Using XMind for Requirements Gathering (Elicitation Workshops)
XMind is an easy-to-use, mature, and highly flexible mind mapping tool that is also, turns out, an effective visual tool for requirements gathering. In real-time, you can drive requirements gathering sessions, and share the results of questions and decisions using this easy visual tool. It’s also fun to use and keeps participants engaged.
First things first, you need to become familiar with Xmind. Download a free copy from Xmind.net, and start creating some mind-maps. There are two versions available, desktop and cloud. The desktop version is highly recommended as the cloud version just does not navigate as quickly (I.e. keyboard shortcuts). Create some notes during a meeting that someone else is hosting. You need to practice so that you can be quick enough to use the tool, live, during discussions. Become familiar with the behaviors of topic, sub-topic, sub-sub-topics.
Practice these essential techniques.
“/” — the backslash will close all of the child items of the current topic.
F4 — use this to create a quick note within the current topic
Tab — use this to create a sub-item (child)
Enter — use this to create a new peer item (at the same level)
Shift-tab — use this to reverse tab
F6 — drill down
Markers — use these to highlight any items as you see helpful (I.e. happy face for the happy path, “?” for action items).
Prepare for your Workshop:
Prior to your workshop, create a new mind map, and based on your agenda, layout some strawman features, components, or categories. If you already have a strawman shell of requirements, quickly throw them into the mind map. You can add, change delete as discussions reveal and validate. There have been times where I have felt unprepared for a meeting, and using XMind, have put together an outline for discussion in about 5 minutes. The meeting starts and I have an attractive outline for discussion. Will look like you spent hours preparing for the meeting. Saved me more than once.
Display the Map:
While you are having discussions, you should be presenting the mind map. If online, share the map in Zoom or Teams and be sure it is large enough that the content is easily seen. If it’s hard to look at, people will look away.
Be Responsive to Changes:
If a participant offers a correction, make the change right away (live), so as to encourage engagement and further collaborative refinements. Translate, quickly, what is being said, into topics and sub-topics that make sense. As the structure of knowledge reveals itself, keep refining the structure, by grouping topics into other topics, normalizing, renaming.
At the end of the workshop, or at key milestones, you should be able to read a summary of what has been discovered. Using “/”, and F6 to move around the requirements, providing visual focus.
After the meeting, there are a number of ways in which you can share what you have gathered. Most participants will not have Xmind to open your document.
PDF- you can export to PDF, but this will require some experimentation to determine if the output is suitable. You may get far too many pages to be helpful.
PowerPoint — you can also export to slides. Again, I find it creates way too many.
Snagit — I will often use Snagit to capture sections of the map, then add some narration below the image as needed. The map will often have points, that you will need to expand upon to be helpful.
Excel Spreadsheet — this is a pretty good option to begin to transpose your requirements into an FBL, Epics, and Stories. Again, you will need to experiment as to how the export suits your purposes. For instance, Excel export can merge cells that align with your map hierarchy. Instead, you may want these parent values to repeat to assist you in sorting or filtering the excel spreadsheet.
Be Prepared for Compliments: most of the time, someone who participated in your XMIND based Requirements Workshop will ask “… what is that tool you are using..”. Wish I had $20.00 bucks for each time I’ve been asked that.
Other Uses for Xmind:
- For Mind mapping — the original intent, this is really good to let your mind wander with ideas, that are easy to organize after.
- Course Notes — I have used this for several courses where I needed to organize some of the main themes from a course. Search for different template styles online to find one that is attractive for your notetaking
- TimeLines — nice format for capturing lifecycles
- Org-Charts — so very very fast to produce