Lead with Your Calendar Invitations


How are you managing your calendar?

Peter Drucker said it best when it comes to the work we do today, “In knowledge work, the task is not given. It has to be determined.”

We are in a world where there is a lot of information flying around. Sometimes, we are being social. Other times we are trying to get clear.

One of the best leadership habits you can drive to get deals and projects done is to put full attention on a goal. And the way to lead efficiently is to master your online calendar. Make it a leadership tool by setting time and space to have meaningful focused conversations with your prospects, clients and partners.

I use Google Calendars within my Google Apps workflow. Most of the business world either uses Google Apps or Microsoft Outlook. Either one works. The key is to master appointment setting in either scenario.

Here are best practices you can use to stop wasting a lot of energy and time on back and forths and drive decisions with a set aside meeting time:

  • Move from ambiguity. If you find yourself going back and forth in emails and texts, simply say you will send a calendar invitation so you can discuss and make a decision.
  • Write clear subject lines. Put the goal in the Calendar invitation subject. Making it something like “Deal Decision with Don” keeps the focus on the outcome you are wanting and avoids wasting time.
  • Fill in the “Where” field with what is easy. If you have to show something on your desktop then simply use a tool like join.me which also has a Google Chrome extension to auto-fill calendar invitations in an integrated way. Or you can put your phone number or the invitees so you don’t have to remember it. When the calendar event comes up everyone knows where to call. Make it easy so you don’t have to think when the time comes.
  • Write a clear personal note in the Description field. If you are like me and have many meetings, you don’t want to have to think. You are moving fast. Write a clear personal note that informs you and your invitees what the meeting is about and what the goal is. This way you can move from meetings and be oriented to what you want to accomplish. Using numbered lists and goals is also a great way to focus the conversation. Give you and everyone in the invitation what you need to make it a productive time.
  • Add invitees. The mechanism for inviting people is extremely helpful. They can accept, reject or tentatively accept the meeting. This drives commitment to a time to talk. You can avoid inefficient back and forths, especially with a large group of people. Everyone can use the calendar invitation automation to converge on a time that works. Your invitee list will display who has accepted or rejected. You can simply move the meeting to better times accordingly as well.

If you take a few minutes of work to ensure you understand the features of your calendar invitation system it can pay immense business dividends. Effectively, you become a knowledge worker that is leading. You can drive conversations that lead to clarity, deals and opportunities. This is especially critical where there is a large amount of inattention and disorganization.

How can calendar invitations streamline your workflow and productivity? What do you think?

3 Google Apps Gmail Shortcuts To Master

You can have a zeroinbox! Move fast!

Many of our clients struggle to keep up. We want to share a quick productivity tip to help you move through your inbox quickly using Google Apps. If nothing else, take 5 minutes to improve the rest of your habits going forward for moving quickly through the daily email you experience by using these shortcut keys in your Gmail:

  • # – This is delete emails. As you move through your email, hit this key much. Most of your email is junk.
  • “s” – Star items you need to respond to, act on or review later but that would take too much time now. Then hit the next key:
  • “e” – This archives any of email and removes it from your inbox

Learn these three keys. Every email has to have one of these shortcuts applied. If you don’t it’s because you did not make an executive decision.

Let us know how it works for you.

Using Google+ For Support

Google+ is continually being explored for its many use cases. One of the less commented opportunities is to serve your customers with support. Every new customer or prospect can be added to a new circle called “Clients,” “Customers,” or “Support.”

You now have a specific area to share knowledge, best practices or anything you wish to support your customers with. There are numerous benefits for capturing your support content within the Google+ platform:

  • Social value. Content which points back to articles on your site can continue to drive both social and SEO value. They invite opportunities for +1’s.
  • Knowledge base. Email is a one-to-one, private conversation. You open up the conversation by broadcasting to a larger audience. Furthermore, the history can be searched and explored for past answers.
  • Tribe building. Your customers can be part of a select audience that receives special advice, insights or offers. It revolves around your content that you provide ongoing in a private circle. It is a forum with benefits.
  • Thought Leadership. Posting your content and sharing it with a select group continues to position your leadership. Share insights that help to benefit your customers – increase their health, grow their business or help them grow. It is a platform that allows you to provide value.
  • Interactivity. The dialogue around a problem can be expanded to benefit a group and commenting back and forth creates passion, clarity and resolution to challenges everyone is facing.

There are lots of different systems for building support or help desk systems. However, consider using Google+ and explore the use case. The platform itself has intrinsic leverage comparatively. It makes it easy to stay connected and to deliver ongoing service and loyalty for those that pay you for your products and services while getting real feedback quickly.

What do you think?

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.

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?


Salesforce And Google Docs

Storing data files in a Salesforce.com record makes it convenient for users to see relevant information related to Opportunities, Accounts, Cases or Contacts. This is also true for any custom data objects such as project records or job costing.

Within the Salesforce.com setup, there are integrations with Google Apps. File storage in Salesforce.com has limits. These should be monitored within your storage usage metrics. More storage can be purchased as needed when your limits are exceeded.

A good practice for driving further collaboration in the cloud is to adopt the Google Apps integration provided in Salesforce.com. Within your respective data objects, simply add the unique url of an existing Google Doc or create a new Google Doc, Spreadsheet, Presentation or file. This provides an associated link which your organizational users can access based on your document permissions. Document permissions are set within the respective Google Doc.

Here are some types of documents to consider associating with your Salesforce.com records:

  • Sales Contracts. Associate these with Opportunity records for tracking deals and proposals as well as accounting.
  • Invoices. You can store billing and payment information and associate these to Account records for tracking payments.
  • Resumes. If you are tracking potential hires, you can associate their resume, cover letters and any sample work inside their Contact records.
  • Graphical files. If you are working on projects with customers in Salesforce.com, upload their graphics as a pdf or native document and attach these as part of their project record.
  • Scorecards. If you have a business relationship where you want to track a customized metric for performance, associate the Google Spreadsheet to the Contact or Account record for easy accessibility for you and your team.

Teach your team the process of associating Google Docs and extend collaboration between these two powerful cloud computing platforms. The control, collaboration and accessibility will help your productivity as an organization as you move between data and files.

How can Google Docs serve your team?

Want a Salesforce strategy for your team, click here.

Google Spreadsheets As A Management Scorecard

Managing the performance of your team or partners can be challenging if the debates are around qualitative information. Yet, we often base our judgments on subjective criteria such as likability or appearance. This leads to ambiguity around success.

It can be difficult to get true metrics from a sophisticated database on sales performance, support responsiveness or customer satisfaction. One of the ways to keep control and transparency in a business relationship is to create a scorecard. This can be done between individuals or organizations as a way to measure success towards a mutual goal.

Google Spreadsheets is a great way to keep a management scorecard to measure and track metrics. We all know about the flexibility and power of creating spreadsheets based on the computations and data relationships custom for a situation. Thus, in Google Spreadsheets, your ability to create rows and columns of data makes for a way to record what counts in your business relationships. Here is what you can do to create better agreements and accountability:

  • Agree on what success means.  Whether it is a revenue number by a certain date, customer conversions or a response time, be sure that there is agreement between you and your customer, employee or partner. If they are not bought in, then there will not be a relationship between the desired actions and what you are tracking.
  • Create the template.  Lay out your Google Spreadsheet with columns and rows for where the data will go. Create areas for equations that summarize the information. Be sure to test the tool to ensure that everything works.
  • Use charts and graphs. Now integrate a chart or graph with the data to show progress and visual indicators of the data. This is powerful for communicating what is happening in a snapshot. Be sure that any goals are also reflected to show the gap between today and the goal.

After your spreadsheet is set up, share it out. It is secure in Google Apps and is now a place for private communications and accountability between you and any others that need to be on the same page.

Have regular meetings around the scorecard and data to review how to get to the goal. You may have multiple spreadsheets to manage your vital business relationships. It removes the ambiguity and focuses everyone on the facts.

What kind of scorecards would be valuable for your work?


Google Sites Blogging With Announcements Page

Within Google Sites, you can create a type of page which is called Announcements.  This is a powerful tool for helping to align your internal team or a select external team.  It is secure, private and integrated into your organization.

While public blogs can be accessible by everyone, a blog within your Google Site can be a way to nurture, inform and inspire a team.  A login is required by your team member for access.  Here is how some of our consulting clients have implemented strategies for business growth:

  • President’s Thoughts.  Leadership is key to business.  Aligning your team around your thoughts helps everyone get on board with vision and strategy from the top. Having your CEO or President share their thoughts on the business with transparency opens the dialogue. Comments can be left by readers for collaboration.
  • Product Blog. As projects around products are ongoing, the context and progress can be documented by a team sharing their wins and struggles.  This helps to keep everyone anticipating and in tune with what is happening for an impending launch. Post-launch content can shift to customer reactions and user requests for improvement.
  • Customer Stories. To help everyone in your organization see the context of a product or service, the various use cases can be documented and published as a separate blog. Various functions within your company can use this as a resource to improve how they serve the customer.
  • Teamwork Highlights. Creating heroes from your team is another way to drive recognition within your organization. Capturing the concrete accomplishments of various team members within a blog dedicated to your teamwork helps to reinforce positive behaviors and results.

Your Google Sites are part of a larger way of coordinating a growing organization. Using internal blogging is a form of leadership via a convenient and accessible communication channel. Consider how your company would benefit from getting on the same page.

What do you think?  Feel free to comment below.


Google Apps As Part Of Your Website

Google Apps is a powerful suite of web-based applications.  Unlike desktop applications, the documents are web pages.  Thus, they can become strategic in your way to market or service your customers via your organization’s website.

Typically, your website is controlled in a centralized fashion.  This makes change and driving real-time connection difficult.

However, you can partition how your website works from a design and functionality standpoint.  If your CSS is set up to keep a consistent look and feel, you can designate public navbar pages or private pages to contain embedded or linked Google Docs, Sites or Calendars.

Here are some ways to empower your team to update information using Google Apps with your website:

  1. Embed a public calendar of events. Whether you have seminars to promote or key dates for your company, you can have someone manage a Google Calendar from their Google Apps interface.  Embed this on a page and allow this to be bookmarked by your customers and fans.
  2. Sharing Google Spreadsheets. Take a Google Spreadsheet and have a team manage it via collaboration and sharing rules.  Publish this on a site where it is updated.  Keeping a count towards a financial donation goal with a real-time chart or a list of attendees for an upcoming event are a few ideas to use this for.
  3. Embedding Google Presentations. Make your sales presentation or marketing materials self-service and updated.  Your sales and marketing team can manage the content, look and feel of company presentations.  Your website can keep the most up to date copy available on a page.  Customers can access this easily.
  4. Sign up or registrations. These can be managed via the Forms function inside of Google Spreadsheets and embedded on a page on your site.  Your respective Google Spreadsheet will collect any incoming form information creating an easily managed database of registrants.
  5. Share white papers or case studies. Have a hidden page accessible from a form registration.  Allow the hidden page to provide a managed Google Doc with your white papers, case studies or ebooks.  As content is modified or added, it will be consumed as current by your website visitors.

Your website is your touchpoint with the world.  If there are barriers to changing the data, it becomes difficult to keep a fresh connection.  Structure your systems to take advantage of Google Apps intrinsic web platform.  It will allow your team to actively participate in serving your partners and customers.

What are some ways you could use Google Apps for your website?

Google Apps Productivity Trade-Offs

Google Apps has an immense impact on an organization’s ability to collaborate.  In our consulting work with clients, we see the impact of teams that are distributed and the ability for work to move quickly from concepts to action.  There is speed from the inherent search architecture as well as collaboration via Google Mail, Calendar, Docs and Sites.

The ability to manage your team from wherever they want to be located to get work done whether a different office location, coffee shop or their mobile device increases your overall efficiency.  Furthermore, the IT headaches are not present as with a traditional in-house server, VPN, human resource and file storage.  Cloud computing enables you to truly work as a distributed organization.

There are some other trade-offs which are worth mentioning.  They are more a function of process and culture than they are with the Google Apps system itself.

Here are some areas to consider defining process and policies around to ensure productivity is not compromised:

  • Set Google Chat status to avoid interruptions. Interruptions are a productivity killer.  Help your team change their status and respect others’ statuses when they are busy or focused.  Better yet, close out email while working on tasks that require longer periods of focus.  Set guidelines for guarding against interruptions.
  • Set meetings efficiently and decisively. Be sure to establish sharing policies for private or public events.  Then drive your team to set appointments with Google Calendar instead of emailing back and forth with each other or customers and vendors for an appropriate time.  The meeting description should establish the goal and timeframe concretely to avoid wasting time and focus.  For customer meetings, integrated solutions which work with your website can make the experience efficient and easy.
  • Keep your knowledge searchable. Your team’s collective knowledge means that team members have to ask others for answers so they can put together a solution that gets to the goal.  This happens all day during the process of knowledge work.  Taking the ambiguous pieces and delivering results requires cycles.  Minimize those cycles by making your team’s knowledge searchable and logged within a knowledge base system.  This keeps it centralized and accessible without interrupting people or regurgitating answers.
  • Iterate online. If a customer response needs a few people to collaborate, turn an email into a Google Doc and quickly share it with the relevant parties.  Thereafter, you can revise the content and tailor it with your team.  This avoids multiple copies and emails going back and forth.  It’s in one place with revision tracking.
  • Minimize mouse clicks. If you are a student of productivity, you are continually seeking ways to optimize your workflow as well as increase your execution and speed.  Keep finding short routes and minimize the number of mouse clicks with keyboard shortcuts or creative pathways to your solutions.

Being accessible with your team opens up a world of opportunity for collaboration.  However, if you are continually interrupted or spending cycles inefficiently going back and forth on otherwise mundane process, then these best practices infused into your culture will help to preserve productivity.

It will take leadership to shape your culture.  The rewards are a high level of productivity.  Getting things done is what creates excellence in our fast moving economy today.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to comment below.