Blog Archives

Trouble relaxing during a big project?

Deadlines, delays, emails, and weekends seem to slow down projects, sometimes to a grinding halt. These same things leave the project manager feeling they can never take a vacation or even just a day or two away from the office. Without taking time away from tasks it has been proven that we are less productive and make more mistakes. Society seems to pride itself on the ability to work endless hours for the company, though  it hurts the firm .

I fall trap to the same mindset as most workers in this high-tech world at times. Last week, I decided to change things up and go on a vacation with my wife without my laptop. We strolled the streets of Orlando, playing putt-putt at Citywalk. Then drove up to Savannah, GA for a few days. I was able to relax and unwind without having to worry about work for an entire week.

Notice I did not mention that I did not work during the week. I managed all the projects I started before the trip from my iPad and iPhone. I spent a few minutes here and there updating project statuses for customers and directing my developers through our online collaboration software. This gave me the freedom of enjoying my vacation while still keeping in the loop on all tasks with my global team.

I have found that quality of life does not have to diminish just because you are running a team or an entire organization. In a way, it is almost like having a superpower, you can complete more than anyone else in other organizations with half of the effort. How many entrepreneurs do you know that take a week off after just three months of opening the doors? I was not even able to get that kind of time away from the office after two years with the last company I worked.

Isn’t it time you take a break from the desk and start enjoying life with your family and friends?

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Virtual Teams that Work

Communication can take form in many ways, when it comes to project management. One can share documents  and distribute them in global teams. Send Emails in a moments notice, while on the phone with a client. Text messages, tweets and Facebook posts are all becoming a daily chore for workers, not just those in the media any longer. Fast collaboration, which leads to lazy communication.

How does a team keep these forms of communication from taking on a life of their own and wasting more time, than keeping a project moving? The answer is to keep the focus of the group in a single system that offers all the advantages of the aforementioned solutions. Some of the options listed above are poor choices for business communication. Texting is a useful tool for a quick reminder, however, some users try to use it as a communication tool to give instruction to a teammate. This is a bad practice and typically leads to confusion and more wasted time in lengthy exchanges. Tweets and Facebook are great to tell the public of an event, or general advertising but also are not necessarily beneficial to teamwork and lead to wasted time pulling attention from work activities toward the social and family life of the users.

With 2tasks.com a user can share documents with teammates and customers, they are notified by email of a new document on a given project. They can edit the document, or comment on the upload as well. With this communication tied to the specific document within the project, there is no trying to figure out what the communication is relating to. The chat sessions are an easy option for members of a team to quickly communicate while the focus is solely on a given project. They are not distracted by outside forces like a sms message to their phone, where you are competing for the teammates attention with their high score in Angry Birds.

With a free 60 day trial, you can try out this new technology that is changing the way businesses get things done. Just create an account in 30 seconds, and start your new project in two minutes with up to 10 team members. Start your free trial today!

What changes when teams are virtual?

To be successful, virtual managers must be aware of the challenges of overseeing virtual teams:
* The absence of non-verbal communication. Subtle indicators such as the silent nod of approval or the raised eyebrow of disapproval are eliminated in virtual teams. Words of praise for a job well done should be conveyed in virtual meetings so that practitioners know they are on the right track.
* Working across time zones. Schedules for meetings must be sensitive to team members in multiple time zones. In extreme cases (such as a team with practitioners in both Asia and North America), the number of common waking hours is limited and finding meeting times can be difficult.
* The difficulty of building rapport. Rapport is essential for functional team work but often difficult to establish and develop when people don’t have the opportunity to meet in person and get to know each other. This can be overcome by facilitating social interaction between team members.
* Over-reliance on email and telephone communication. The narrow communication channel available to virtual team members can lead to a sense of isolation. It can also cause frustration if colleagues err in causing email overload by their efforts to provide information.
* Managing conflict at arm’s length. Research has cited conflict management as a challenge for virtual teams, although it could be argued that less contact means less conflict.

VIRTUAL TEAMS SUCCEED BY USING BEST PRACTICES
The growth in popularity of virtual teams has prompted a number of researchers to take a closer look at what makes the good ones work. They have found that the most successful teams follow these best practices:
* Institute strong leadership. Executives must fully support the virtual structure and be aware of the potential challenges of managing a virtual team. They should consistently monitor the team’s progress to ensure deadlines are being met and budgets are on track.
* Choose the right team members. Individuals should be selected with a view to forming a successful team. Not all practitioners will thrive in a virtual environment. Those who are self-reliant and self-motivated will fare best.
* Set expectations from the start. Articulate objectives and define team member roles up front to avoid the possibility of overlooking or duplicating aspects of the work. This is especially important given the geographical distance between members of a virtual team.
* Implement strict protocols. Establishing protocols will ensure that each team member knows when and how quickly to respond to action items, and will determine the steps to take when a team member fails to do so. Team meetings should be run by a strong chair. People should be prompted to give their opinions as opposed to volunteering them. Digressions should be discouraged as they tend to disengage other team members. Multitasking during meetings should be prohibited.
* Use proven processes. Teams need processes that govern the way they work and how the work will get done, from being aware of individual responsibilities and decision-making procedures to the consequences of poor work or missed deadlines. Virtual teams have little margin for error when it comes to project management, as problems can go unnoticed and grow into major issues.
* Manage timelines and budgets carefully. Often a project budget will dictate the number of hours that can be charged to a client. Because freelance practitioners are paid according to the time they take, budgets can easily be exceeded if not properly monitored.
* Establish meaningful project milestones. Milestones should be implemented to chart a project’s progress and act as checkpoints for the timeliness and quality of virtual team work.
* Encourage interaction. Leadership must ensure that team members have some mechanism by which to develop strong working relationships. They should also bring team members together by organizing social functions every few months to help them build rapport.
* Communicate more efficiently.Virtual teams can be connected by various technologies, including phone, email, instant messaging, video or web conferencing, or virtual project collaboration software like that found at 2tasks.com. Use more than one of these options so team members can choose the technology they’re most comfortable with. In addition, more communications do not necessarily mean better communication. Too many emails can lead to information overload and cause important issues to be overlooked. The key is to convey only relevant information, and to do so clearly and consistently.
* Minimize team conflict. Although conflict can lead to better ideas and solutions, conflicts within a virtual team should be dealt with immediately, because they can escalate quickly. Virtual teams do not build rapport as easily as other teams, and managers may have to become more involved in conflict resolution.

Virtual Project Collaboration

Eric Stacy

Virtual project collaboration is a growing industry in the United States and around the world as more companies are utilizing the traditional less often than any other time in history. Teams  around the world and workers need a way to collaborate with one another and their customers. Small companies are finding it easier to compete with larger firms by leveraging tasks with lower overhead and a diverse workforce.

This trend not only increases the job market in remote cities, but also gives employees the freedom to work from anywhere they want. Not being limited to a cubical in an office setting, younger employees now travel while they work, or raise families without missing out on important family functions.

As with any change to a company’s culture, management still needs to feel they have control of projects assigned to people and/or teams. This is now done in Virtual Project Collaboration software. Teams can attach documents, images, source code, etc. all in an easy to use online offering free, or with a low monthly cost. Outside of document retention, chat, task lists (to-do list), and time stamped history, managers have all they need to manage projects successfully.

There is no need to spin up a server, do maintenance, conduct backups, or any other form of IT tasks. Being cloud based, the data is available to you and your team 24x7x365 with full redundancy and secured is a way that is parallel to that of the large banks.

For a free trial, follow this link over to 2tasks.com and check it out. There is no need to enter credit card or personal information to start a project in two minutes that is free for 60 days. If you decide it is not a fit for you or your organization, simply don’t upgrade and there will be no billing. You are free from spam as well, as your email address will never be sold or shared with any third-party.

Let us know what you think of the product and if we can help, we will even add your requests to the next release.

Why do projects fail?

There are several reasons projects fail. The most common reason being a lack of communication amongst team members. Just like any relationship, with a lack of communication people tend to start going in seperate directions. Once this starts in a project, it is hard to reverse. Then the project takes longer than planned, goes over budget and often under delivers in performance.

There are ways to prevent this from happening. The use of traditional project management software will help maintain goals and deadlines, however, it does nothing for effective communication. This is where a new breed of software is coming into play. Project Collaboration software is a fast growing industry. It is easy to use and very affordabe for small and large companies alike.

This is where 2tasks thrives. The online software is written to imitate a social network. This makes it easy for people to adapt to the format and employees are willing to use it on a regular basis. Managers no longer have to force associates to update projects. Tasks are now as seen as a simple update which reminds them of their off hours online.

If you have not done so already, go try it out for FREE on a project today. Let us know what you think…

Virtual Project Management and SSL

Because projects contain information that is not meant for the public, why don’t all software protect your data? Outside of the basics in today’s web development, such as not allowing SQL Injection, your Software as a Service (SaaS) model project management software should be secured under Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). This not only makes the information more secure during transmission for your company, but also shows your business partners you invite to your projects, you are concerned with their security as well. The cost of a SSL certificate is relatively inexpensive when you take into account it will give your customers piece of mind and allow them to focus on the project at had instead of worrying if they need to reword something to be more vague because prying eyes may intercept their communication.

Lessons Learned

Mistakes are going to happen in anything you attempt. Some are irrelevant and go unnoticed by others, or even you. Others are bigger and can seem like the world is going to come to an end. Don’t dwell on these things, take the time to turn them into an opportunity. In this article, I will explain how I go about preventing reoccurring problems for me and my customers.

First, make a list of the issues at a high level. For example, let’s say you have a project that had many moving parts and errors in the programming were not carefully documented. The customer calls asking why they were not caught before the software was delivered.

In this example you know software issues were not addressed before launch. That is the number one issue. You also know there was not a list of bugs for the developers to not only fix, but to test before go-live. Here is also evidence of a thorough Statement of Work, or this issue may not have came about. Communication could have also been a problem.

The second part is what was known about the project ahead of development. If you were made aware that the customer had a previous piece of software that worked for hem in the past but hey had outgrown as a company, what could you do to mimic the functionality of the parts they liked while giving hem the extra bells and whistles they now require. You may be aware you do not always communicate well as a company or do not always keep your customers in the loop on communication around their projects.

The third part is to compare what you know to be issues and compare that to what you knew about the project, you may find you are missing out on things you thought were addressed previously are not working out. It could be that you need a new method, or software to address these concerns. Perhaps a collaboration tool will keep your customer in the loop, as well, as open communication between teams within your own organization.

Why Should We Share Our Ideas With the Competition?

When I started 2tasks, I made the decision to share my ideas with the world through this blog, as well as make my competition aware of my ideas and plans for my product. I even went as far a providing screenshots of my software throughout development. Visiting my Flicker account you will find everything from marker drawings of early mock ups, through screenshots of finished screens.

This was not an error on my part or a lack of security. I want to create an affordable website that my customers will view as a valuable asset to their company. This will also make the competition improve their offerings in the future, forcing me to not become complacent once I meet my immediate goals with this company.

I love competition and will strive to not only improve my company, but force others to work harder and develop new technologies to make life better for the consumer. I have no plans to stifle innovation by keeping trade secrets from my competition. Think of it as extreme open source. I will not give out my code to anyone, but am more than willing to share what I have learned along the way. I will even share how I have gone about doing certain things within my site.

Imitation is the best form of flattery as the adage goes. Many parts of 2tasks are nothing new to the average Project Manager. I am focusing on simplicity, while filling the gaps of other products already established in the market. I don’t have the arrogance of success under my belt, which gives me an advantage over the older products already available. I have used many of their products over the years and ultimately came to the conclusion that I can create a better product in a single month. On the 6th of December, I will deliver the Beta, allowing users to manage projects for 90 days free of charge.

During this time, I will tweak the software based on user suggestions and reward those who help improve the product.

What can you offer to the public free of charge to increase innovation in your chosen industry? How will you ensure you are ready to react to your competitions response?

Virtual Project Management (part 2)

In the first installment I discussed the benefits and down falls of the open source model of virtual project management. This write-up will cover Software as a Service (SaaS) virtual project management and the benefits and shortcomings of this type of solution. The benefit of SaaS is the ability to only pay for what you need in a solution. There is no need to pay for a server, install software, and do maintenance on a product, allowing you to manage projects online with a monthly fee for the service. Some companies have a yearly subscription for this type of service which can be somewhat binding, but it is still cheaper if you only need the service for a short time of you want to keep your IT costs to a flat rate monthly or yearly. 2tasks offers this in a monthly installment that can be paid through your credit card or PayPal. If you have a single project, you have the ability to only keep the account active while you need it and cancel when the project ends. You have the ability to include as many people to a project as you see necessary. There is no need to have them signup and pay a subscription to participate in your project. The target of such options makes it possible for small businesses manage projects, or a family to organize a vacation in an affordable manner. The down side to SaaS is that you are losing control of your data to another firm. Though it is secured, as the NSA can tell you, nothing is 100% safe from prying eyes. Of all of the aforementioned options, SaaS gives the end user the least overhead for the fastest launch of a project. When selecting a Virtual Project Management software solution, be sure to find one with a 90 day trial period. This gives you three months to try the product and see if it will meet your companies needs. Many of these plans have some limitations, like limited participants or no advanced options.

Virtual Project Management (part 1)

I am going to do a series on Virtual Project Management. I plan to cover the evolution of Virtual Project Management, the benefits, and weak points. There are many companies competing in his arena now. Some are based on a Software As a Service model, others are simply billing monthly for the license, and as usual there are even free open source projects. In my opinion, no solution is better than the other. I just depends on what you are looking for and the money and time involved to achieve your goal.

I will start with the open source option. Though I will not list names of specific products in my write ups, those who are searching for a viable solution will know which software I am referring to. The positive side to open source project management is that you get to host the service where you choose. This is attractive to some organizations with the knowledge to install IIS or another web hosting solution. The cost is free and there are large forums of fellow users who can answer questions or have already resolved your issue and posted it in a FAQ or sticky somewhere on the site. A problem with this solution is it is time consuming and has a soft cost which may be inhibitive to a lean company.

The very thing that makes open source an attractive option is what makes it undesirable to others. All software hosted locally requires maintenance. Instead of filing a ticket with a help desk, you must resolve all issues on your own with the help of forums and YouTube. This can take time away from your companies core competency. Anytime you do this, you are losing money and valuable resources. Plus if it is down any amount of time, you could take a hit to your companies reputation with clients, depending on how you are using the software. Security is another concern. Because everyone can see the code to your project management, there is no secret as to what measures you have in place to protect your data. This may not concern some companies, but it can be a disaster for others.

I have tried many free options over the years and have had varying levels of success. I always end up back at a hosted solution because of the time involved and other financial costs of maintaining my software. If I have to pay to host it on a server through a host anyway, and then support it myself, why not pay a couple extra dollars and give someone else the headache and let me focus on profit for my business?

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