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The digital space is constantly evolving. Today’s new invention can be tomorrow’s newest fad and can quickly transition into next week’s old news. In an effort to remain innovative, thoughtful, and creative with our solutions both internally and externally, we love to tap into some of the members on our team who always find the time to become early adopters.
Here are a few benefits of having early adopters on your project team.
As we navigate through the day-to-day of client and internal projects here at Local Wisdom one element reigns supreme, without our tools we would be at a loss. In this three part series I will share 3 tools that keep us cranking like a well oiled machine.
Harvest is a cloud based time tracking application that is super fast and really easy to use. Learning the system and ensuring that it was the right fit for our organization took about a month. I myself was juggling holidays, and the arrival of my second baby. I had some of my interns signup and stress test the tool. The Harvest interface is extremely intuitive which allowed for deployment and company wide adoption of about 2 weeks. All my employees were up and running and were able to successfully track and submit their time and run / export reports with minimal stress points.
The tool is itself is lightweight and offers a desktop time tracking widget, an android and iOS mobile app and a desktop site that my team can login and access at anytime. My client partners and lead curators love the tool because the workflow allows for them to approve submitted hours (empowerment).
My favorite parts of the application are the reports and dashboards. At a glance I can see how all of the projects are fairing in the shop. Instantly I can see what projects are at or over-budget, via the Project Budget Report. And with a click I can dig deeper and view that project’s staff and tasks breakdown dashboards.
Adding deleting and archiving clients, projects, and people is a breeze. You can do a bulk upload via .csv file or create a new via the interface.
A project can be billable or non billable. When a project is billable you have the option to generate invoices based on: task hourly rate, a person’s hourly rate, a project’s hours rate, or to not apply an hourly rate.
A project can have a budget or not have a budget. When a project has a budget, you can display the data by total project hours, total project fees, hours per task, and hours per person. You can also have the system send email alerts when a project reaches a % value (set by the user) of that budget.
How you configure your projects will dictate the data that you will see in your dashboard.
There are three user types:
Another important aspect of the tool that sold me was the pricing.
Honestly, I could write so much more about Harvest but I will stop here. If you are looking for strictly a time tracking tool I would recommend Harvest. Try it for yourself via their 30 day trial. When I did I it I found their customer support team to be really helpful.
In part 2 and 3 we will look at our issue tracking system and timeline creation tool.
I sometimes find myself over complicating project situations from time to time. I have also worked with colleagues and clients who notoriously do the same. I came across an article that speaks to this very topic. The article sites an example of what occurs when one over-complicates a situation and also outlines ways to keep things simple without needing to sacrifice planning for timelines.
Here are the Cliff Notes:
Why People Overcomplicate Matters
How to Prevent Over-complicating Matters
You can read the full article here: http://www.projectmanager.com/dont-overcomplicate.php
Conducting company meetings can be costly and eat up valuable time, which is why it’s important to make sure they are as productive as possible. Check out the meeting cost calculator that Mike found a few months ago. Here at Local Wisdom, we try to keep our meetings efficient and enjoyable. There are a few things we do before, during and after the meeting to make sure that we accomplish our goals. We’ve outlined some guidelines below to help you.
First of all, it’s important to have fun throughout the day. Creativity emerges when people in the room are enjoying themselves and engaging in conversation, so it’s important to laugh often.
Every meeting should have a facilitator who enforces the ground rules and keeps everything running smoothly. The leader is responsible for creating the schedule and agenda. Overall, it is this person’s job to focus all of the people in the room so that they are able to stay on task and move forward.
Who to Invite
Be careful about who you invite and always make sure to do your homework first. Those who are involved with the projects that are going to be discussed should definitely be invited. However, it might be beneficial to also include people who can provide input on the topic or gain knowledge about what is being discussed.
Provide as much advanced notice as possible. When meetings are planned ahead of time it is more likely that people will have clear calendars and be able to attend. Scheduling a meeting early also gives you a deadline to have certain work completed before the start of the meeting. Waiting until work is completed before scheduling the meeting can cause delays and missed opportunities.
Set up recurring meetings if you find you need to talk about the same topics or projects with the same group. For example, we began scheduling “scrum” times for reviewing work and answering questions. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning we meet to review architecture and design at a standing time. We no longer have to juggle times and locations for meetings and reviews. It may take a week or two to get this rolling but everyone’s schedule will eventually adjust around it.
State the Objective and Agenda
Whether the meeting is scheduled or standing, it’s important to state the objectives and agenda to ensure everyone is on the same page from the start. The objective should define what should be accomplished by the end of the meeting. The agenda could include a list of topics, activities, or discussions that will help us to achieve our meeting objectives. The goals and agenda should also be written somewhere for everyone to see. We keep a standard area of the whiteboard dedicated to writing these out. Following an agenda will help keep the meeting organized and productive.
Once the objectives and agenda are reiterated, introduce everyone in the room quickly and explain why they’re there. Sometimes not everyone is required to be there the whole time, especially during reoccurring meetings. As certain topics become irrelevant to people, they should be free to go if they wish.
It’s not uncommon for discussions to go into tangents. Identifying topics that are not specifically aimed at key points, but may be important later, are called our parking lot items. We take note of these topics and come back to them at a later time or maybe even a different meeting. This approach keeps the focus on the topic at hand and helps us achieve our meeting objectives.
Convergent and Divergent Thinking
Use convergent and divergent thinking in order to stay organized during ideation meetings. Convergent thinking encourages participants to think out loud and speak their ideas without any parameters. Ideas, good, bad, or irrelevant, are all accepted. Divergent thinking brings everything together and identifies which ideas are pertinent and can be made actionable. Splitting the two ways of thinking provides time for imagination while keeping a realistic mindset.
Who’s Doing What and When
At the end of the meeting, review who is doing what and by when. Make sure everyone is clear on what they should be doing next. Give people time to ask questions and get clarity. A follow up email of the meeting minutes should be sent to the attendees.
Following these guidelines has helped Local Wisdom stay efficient while not being stuffy and boring. There are hundreds of other meeting tips and tricks, what are some ways that your company conducts effective meetings and how have they been beneficial?
It’s not uncommon for people working in the IT industry, or any area for that matter, to want to hold onto something that sets them apart from their colleagues. There will always be Information Technology professionals who prefer to keep their knowledge to themselves. With the job market what it is today, it’s likely that those who are intentionally hoarding information do so because they believe it keeps them from becoming expendable and secures their position within the company. Although there are pros and cons to hoarding information, most would agree that sharing information with colleagues is beneficial to the growth and value of both a company and an individual.
There are a couple of reasons why a person would feel like they need to hold onto information that only they know. One of the main reasons is because they feel insecure. The employee might feel uncertain about the quality of their work or their job security so they feel it is important to hold onto a personal skill that they possess in order to remain competitive in the company. Others may just feel the need to hide information from their peers in order to feed their own egos. On one extreme side of hoarding you make yourself important because you are the bottleneck. People always have to go through you as a gateway because you are the gatekeeper. Everything is very tightly controlled by that person.
While there are few cases where hoarding information helps the individual, most of the time this type of behavior actually lessens their value. When encountering a situation where a colleague is unwilling to share, co-workers often find ways around them because it is apparent that they are not really a team player. Also, by sharing your knowledge you put people in the position to support you as you move up in the company. Without learning from or sharing with your peers there is little room for growth and improvement. As a result, a hoarder might become stuck in the same position for a long time.
Now that the disadvantages have been discussed it is important to know the some of the reasons why a collaborative work environment is beneficial to a company and an individual.
Let’s say the person didn’t show tell-tale signs they’re a hoarder. There are a couple of ways to approach this situation if hoarding becomes a problem within a company.
Local Wisdom incorporates the sharing of knowledge among the team into our corporate structure. We emphasize the importance, advantages, and benefits of sharing on both the company and each person’s career. So, if everyone seems to benefit from working in a collaborative environment, why does hoarding information remain a problem in some companies? Have you experienced working with a person who is reluctant or refuses to share information? How was your situation handled? We’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
Would you like to know how much your meetings cost? If you know the number of attendees and the average rate per person, this meeting ticker could help you track the cost. You’d be surprised how expensive meetings get!
Source site: http://tobytripp.github.com/meeting-ticker/
The digital industry is characterized by teamwork and in any achievement driven projects there will be conflict, obstacles and bad news. This is a simple but effective philosophy that we utilize at Local Wisdom for communicating both internally amongst the team and with clients or outside partners to make certain that we are always as productive and collaborative as possible.
1. Be Matter of Fact
In achieving any group objective there is information that needs to be passed from team member to team member. Speaking factually, directly and self-contained will make sure that the information is delivered correctly and efficiently. For example if a client wishes to move a project’s timeline up to a point where it becomes unrealistic, simply state fact and deliver the message.
“Unfortunately, we are not able to deliver within our level of quality in this timeframe…”
2. Maintain a Positive Attitude
Like I said, there is bad news in any collaborative effort. Communicating bad information in a positive manner will maintain the morale of the project and move past the problem. Likewise, appreciate successes and react to them positively, as deserved. In the timeline example, maintain a positive outlook during discussions of a new deadline so that the conversation remains pleasant and therefore constructive.
“…I do understand your needs and we can accommodate some of them…”
3. Always Move Forward Towards a Consensus or Objective
When there is conflict do not break down the collaborative structure. Maintain a collective attitude and always continue to move forward through the problem to the goal. To do this it is important to always be prepared when encountering a conversation. Before talking be sure to have thought out the options and contingencies that are possible. When approaching the client with the news of the deadline difficulties do not simply say that you cannot meet it, give option. Perhaps suggest proceeding with the project in phases or compromising a new timeline. Focus on forward thinking.
“… We can deliver X & Y deliverable within the timeframe or can we leave the timeframe as it previously was?”
With these three points in mind it is additionally important to create a common language and culture among the team and company. This language is important both for internal communications and when talking to clients and/or partners. Creating a common culture will empower the team both on an individual basis and as a whole as it gives its members a feeling of being part of a bigger picture.
By the way, the philosophy can be used in email and digital communications, but it works best in face-to-face or phone conversations. When dealing with difficult situations, you want to keep it personal and human and that is not achieved well through digital communication.
All of this sounds like common sense, but you’ll be surprised how in the heat of conversations things can spiral in the wrong direction. Keep this in mind and keep the morale of the project as high as possible and make sure you stay productive and successful.
It’s time for our family to grow.
2010 has been a great year for Local Wisdom, and 2011 is looking even better.
We are on the lookout for talented, fun and dependable Internet-folk in Central New Jersey to join the Local Wisdom team.
We are seeking freelances (and if all goes well, eventual fulltimers):
If you, or anyone you know is looking for work in interactive design, development, or project management, please get in touch with us at email@example.com.
The Times of UK just posted an article that talks about how we can’t work properly amid a barrage of emails, texts and tweets.
We need to clear our minds and focus on what matters, but it’s a tough job when we are bombarded with 34 gigabytes of information a day. That’s about 8 to 9 full length movies.
Being a business owner doesn’t help there are so many tasks, decisions, distractions, priorities, procedues, and interactions that we must mentally manage. It feels like balancing a bunch of spinning plates.
Here are some of the habits that I do to help manage my mental:
I try to hit the gym before work. In the book Brain Rules, John Medina talks about how our brains developed while our bodies were in a constant state of movement. Our ancestors used to hike an average of 12 miles a day.
The brain becomes retroactive after 20 minutes of focus. Take a break by getting up and walking around. Not by watching TV or browsing the Internet.
Give attention to people
Q: What’s more important than your laptop? A: The people you work with. We are inturrpted by co-workers quite often. It’s easy to passively interact with them continuing to work on the computer. Instead ask for a moment, get to a good place with what you were doing, then turn and talk to your co-worker.
More pencil and paper
Computer programs can help you with more than it really can. The truth is that the best way to be creative is with a paper and pencil. Those two simple tools are not bound by the rules of a program. Is I don’t use a computer to take notes, outline presentations, or brainstorm mindmapping.
Talk through things
Again bringing focus to people over computers: I’ll start an email, stop halfway, then either pick up the phone or walk over to someones desk to simply talk to them. I reserve emails for precursor conversations, simple questions and answers, scheduling time, and sharing files.
Check out the original article: Have we forgotten how to concentrate?
Thanks you Steve Rubel for the link.
If you have more tips for us/me that you use in your work/mental balance post a comment.
Microsoft Office 2010 is going to come out soon. You can download the beta here. One of the biggest features new in Word, PowerPoint, and Excel is co-authoring.
Co-authoring will allow people to share, edit, and collaborate on documents in real time. Yes, its like Google Docs but from your desktop. I was first fascinated by the concept when I learned about the operating system for the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) computers. The OLPC laptops allows children to work individually (home), within a selected number of people (groups), or publicly (neighborhood). The entire OS is build from a collaboration stand point allowing children to share anything they do on a computer with people around them. This is very similar to the way we work everyday in the office.
We’ve found ourselves in a situation a few times where we are brainstorming in the same room within the same shared Google Spreadsheet. Similar to how we would post stickies on the white board we posted words in cells. This made the act of documenting and organizing ideas very easy.
So, Microsoft 2010 seeks to take us a step further in that direction. Its not fully where I’d like it to be. To fully utilize the co-authoring system Microsoft says in a footnote:
“Instant messaging and presence requires one of the following: Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 R2 with Microsoft Office Communicator 2007 R2; Windows Live Messenger, or another instant messaging application that supports IMessenger. Voice calls require Office Communications Server 2007 R2 with Office Communicator 2007 R2 or an instant messaging application that supports IMessengerAdvanced.”
I’m still interested to see how this pans out, but the real solution will be on the operating system level.