How To Manage Projects

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You have the whole world at your fingertips, and if you want, you can get people to help you get work done, build systems and grow your business. The challenge is to be clear and manage projects with the desired outcomes articulated and identified.

It can sound obvious, but there are plenty of stories of unmet expectations and missed delivery. It’s why you can’t just hand off. You have to lead the whole way when you want a project meeting expectations.

Here are strategies to help you get projects done without the heartache:

  1. Define the requirements. Too many times, projects get started without true clarity. Spend the most energy being clear with the outcomes. Outline clearly what your software is supposed to do, how your machine is supposed to perform or your people are supposed to collaborate.
  2. Get the How. For those that are to deliver what you want, ask what their approach and strategy will be. Break down the work into a checklist of tasks that help you see the solution path. Set milestones for when you want updates. This way you have a feel for the progress.
  3. Review often. Daily updates are helpful to ensure you don’t get off track with expectations. You don’t have to micromanage. You just want to understand if there are any obstacles that would miss expectations, deadlines or the anticipated solution.
  4. Test the solution. When you have your project delivered, there are likely some nuances or gaps to how your solution will work in real life. Test quickly, give feedback and iterate.

If you work with employees or freelancers, they are executing based on the clarity and leadership you provide. I always assume that what’s in my head is not what’s in someone else’s head. So, the vigilance to keep communication flowing is critical. It keeps you from creating wasteful work.

The bigger the project, the more clarity has to be created and clarity is not free. It’s part of the hard work of getting things created in the real world.

Being Creative Means You Ship

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At some point, you have to jump. Projects demand it. From Stuart, Tania & Devon Flickr photostream.

Shipping is hard. There’s a lot that gets in the way. However, it is becoming a glaring differentiator for businesses that succeed versus those that drown in persistent mediocrity.

I think pressure really gets in the way for organizations that have a problem shipping. When it comes time to getting across the goal line, there is hesitancy for a number of reasons such as:

  • Fear of failure
  • Culture of bureaucracy
  • Avoiding responsibility
  • Poor belief system
  • A loser’s mentality
  • Lack of leadership
  • Being exposed to the world

Stalling becomes a habit for groups and people that don’t ship. Better to look busy than get something across the goal line. I think with the number of people that are able to get things done, the laggards who can’t ship are becoming more exposed.  There are too many examples of those that make ideas happen.

One of the trademarks of our team is our execution and how we get things done. It’s a big reason we have great partnerships with our clients. The world is not waiting around for the hesitant. It’s moving too fast. I like knowing that we can help others get in the game at the right pace and expectations. It means shipping when we are uncomfortable and being agile enough to change.

Creative work has a lot of risk and reward to it. Ideas can be rejected. Concepts may not connect. Or you knock it out of the park and a whole business opportunity changes.

When it comes to the world of ideas and creativity, I say focus on shipping. Don’t hesitate. Put yourself out there. Break the nonsensical, fear-based cycles and push to ship. There’s not a good reason to hold back. Ultimately, stalling pushes you further out of relevance today. Look at the competitive landscape. There are too many good businesses making ideas happen.

Do you ship or do you stall?

 

Courting The Customer

Don’t sell. Court instead. It’s a much better way to connect and woo your customer.

It’s delicate. You can’t annoy people and expect them to like you. Pushing ads in people’s faces only creates a repelling effect. You will be ignored.

Yet, out of desperation, businesses sell hard today. They see all the shiny new tools available for marketing and abuse the mediums by spamming. Whether it’s web spam, email, banners, social media or mobile, noone wants to be sold through any of these methods. Lucky for all of us, we can turn off sales technology with filtering technologies, and we do.

It’s not that technology is bad. It’s how so many marketers damage brands by misusing such powerful tools. The old economy afforded heavy selling because it was a one-way conversation. Today, brands and customers interact. It’s a real-time world with our attention becoming increasingly scarce and prized at the same time.

It’s easy to spam and blast people with messages they will ignore. We don’t advise it, however. There’s too much collateral damage to your brand. Instead, the process has to be broken down. Your customer does not want to be sold. They want to be courted. Courtship in the sales process looks a lot like dating:

  1. Know where they will be. Using an out of place billboard is a bad investment. So is trying every type of desperate ploy to get attention. Think about the relevant places. The inbox is sacred and important if you can have subscribers. Social media strategies need to be about bringing value and creating conversations. People interact in rational places for your brand. Think it through.
  2. Make it about them. Your message has to connect. Pinpoint what your customer cares about or is concerned with. It’s important to have a focal point for your message in this area.
  3. Give gifts. Gifts show care and open up a relationship. This can take many forms. It may be tangible, virtual or personal. In any case, it has to be relevant. The creativity needs to be around the human experience and what will be appropriate.
  4. Invite them to a dating experience. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you immediately. Likewise, allow your buyer to get to know you. Date them. The more they get to know you, the more trust gets built at a comfortable pace.

Courting your customer takes a lot of extra thinking and planning. It may mean letting go of the addiction of overselling and learning to build relationships with care and an attention to connecting.

What’s the alternative otherwise?

Location Is Irrelevant With A Cloud Organization

Some of the teams we implement cloud computing systems for work in one location. Many more are distributed and work all over the country and the world. With Google Apps, for example, a team can be in completely different locations and feel together in one environment. Their collaboration is in real-time and everyone can get things done accessing resources and people available in a secure environment. It is the magic of the cloud. You can manage your business and customers from a web browser or mobile device.

Your location is much less important in the cloud. The thing that matters is whether you are logged in, and that matters only depending on whether you are working in real-time vs. sequentially.

One of our recent implementations of a team has their organization spread halfway around the world between various states and South America. Having a central knowledge base where they can get answers in a Google Site helps everyone to get aligned around business process.

As things continually change, the process can be updated, knowledge can be shared easily and systems can be updated to enable customer communications and follow-up for sales, service and marketing functions.

Ask someone a simple question, “Where do you go to get things done?” See if they truly answer, “The office.” Most people get distracted in an environment where people can interrupt them and are tempted to do so easily. We get work done through focus and moving information on a screen. Ideally, this is in a central cloud computing system.

Perhaps the old ideas and habits keep you from broadening your perspective on what productive organizations are already doing today. How about exploring and use the cloud to lower your real estate footprint, allow people to work from home or work wherever they want. It will force you to make the work about systems rather than face time.

How can you apply this to your startup or business?

Why Salesforce Is Not For Dummies

When something doesn’t work, it is easy to blame the software. We see it all the time. Salesforce.com is a system which is highly customizable and can power an entire business, with limitations of course. However, it depends on talented people that can navigate the system, execute process and think. To elaborate:

  • Navigate the system. If you cannot make your way around a computer very well, then you will likely struggle. It is software and software does not work for you. At best, it provides a framework that allows you to move, click, enter data and get things done.
  • Execute process. Salesforce.com is only as good as the process your team prescribes. If you lack process, then it is a glorified database. You can input data, but there might not be forward movement in the way you execute and collaborate with your team or the customer.
  • Think. You can’t stop thinking just because you have powerful software. You have to think deeply about what you are trying to do and how you are doing things. How many fields you have, what those fields are, what data objects should be created and how the data relates all have to work in a cohesive and sensible way. When you design or use the system, it requires thinking systemically about the trade-offs and effects on your overall team.

There are many companies failing at using Salesforce.com. However, there are also many, many companies successful using the software. It is why dummies may blame, but they have a weak argument because:

  • There are millions of users succeeding
  • There are thousands of organizations succeeding
  • There are thousands of third-party developers that have invested money and time to plug into Salesforce.com
  • Hand the tool to a semi-intelligent twenty year old and they get it

You can always have a better designed system. That is much of the consulting work I do on Salesforce. However, if you are not determined to be smart, then the struggles in the system will come from something outside of Salesforce.com’s control. They built software for smart people. Thus, choose to step up and become a power user or persist in the vanity of being a dummy. We hope you would choose intelligence. It helps everyone win.

Scalability With Google Apps

Moving your team from a server to the cloud allows you to go faster.  The interchange of data, managing that data and leveraging the data becomes easier.  The friction between a piece of software talking to a server, as opposed to direct access to a service that is always on, has completely different business impacts.  The former has failure points, requires setup and shut down of users, and is much more challenging for outside access.  The knowledge worker of today can be working from anywhere, anytime in the latter situation.

Managing systems is not a part of our business.  It is a cost, not a benefit.  We want to be in the business of making money, getting things done and promoting our brand.  The more a system becomes transparent to our execution, the more we can focus on what matters.

In the Google Apps world, we get to live in the new reality of executing and communicating in real-time.  The system can scale to allow for virtual workforces and accessible, secure information access.  Teams today rely on an integrated architecture in Google Apps to focus on business problems and get away from the IT issues of the past.  The measure of a business’ success can arguably be about its scalability and ability to adapt to change.  Your systems today afford you the opportunity to pace with the demands of the new economy.

Perhaps you want to grow and feel the friction from old systems. Why continue to settle for old ways of doing business? Commit to a cloud strategy and use Google Apps to launch your core communications systems for growing your team and providing the balance of security and flexibility to grow.

If your systems could help you grow, what would it look like?

How We Integrate Google Apps With Salesforce

Google Apps and Salesforce.com are two of the leading cloud computing software vendors in the world. We have partnered with both and customize these systems around the processes of specific businesses based on their requirements. As we advise our clients on technology, process and systems, we always want to keep in mind the questions about cloud computing and what these systems mean to an organization. The following will help you understand our approach and how Google Apps and Salesforce.com are strategic for your team.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing may be a techie term for some, but it has had widespread conversation and adoption. In a nutshell, it is software that runs on the web. You don’t have to install anything. Open your web browser (Google Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer) and you just login to your system. For an organization, you are working within an environment with your team, specifically.

The advantages are:

  • You don’t have to maintain an IT person
  • You don’t have to upgrade
  • You don’t have to maintain uptime
  • You can focus on getting things done
  • Someone else manages the functionality and feature enhancements

As an advisor to your organization, we focus on strategies that help you grow your business. Cloud computing is strategic because:

  • It gets you out of the IT business and reduces overhead costs – people, hardware and software.
  • When you hire people, there is no installation. You can turn them on instantly.
  • When you fire people, you own the data. You can turn them off instantly.
  • You can hire people that live and work anywhere around the world.
  • You can collaborate in real-time with people in one secure system.
  • The system is secure. Your team has to have a login
  • You pay a subscription. This helps cash flow. It’s a service like your cell phone bill.

As an overall strategy, you want to control everything, but own nothing. The headaches are outsourced, the expenses are amortized. The old model was that you had to build such heavy duty software yourself. Now you can use it as a service and let someone else spend cycles figuring out how to innovate and improve. The world moves so fast today and software obsolesces quickly. It’s a good strategy to use cloud computing as a service for your business goals.

Google Apps And Collaboration

We have a lot of content about how to use Google Apps specifically in our blog. We partner with Google to implement, consult and support our customers on this remarkable platform. There are millions of businesses using Google Apps from single consultants to Fortune 500 firms. In the old days, getting another person set up on email often meant downloading Outlook, hooking it into an onsite server or using a VPN connection. It all took time and infrastructure.

Google Apps changed this. You can do many things to grow your business now that are easy:

  • Hire a person halfway across the world and have them running in less than five minutes
  • Share out key sales and marketing collateral quickly and easily
  • Collaborate on documents in real-time
  • Use online documents instead of having to buy Microsoft Office for everyone
  • Have a ready knowledge base to share out with new team members
  • Chat in real-time with anyone from any device – computer, tablet or mobile – anywhere

Your team is connected. The software is continually being improved and  you are using it to manage your business from anywhere, anytime. There is a simple annual user license fee of $50 per user per year which you order here. There is a massive amount of storage, so you can save everything.

We train and show you how to use the system strategically to grow your business and drive business processes. Furthermore, there are many other integrations, strategies and uses that can be extended as you continue to use the system to help you serve your customers better, drive speed in your company or make more money.

Salesforce.com Process Design

Salesforce.com is a system that can be customized specifically for your business. Though there are millions of users, everyone’s system is different. There are different fields, communication templates and records. The system can be programmed with logic and triggers based on rules that are defined.

Our team at AscendWorks works with clients to define the requirements, bring clarity to business processes and implement them elegantly in Salesforce.com.

Salesforce.com is a platform as well. It integrates with thousands of other applications. Thus, you can extend its use over time as you continually refine how you do business.

For your team, you have an effective way to manage what is happening in real-time. Everyone has access to customer, deal or custom records. As information is captured, you can see your sales pipelines, project work or inbound leads. Your team members can also execute from one common framework.

We help you to use Salesforce.com to increase productivity, make more money or support new business processes. It becomes a critical asset to your business as your team relies on each other and the information in the database records.

Integrating Google Apps And Salesforce.com

Not everyone integrates both Google Apps and Salesforce.com. We have various ways to bring the two together that help you align your team and grow your business. Your processes will be designed largely in Salesforce.com. Your knowledge and productivity happen in Google Apps.

Some of the ways the two systems can serve your organization are:

  • Sharing Google Docs within a Salesforce.com Opportunity record
  • Having a central FAQ section that is searchable and accessible
  • Logging inbound and outbound emails in customer records
  • Making appointment scheduling easier
  • Supporting customers with ready knowledge

Your team members have a login for their Google Apps and Salesforce.com systems. They can be working around the world, at a cafe or in your office. Regardless, your business is running in real-time on the web. Your challenge becomes making it clear and easy for how you want to create the customer experience and get things done efficiently.

We hope the explanation helps to orient you and envision the possibilities for using these two powerful systems. The costs are subscription based – $50/user/year for Google Apps and Salesforce
Pricing is here.

You can also learn more about how I consult with clients on Salesforce.

Feel free to post any questions in the comments below. We want to help educate and enlighten. Thanks.

Google Apps For Group Coordination

Organizations that want to solve the problem of communication and collaboration with team members in many locations would be well-served by the cloud architecture in Google Apps. There are some practical reasons for such a strategic choice in this platform. Here are a few:

  • Easy setup. If you have new members being added, they can be set up in minutes. The administrative burden is light and you have complete control. There is not any software to manage their email, documents or calendar system.
  • Secure sharing. When a new person comes on board, they need direction. You can keep a knowledge base of information in a secure Google Site and Google Docs. They can access this from anywhere with a web browser or mobile device and login.
  • Instant collaboration. Your team can connect via Google Chat instantly. This allows quick access and builds teamwork as problems are being addressed and questions can be asked in real-time as they come up in the course of work.
  • Leadership. You can effectively manage and lead your team regardless of their location. An internal blog can be set up as well as specific knowledge sharing. Use group emails for specific communication distributions with different segments of your team.
  • Closing access. We live in a high turnover economy. You can instantly turn off a member and ensure your systems and data are preserved. This provides freedom to hire, fire and manage departures easily and quickly.
  • Business process. Everyone can get on the same page and execute your business processes. You can also integrate Google Apps via programming to other third-party programs to manage the flow of data.

Cloud computing on Google Apps makes the web the workplace. The balance of security, productivity and collaboration are within one tightly integrated environment.

Think through the challenges of your organization and consider the possibilities of being fully cloud-based.

What could the possibilities be?

 

4 Google Apps System Review Tips

A team working in Google Apps is comprised of a bunch of individuals. The advantage of Google Apps is that everyone is collaborating and executing within one system. However, over time, each user may not be using the system in the most efficient or ideal way for the highest levels of success.

Knowledge work comes at us fast and furious. As business cycles naturally slow, you can take the time to review best practices for your Google Apps system to increase each user’s adoption. Here are a few items which are worthy of review:

  1. Keeping a zero inbox. Help users adopt shortcut keys and develop the habit of a zeroinbox mentality. They can move their email to action quickly and keep their mind free to be ready for whatever is coming at them. Furthermore, this avoids clutter.
  2. Collaborate in Google Docs. If users are keeping documents locally rather than in the cloud, show them the steps and benefits for uploading and creating Google Docs. They can easily share and modify documents in real-time with other team members to ensure there is a relevant and fresh library for ongoing use.
  3. Sharing knowledge in Google Sites. If people are keeping information for themselves, they are depriving the overall team of their value. Knowledge sharing in a Google Site which is searchable and a repository for best practices, FAQ’s and specific problem solving saves cycles for problem solving and serving your customers. Drive the behavior if it has been lost or start it anew if it needs to be started.
  4. Working in real-time. Demonstrate use cases for Google Chat and mobile device usage. Provide guidelines for etiquette and how to work collaboratively wherever and whenever a person is working. This helps for problem-solving issues as they happen and driving team dynamics.

You may have launched your system with the right training and expectations. However, over time, users may fall into their own habits. Reviewing best practices for your organization after users have become familiar can align your team to desired behaviors and increase your productivity. Fill the gaps and use natural business cycles to drive further adoption.

How can these tips help your team?

 

Google Apps And Business Process

Google Apps is a platform which is able to transform a business locked within a network or outdated business processes into a cloud business. Your organization gets the balance of accessibility and security:

  • Accessibility: Users can work from anywhere and collaborate instantly with the rest of your team. Your documents, schedules, intranet as well as your email live within a corporate cloud environment. Building your team with talent anywhere, anytime access is a strategic business advantage.
  • Security: Your IT is simplified. User access via secure password access limits their permissions to information, documents and calendars. In our free agent economy today, when a user no longer needs access, they can be instantly turned off. Administration of your organization is easy and the level of control allows for building a robust security environment for your mission critical information.

Business Process

The business processes need to be executed by your team in a predictable, easy and organized way. Google Apps can bring together your team to collaborate quickly and fluidly. Knowledge work is fast moving and requires a system that helps everyone get information and provide information to help get things done quickly. In our consulting work, we work with clients to enable their business processes by focusing on:

  • Mapping the business process. Collaborating with the leaders and managers of a business, the specific steps that a team is to execute in selling, marketing and servicing a customer provides a template for how information should flow. Setting up a knowledge base to keep everyone on the same page helps align everyone.
  • Customizing the environment. There may be third-party apps or a customization of the different Google Apps tools that need to happen. The work needs to be done according to the process maps set up.
  • Alignment, training and leadership. Users need training and leadership as they get used to new processes and interfaces. This may be a transition for an existing organization between 2-4 weeks. An internal champion who evangelizes and drives the change management process needs to be identified to help drive adoption.

Working in Google Apps in the cloud helps to scale your business. It has the combination of accessibility and security for the modern business to drive speed and clarity for everyone.

What business processes would be helpful to automate for you?