairly clear. However, if this isn’t enough, you can Play the slide show that accompanies the map. This shows how the analysis unfolds in steps, and text boxes explain each step in some detail.

Once you create the basic map with BigPicture’s tools, you can then use Excel’s Shape tools to reshape or recolor topics or connectors.

 

 

What’s New in BigPicture? Attach Custom Shapes

The BigPicture development team is always working to improve our software, which means regular updates.  Here’s a sample of what we’ve added to our latest deployment of BigPicture Beta on May 5, 2015:

Attach Custom Shapes

This option is available under the Attach Shapes category, and can be found via Attach Shapes > Custom. This is simply a way that you can add Excel shapes to the selected topic(s).

By utilizing the Custom command a default light yellow call-out shape will be attached to the selected topic(s) and will move with the topic(s). Simply select that topic(s) that you would like to attach an image to, right click and choose the Attach Shapes > Custom > Add New command. (NOTE: You can also access this command from the Topic Tools icon in the BigPicture ribbon.)

Here are some additional notes describing how this command can improve your maps:

  1. The default light yellow call-out shape will appear above top-most topic selected.
  2. You can customize your shape by utilizing Excel’s standard capabilities of changing the color, shape effects, size, font, text, etc.
  3. If you decide to move the topic(s) that the custom shape is attached to, the shape will move also.
  4. Custom shapes can overlap.
  5. Multiple custom shapes can be added to the same topic, or group of topics. All of which can be moved and re-sized. (NOTE: To access any custom shapes that may be hidden behind another one, simply right click and utilize the Send to Back and Bring to Front commands from the pop-up menu.)
  6. If you collapse (hide) any of the topics that the shape is attached to, the shape will collapse (hide) with it.
  7. A custom shape can be to a single topic or multiple topics.

If you would like to use the same style custom shape (or any other existing “non-BigPicture” Excel shape) that already exists:

  • Select the topic(s) that you would like to add that custom shape to FIRST
  • Choose the Attach Shapes > Custom > Copy Existing command.
  • At this point a dialog will appear asking you to select the shape that you would like to copy. Click on the existing shape that you would like to duplicate.
  • Click OK.

NOTE: To remove a custom shape, just click on the shape and hit your delete key on your keyboard.

screensteps2Click here for a complete overview of BigPicture updates.

What’s New in BigPicture? Attach Boundary Shapes

The BigPicture development team is always working to improve our software, which means regular updates.  Here’s a sample of what we’ve added to our latest deployment of BigPicture Beta on May 5, 2015:

Attach Boundary Shapes

BigPicture now has the ability to Attach Shapes to your existing topics. There are two commands that have been added under the “Attach Shape” category. The first is the Attach Shapes > Boundary command which will typically be attached to a group of related topics. The second is the Attach Shapes > Custom command that would be more applicable with a single topic. These new commands are incredibly flexible and will help you add some additional pizazz to your maps!

By utilizing the Boundary command a default shape will be placed behind the selected topics and will move and re-size with the topics. Simply select that topics that you would like to “group” together with a boundary and right click on a topic and choose the Attach Shapes > Boundary > Add New command. (NOTE: You can also access this command from the Topic Tools icon in the BigPicture ribbon.)

Here are some additional notes describing how this command works and how it can improve your maps:

(Note that the numbers correspond to the image below.)

  1. The default shape will appear behind the selected topics.
  2. You can customize your boundary shape by utilizing Excel’s standard capabilities of changing the color, shape effects, size, font, text, etc.
  3. If you decide to move one of the topics in the boundary shape, the shape will re-size automatically.
  4. A boundary can be placed around a single topic.
  5. Boundaries can overlap.
  6. Multiple boundary shapes can be added to the same topic, or group of topics. All of which can be moved and re-sized. (NOTE: To access any boundaries that may be hidden behind another one, simply right click and utilize the Send to Back and Bring to Front commands from the pop-up menu.)
  7. Boundaries can even be manipulated so that they do not surround the topics – yet will still collapse and open with the topics that they have been “bound” to!

You can change the topics included in an existing boundary:

  • Click on a Topic in the group that has the boundary that you would like to edit.
  • Right-click and choose Attach Shapes > Boundary > Edit Existing command. A dialog will come up that lists the topics that are currently included.
  • To add topics simply click on the topics that you would like included.
  • If you would like to remove a topic click on any of the white space in your spreadsheet to clear the listing and then select only the topics that you would like included in your boundary.

If you would like to use the same style boundary shape that already exists in your map:

  • Select the topics that you would like to add a boundary to FIRST.
  • Choose the Attach Shapes > Boundary > Copy Existing command. At this point a dialog will appear asking you to select the Shape that you would like to copy.
  • Click on the existing Boundary shape or attached custom shape that you would like to duplicate.
  • Click OK.

All in all, you will now be able to add a lot of other supporting shapes to a map and they will conveniently move and hide with the topics they are attached to.

NOTE: To remove a boundary, just delete the shape in Excel by clicking on it and hitting your Delete key on your keyboard

screensteps1Click here for a complete overview of BigPicture updates.

Introduction to BigPicture Maps: A Video Tutorial

BigPicture makes it easy for you to create concept and mind maps right in Excel–but if you’ve never tried this method before, creating your first map can be a little daunting.  Check out our video tutorial below for a step-by-guide on how to create and customize concept maps in Excel using BigPicture:

 

 

If you haven’t done so already, make sure to download BigPicture for free so you can start exploring all its features and capabilities.

BigPicture Benefit: Collapsible ‘Many-to-One’ Relationships Between Topics

Those who know and use mind mapping and concept mapping with other software tools may have run into a frustrating limitation of their software’s capabilities: the inability to easily create collapsible and expandable ‘many-to-one’ relationships between topics.

This issue was described in a post on Sociamind, a blog produced by Gooding Davies Consultancy Pty Ltd. The author, Alex Gooding, describes how several mind mapping software tools are designed to have many topics branching out from one, and not the other way around.  Furthermore, it’s very difficult to expand and collapse these many-to-one groupings. The only way he can achieve something close to this effect is by incorporating invisible topics and connections, as he details in his post.

BigPicture has been designed to be much more flexible, allowing users to easily create, collapse, and expand “many-to-one” topic relationships, as well as continuing on and going back to a “one-to-many” situation for sub-topics.

bigpicture many to one example 1

 

The above image demonstrates how BigPicture’s concept maps allow for topics to branch from one to many, back down to one, and then back out to many with ease – rather than having to create invisible floating topics and relationship lines as described in the Sociamind post.

Gooding’s other challenge was finding a way to be able to collapse one of these sub-topic groupings as a whole unit. He did an amazing job coming up with a “workaround” that involves some laborious efforts. Here, we show how BigPicture allows for a much quicker method:

bp-many-to-one-collapse

 

Just place your cursor over a connection between sub-topics (in this case, the orange connector between the light blue and orange sub-topics), the red collapse icon appears. Click on the red collapse icon, and the orange subtopic and all its children collapse and disappear. It is as simple as that! And it is already part of BigPicture’s standard capabilities – no invisible topics, no extra effort, just a click of the mouse.

bp-many-to-one-collapse 2

 

Any and all combinations of collapsed and expanded sub-topics can be created just by clicking either the associated red collapse or green expand icons to bring the grouped topics out of, or into view.

bp-many-to-one-collapse 3

 

If you want to see just the orange topics you can easily collapse the others by clicking on the other collapse icons.

Interested in trying this out for yourself? Download the beta version of BigPicture for free and start experimenting with your own map, or check out one of our example files such as the Big Pharma Decisions to see it in action.

Why Map with BigPicture Instead of Just Excel? It’s Easy to Change and View!

BigPicture uses Excel shapes and connectors for its free-form maps. Those same shapes and connectors can be used to create maps and diagrams in Excel without BigPicture. So, you might ask, what’s the difference?

A lot, actually. In this series of blogs, we take you through some of the key benefits to using BigPicture vs “Excel-alone” for free-form diagramming in Excel:

Changing Shape Type

In BigPicture, if the type of a shape is changed (say from a rectangle to a circle), existing connectors stay attached to the new shape type at appropriate connection positions. When using Excel-alone, all connections are lost when the type of a shape is changed.  The user must then manually re-attach connectors to the new shape type.

Changing Shape Type

Collapse and Expand

In BigPicture, child shapes may be collapsed and hidden from view when the Collapse shape is clicked at a connection point, and expanded when the Expand shape is clicked. When using Excel-alone, there is no capability for “folding” or collapsing and expanding connections.

Collapse and Expand
Want to see more reasons for using BigPicture rather than just Excel?  Check out our other blogs that explain how our software makes concept mapping that much easier!

Tomorrow: Attend a Free Webinar to Learn BigPicture!

Register now to learn mind mapping, diagramming, and organizational charts right in Excel, with BigPicture!

  • Wednesday, April 8th – 10am EDT – Register Now
    7am PDT | 10am EDT | 2pm UTC/GMT | 3pm BST | 4pm CEST | 7:30pm IST
  • Friday, April 17th – 12 noon EDT – Register Now
    9am PDT | Noon EDT | 4pm UTC/GMT | 5pm BST | 6pm CEST | 9:30pm IST
  • Thursday, April 23rd – 8pm EDT – Register Now
    April 24th: 8am AWST | 10am AEST | 12noon NZS

We’ll show you how BigPicture works, and how it can aid in strategic planning, human resource analysis, data exploration, and more. You’ll get a walk-through of how to set up a BigPicture diagram (or “map”), and illustrate several real-world examples of different applications. Questions and comments welcome.