Infographic: What’s the Secret to Being a Successful Project Manager?

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Project Managers are responsible for performing streamlined juggling acts. In addition to successfully meeting goals and objectives, Project Managers must also find a balance between a client’s needs and a team’s capabilities. What traits must a project manager possess to play the juggling act to perfection?

In a past Facebook poll, we asked you what makes a successful project manager. Below, is a visualization of the responses we’ve received. Share your thoughts with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page.

Clear the clog: Get your project flowing again with quick decisions

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This is a guest post by Shabana Shiliwala, who owns The Financial Sort, a financial planning company based in Austin, Texas.

Is your project not flowing smoothly? If you’re plagued with missed deadlines, overspending or incomplete tasks, it’s time to find out what’s clogging the pipes. A clue is that these blunders are often related to each other. For example, when overlooked tasks are discovered, going into emergency mode to complete them can require employees to work overtime, which pushes the project over budget. So if these problems are related, there must be a single culprit behind them. The usual suspect? Decisions aren’t being made efficiently. Find out what’s preventing the right people from making the decisions that will get your project flowing again.

Meetings. Think about how long it takes to organize a meeting, maneuver schedules so that all the major players can attend, keep it focused and obtain a consensus by the time it’s finished. Don’t forget the likelihood that more meetings will be required. When too many decisions are dependent on meetings, it’s no wonder your project is being held up. Keep the meetings at a minimum.

Approval channels. Decisions that can only be made after being approved by several levels of management can significantly slow down a project. All that time when staff are making presentations and waiting for approval to accomplish tasks is time they aren’t spending working on the project. Why does management need to be involved in every decision? The staff who are working on the project every day know best what needs to be done, so give them the freedom to fix minor problems and pivot the direction of the project when they think it’s necessary, leaving only major decisions to be reviewed by management.

Large groups. The theory behind juries is that when more people are involved in making a decision, it will lead to better decisions. Watch any legal drama television show and you’ll see that the drawback is how long it takes to get through everyone’s opinions and objections to come to an agreement. In your project, you have to maximize every minute, so get the results you want by limiting specific decisions to only those who are most qualified to make them. For example, leave the user experience decisions to the user experience designers instead of the entire software development group. A smaller team can be more agile in making decisions, allowing the project to move forward faster.

Bring your project back on time, on budget and on task by asking yourself who, what, when, where and how are decisions being made. Providing people the flexibility to make quick decisions may be just what you need to clear up that clog in your project.

Zoho Projects 4.0 Preview Is Here: New, Easier and Faster

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It’s been over a year since we started working on the new version of Zoho Projects and are very excited about it. We believe the new Projects 4.0 is the best version our customers have ever experienced.

We recently opened this new version in preview mode for a few of our customers and we are thrilled to share some of the things they had to say about it so far:

When developing Zoho Projects 4.0, we had 3 clear goals in mind:

  • Fastest Tool. All in One Page. 

    Your projects move fast. Zoho Projects moves faster. It loads in a flash, giving you a complete view of events as they happen.

  • See What’s Ahead Feeds keeps your finger on the pulse of every project. Plan for upcoming events/tasks, be alerted to missed deliverable, view critical requests and more.
  • Helps to do things you do everydayWant to know what your fellow team members are doing (or not)? Our new Follow feature lets you track individual progress and to-do’s—so you can effectively manage work.

Today we’re opening the  Zoho Project 4.0 Preview version to everyone. Please give it a try and let us know what you think, via this short survey, by email at support@zohoprojects.com or via Twitter at @zoho using #ZP4.

Remember, this is still in preview mode while we iron out the kinks. You can continue using the current version right now. We’re going to closely monitor usage and feedback – we’ll let you know when the new version becomes permanent.

Delegating Tasks and Managing the Flow

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This is a guest post by Sandra Faleris of SmBizWinningTips. 

How does your business get from A to Z on projects, expansion efforts, and on-going tasks? After they are complete, what’s your method for tracking, reporting and reviewing? Managing tasks and work flow helps your employees, and the business, achieve goals and accomplish projects in a gratifying and efficient manner. There are positive side effects to becoming and staying organized.

It is one thing to delegate and quite another to ensure project responsibility and accountability.

Effective task management includes all aspects of a task that are important to track, such as its daily or weekly status, time spent, steps required to finish the task (internally or externally) and more.

5 primary groups of activities that can be tracked in nearly any business:

  1. Functional: These activities include everything that pertains to sales, employees, quality control, and customer delivery and satisfaction. Anything that moves the product or service from inception to completion would fall under the category of “functional”.
  2. Creative:  Brainstorming, marketing, displays, business development, diversification.
  3. Service:  Quality control, returns/refunds, special customers, unhappy customers, Mystery Shopping Programs, surveys, customer rewards programs.
  4. Project:  Special projects outside of day-to-day operations would be in this category. Planning, cost-accounting, research, testing.
  5. Performance: Performance of your staff, products and services.

Using the help of online applications or software options can offer easy management solutions for moving tasks and projects through the pipeline quickly and effectively.

Do you need a project-tracking tool?

Go through this checklist to get a better idea if a project/task management online application would help you and your business. After all, in a small business, the more automated you are, the more time your employees have to effectively work on the projects and tasks. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you visually track projects and tasks? Or are you still using the verbal follow-up method?
  2. How often do projects get completed on time?
  3. Does everyone in the company understand their role in all projects and tasks?
  4. Are incremental steps given to help projects move forward more easily?
  5. Does overall blame happen when something isn’t accomplished because no one was originally assigned to the project?
  6. Do you feel on top of forward movement in every department, every day?
  7. Is your growth managed and broken down into projects and tasks that can be tracked?
  8. Are employees rewarded for accomplishing tasks on-time and on-budget?
  9. Do you consider everyone and everything an extension of you? For example, if you are the CPA, Attorney or other service professional and you have a support staff, do you give short and long term projects and goals? Or is everyone ready and waiting each day for instructions?
  10. Do you have a vision that is on paper, or just in your head?

If you answered “No” to more than two questions, an online project management tool is highly recommended.

Task management tools and software are available in many different formats and pricing options. Depending on your industry and business-use, it’s recommended to select the application best suited to your needs.

After implementing a new system, it will surprise everyone how quickly projects get successfully completed. It is gratifying to experience project completion, particularly when it helps propel the company forward. 

Using Zoho to Teach Students Project Management

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“Ahem, class, are you paying attention? Your first assignment is to find a project management tool that’s easy to use, friendly, and can work well with a CRM application.”

Believe it or not, that was the first assignment Robert Braathe of Braathe Enterprises gave to his students. Braathe runs a virtual internship program that gives college students real experience. And teaching project management is critical for operating in the real world, said Braathe.

“If you don’t have a project management tool in place, you’ll just throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall,” Braathe said. “With a project management tool you can keep things on track and do more things at once.”

At the Small Business Expo in New York, I spoke with Braathe about why he and his students chose Zoho. He said that Zoho met their comfort level. It was user friendly and most similar to Google Apps. But they also liked Zoho because they were looking for a CRM tool as well. In their search they discovered other CRM applications, but they were either very clunky or really expensive. With Zoho, Braathe and his students liked the interactivity with other applications, the ability of multiple people to sign on, and the ability to just scale it up as they need it.

Top 4 Start-up Fears and How to Conquer Them

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This is a guest post by Lindsay Holloway, writer and editor of small business trends and technology. To read more from Lindsay, check out her articles on The Examiner.

Whether you’re building the next iPod or launching a new social network, one of the biggest steps in getting started is facing the fears that most entrepreneurs deal with. To get an idea of what fears they face, we polled a handful of hardworking entrepreneurs, who despite any fears and looming “what ifs” managed to make it through and build their small businesses. More importantly, we asked them how they conquered those fears.

  1. Finances: From start-up capital to monthly budgets, managing money – whether you have it or not – can make anyone’s head spin. “They’re afraid of budgeting and cash-flow projections; they’re afraid of reading their financial reports and all that financial voodoo,” says Chellie Campbell, author and instructor of an eight-week financial strategies course. But don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by the numbers, because managing your business’s finances is probably one of the easier fears to conquer. Courses like Campbell’s, books and online programs can be a big help. If you have the funds, hire a bookkeeper or assistant.
  2. Time: Whether you’re afraid of having to dedicate all of your time to your business, not having enough time for your family or needing more time in the day, time isn’t always going to be on your side. Though it’s common for business owners to wear many hats, there are companies, people, software and web tools that can take some of the load off. “Be willing to let go and not micromanage everything,” says Kristopher Jones, CEO of Pepperjam, a full-service Internet marketing agency. “And hire people that complement [your] weaknesses.” It’s also important to set boundaries. Dedicate specific work hours and spaces. If you work from home, make sure your office is separate from your living space. Being able to close up “shop” at the end of the day makes a huge difference.
  3. Customer adoption: Your product, service or business idea must have stemmed from an unmet need or unfulfilled market that you discovered, right? So you just need to confirm the need is really there and that it can sustain a business. Do this through research, study groups, polling peers and evaluating other companies in the space. “It’s always possible that customers won’t react to your value proposition the way you anticipate,” says Romney Evans, co-founder and CEO of online jean retailer TrueJeans.com. “But improve your chances by listening to your customers and potential customers. They know what they want and need.”
  4. Failure: The granddaddy of entrepreneurial fears is failure. It’s also the reason many ideas never make it off the ground. Starting a business is risky, time-consuming and lots of work; these reasons contribute to the 50 percent of small businesses that fail within the first five years. But know that you’re not in it alone. “Faith in yourself and the support of others play huge factors in moving forward,” says Ken Wisnefski, founder and CEO of WebiMax.com. “Success is not guaranteed, regardless of the most tedious planning. But connecting with people who have been through it can be positive and helpful.” And don’t forget to acknowledge accomplishments. “Celebrate the small successes,” says Drew Stevens, business author, speaker and consultant. “Small wins count more than the largest. Small wins stroke the ego and keep the focus on the present.”

4 Simple Steps to Getting Organized

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This is a guest post by Lindsay Holloway, writer and editor of small business trends and technology. To read more from Lindsay, check out her articles on The Examiner

You may have missed National Get Organized Month in January or perhaps didn’t quite finish spring cleaning, but it’s never too late to get your home office or home-based business organized. And since we’re halfway into 2012, now is a great time to reorganize and cross a few items off your summer checklist.

Fortunately you don’t have to do it alone. You don’t have to ditch your cluttered filing “system” cold turkey. You don’t have to learn a new complex spreadsheet program. And you don’t have to hand over your paycheck to an assistant or professional organizer. There are myriad resources, tools and experts out there to help you, and we’ve put together four essential tips for getting your office or business organized this year:

1. Take control of your inbox. Small-business resource SCORE suggests creating e-mail folders to organize your messages. We all know what it’s like to have an inbox overflowing with both old and unread messages, so get ahold of the message madness from the get-go. Create working folders that make sense for your business, whether they’re based on urgency, task, contact group or department.

2. Stop clutter before it starts. To battle clutter, you must have systems and routines for dealing with it, says certified professional organizer Lorie Marrero. Aside from avoiding situations where “clutter cravings” can arise, she stresses the importance of dealing with things as they come and not letting clutter like mail, bills or filing stack up until it becomes a problem or wieldy task. For example, when you get the mail, immediately discard the junk mail; then organize and open the remaining pieces by importance.

3. Leverage free productivity tools. There’s an app for everything, right? Whether it’s on your smartphone, notebook or in the cloud, there are endless tools available to help you organize your schedule, documents, projects and more. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to mentally coordinate your daily tasks and appointments, so at times it’s necessary to let technology do the work for you. There are various calendar and scheduling apps, tools for conducting and tracking surveys, and project collaboration and management apps available.

​4. Organize your files and documents. While it may be essential to have physical copies of some documents, others are better made digital and others still could really be thrown out (safely, of course). And for these steps, there are convenient home-office and small-business gadgets. Consider a Xerox DocuMate scanner for taking those paper forms into the digital realm, or the handy yet robust Swingline Stack-and-Shred line of shredders for proper disposal of those dinosaur-aged files you’ve been too scared to throw away.

An organized space – and workflow – is necessary for maximum efficiency and productivity in the modern workplace. When work piles up, things get messy! So keep the above tips in mind this summer as you clean up your space and keep your productivity going. Happy working!