Abacus Concepts is a specialized database and data analysis consulting company with over 15 years of database management practice offering various database administration services. Our strength comes from having experienced database engineers on location in two continents and with our clients located in US and India. Our offshore team is located in two cities in India and we also have a team in US. So we provide services around the clock.
We started our company in New Jersey in1997. In 2006, we opened an office in India and eventually moved most of the technical team to India. Our clients, though, are still primarily in New York and New Jersey, with some in Boston and Virginia as well. We work with our partners in Europe whose products we market, sell and maintain in South Asia and South-East Asia. With such scattered nature of our operations we needed an online project management tool to support the global nature of our company and clientele and the resulting time zone gaps
We tried Basecamp, but it’s not quite mature enough. We also tried using our clients project management tools. Some clients use JIRA, for instance, which does a great job of tracking requests and bugs but not powerful enough to cover the whole gamut of project management. And any tool that relies on email to coordinate requests is just hard to manage. Emails get lost. People don’t know how to keep track of them. We’ve also tried using Microsoft OneNote and Excel to keep track of the work, but it’s not the most efficient way.
And we used Microsoft Project, but it fell short for us. One, other people are not aware of the project progress unless you publish it online. We don’t have the means to do that. So I’d send copies, PDF versions to people through email. If I made a small change, I had to email an updated PDF. In a distributed environment like we have – a dozen people in the U.S., a dozen people in India, five or six people in Europe, and me traveling – Microsoft Project is not a good tool.
Today, we use Zoho Projects extensively, almost as much as we use email. We track a dozen client projects in addition to departmental activity outside of our development team. We not only use Zoho Projects for our income generating projects with our clients but also to run our company. We created projects for our company administration, finance, marketing, HR, etc. This way we are able to create milestones (long term goals) and tasks and assign them to appropriate individuals and track their progress.
For example, say I’m in France and I want to tell my administrative team in India to generate time sheets and put them on the website. If I send an email, it would go to their email box and sit there. It might be read. It might get lost in junk. Regardless, the team has no means to organize the tasks. But I now go into Zoho Projects, to the project called “company administration,” and we have a task and milestone for timesheets. So I can write down my request, update it, see a history of the communication between myself and the team, etc. There’s structure, clarity, accountability. It’s fantastic. I’ve even given people outside the company – our accountant and bookkeeper, for instance – access to the Zoho Projects, so they log in and work on their related tasks.
We probably spend 80 percent of our time on tasks and milestones. Timesheets is another great feature because it lets me track who’s doing what, wherever I am in the world. And Zoho Projects is tightly coupled with Google Apps, and that helps us a lot. It means we don’t have to maintain documents in both locations. We put documents in Google Apps, and we can see them in Zoho. And the moment we define the dates for a task, it shows up in Google calendars of the people assigned to the task.
With regard to the clients, we give access to Zoho Projects to give them a window into the daily work our team is doing on their project. In fact, some clients want to do more than watch. Some want to start assigning tasks themselves, so we give them access to do that. And for clients that want to take a more engaged, active role in a project, their participation in Zoho Projects actually relieves a lot of our management burden.