Being Creative Means You Ship

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?


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?


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?


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 Sites For Analysis And Reporting

The beauty of Google Sites is that it is secure and collaborative.  That balance allows for opportunities to work and present your services in an experiential fashion with your customers.

One of the areas where Google Sites can work to provide a personal and customized branded experience for your customers is with proposals and reporting.  This format traditionally is sent in an email with a pdf or Microsoft Word format.  However, you can do more with a Google site in the way of presentation and working with your prospective customers.  Here is how you can set this up as a process and system for your team:

  • Customize a site.  Make a specific site for your customer.  Provide their branding, especially their logo, in the header information.  Use domain mapping to provide a unique and memorable subdomain to their site.
  • Record journal entries.  Use the Announcements type page on your site to record reverse chronological documentation of your engagement with a customer.  Insert graphical images and make each post a comment which invites collaboration.  They can leave a comment for each post.
  • Measure visits and responses.  Subscribe to any site changes to be notified of any comments to the content you post.  Also, use Google Analytics to measure your visitors, especially if several people are beneficiaries of the information.
  • Integrate Google Spreadsheets.  Anything which requires calculations and graphs should be done within a Google Spreadsheet.  Insert these as custom pages and allow the data to be navigated in the context of your presentation.
  • Provide checklists.  Checklists can help your customer see what you are going to do with the data.  Maintain a checklist of items of actions you will take to improve on the metrics.

Over time, your Google Site becomes a hub to track and interpret information on projects or systems you may be measuring.  It is valuable because it has your advice and interpretation of the data.  It is more than a sterile report from a system.

What are some ways you can use Google Sites to serve your customers using these strategies?  Feel free to comment.


Google Apps And Building A Virtual Organization

Google Apps allows you to grow an organization in the cloud.  Your team can work in a virtual manner apart from the IT headaches of traditional email, calendaring and document management systems.  This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and visionaries that understand how the new economy for talent works.

In our Google Apps consulting, we help businesses create the infrastructure and strategies for growth.  Here are some ways you can limit your overhead and drive growth with a virtual organization structure.

  • Recruit and try out new talent.  Set up their Google Apps user account and have prepared documents and access to your knowledge base in Google Sites.  If they work out, share more.  If they don’t then turn off their access.  It is simple to set up and restrict access.
  • Keep connected using Google Chat.  Ensure your Google chat is set up for each new user to connect with relevant people on the team.  It allows for questions to be asked spontaneously and quickly.  Furthermore, you can use video and voice to connect across the globe for meetings and getting to know new team members.  It is also an excellent way to monitor working patterns online.
  • Integrate Mobile devices.  Keep the inbox for new users as well as Chat and Calendar entries in real-time.  As your new team members are mobile, they can keep within reach for important messages.
  • Create an internal blog.  Using your Google Site, you can set up notifications around an internal blog.  Post articles which keep everyone on the same page and builds your culture.  Help communicate priorities and keep everyone on the same page wherever they are located.

Before Google Apps, it was difficult to integrate new team members into your organization.  Physical location was important.  Using the cloud computing platform Google Apps offers enables you to look beyond your four walls and work with talent wherever they may be.  Use these strategies to make collaboration easy around your brand.

Are you using Google Apps for a virtual organization?  How is it working?

Google Sites For Customer Collaboration

Google Sites is a ready-made environment for an intranet to store your knowledge base.  Anyone on your team can collaborate with others in a secure area around files, process, content and numerous other internal pieces of information that helps your team get things done.

There is also great opportunity to enhance your customer experience by using Google Sites to create a secure or public access site for your service delivery.  In our Google Apps consulting, we have implemented many different types of strategies and solutions.  Here are a few which can help you leverage Google Sites for increasing customer loyalty and revenue:

  1. Project management.  You can set up a Google Site with specific external user access to track items related to a project.  A checklist of outstanding action items, a blog for ongoing communications and a file storage area can all be pages within the site.  You can build individual pages as necessary.  Keep the design simple and easy so that everyone adopts the tool.  Your customer can set up notifications to see what work has been done.  Every project may require different combinations of pages depending on what you are delivering.  Customize the look and feel to create a rich experience for your customer.
  2. Reporting and dashboards.  If you are managing any type of metrics for your customers, you can create a Google Site which acts as a home base for ongoing reporting.  Use this to give your analysis.  Combine it with Google Spreadsheets as well.  This becomes a historical ledger for the value you created.  The collaboration can be a strong point of partnering with your customers.
  3. Requirements and scoping.  If you are engaged in defining a problem or bringing together multiple groups of people to explore an issue, then creating a securely accessed Google Site that shares your findings and thoughts consolidates the group’s thinking.  They can add their thoughts to a stream of messages and help build the picture you may be seeking to define.  This can work for consulting work or sales.
  4. Sharing private value.  You may have some marquis customers that you want to share value with over time.  Keeping your information consolidated and using Google Docs in conjunction with your Google Sites, you can design an extranet for special customers.  They can find special white papers in a file manager, executive briefs, analysis and special news content.  Think about how information can be consolidated and used to bring heightened and precise value to your specific customer or set of customers.

As you can see, Google Sites can be extended to collaborate with customers in a way that increases your value perception.  By building secure access sites that are custom designed, it shows great care and design.  The value of this asset can grow between you and your specific customer or exclusive audiences.

What do you think of using such strategies for your customers?

Growing Your Business With Google Apps

If you have more than one person and have customers, then growing your business with Google Apps is one of the most strategic systems you can use.  It is a cloud-based software system which allows you to interact with your team wherever they are in the world instantly.  Google Apps also allows you to provide real-time interaction with your customers to provide a high level of service to them.

If you are getting started, here are some strategies to allow your business to grow with Google Apps:

  1. Hire anywhere and everywhere.  Free yourself from geography.  Look for talent where it is found and trust your system to help you manage the projects and communications of your business.  Setting up a new person is secure and takes minutes to do.  It is not like the old days of having an IT setup of a computer with image software for someone far off and ensuring their VPN is connected.  Today, you can set up a username and let them be part of your team.
  2. Use Google Sites for a powerful intranet.  Your knowledge base and knowledge sharing should be captured in Google Sites.  Without a username, others are not able to access your information.  Store what is important, accessible and searchable for your team.  Anticipate that people will come and go.  However, your data and processes should be in one place.  If you ever sell your company, it is a valuable asset which allows you to extend your business and grow it continually.
  3. Connect everyone on Google Chat.  Part of each user’s setup should be their Google Chat within their Gmail setup as well as on their mobile devices.  Regardless of where people are located, they can connect instantly for answers.  Set rules for avoiding interruption by changing user statuses.  You can see when your team is online and get access to the people you need quickly.
  4. Share Google Docs.  Drive collaboration by using Google Docs to share and work on documents, spreadsheets and presentations together.  This will drive a culture where everyone works together.  Furthermore, knowledge sharing will be promoted by allowing access to documents online.  Salespeople can use past presentations and gain access to tools.  Support staff can find answers and resources to solve customer problems.  Make strategic use of how your documents are accessed.

There are many other strategies to help you grow your business with this vital asset.  You can continue discovering and stretching the capabilities of Google Apps as you grow your team.  You have agility and ease-of-use built into the way the system works.  Collaboration and productivity without obstacles is the key focus.


How are you using Google Apps to grow your business?

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.


Are You In The Email Business?

Managing a server for your email puts you in the email business.  You have to update, maintain and support any and all issues.  If you have headcount dedicated to this most basic of business functions, then the overhead and cost you are absorbing for no better reason than comfort may need to be reevaluated.

Cloud computing affords your business the opportunity to outsource technologies which quickly obsolesce.  Email should not be a focus of your business.  It should just work and help you to move fast.

Every day, you have hundreds of emails to get through.  You want to connect with your team and be able to access past information quickly.  Having this kind of access, convenience and speed should be inherent in your email.

Being in the email business is a drag on your business.  Having to set procedures for setting up new employees with multiple steps and software is cumbersome.  Google Apps allows you to build your business quickly and work remotely with a workforce distributed across the country or globe.  The hassles of software on both a server and desktop level are gone.

At the end of the day, our work as knowledge workers is email.  However, our business need not be.  Our business should be about getting things done and focusing on more important matters.  Being stuck in old ways can mean lost opportunity, productivity and cost for your business.

What would a cloud computing strategy do for your business?