Are you getting value for money?
Going through some perceived options to fit-in-budget
If you are using free software and it is doing you good, then you’ll perhaps not consider going for a paid option. Therefore, this piece is not for you unless you are in a contemplating state of mind.
Free v/s paid tools
Most of the email systems provide room for managing documents, converting e-mails into tasks, schedule tasks into calendar, set reminders, share documents, chat to communicate, address book and some other basic office management tool. Having said that, you still may not be getting what you really want: a need for collaborative software to manage multiple clients and projects on the go.
If you have distinctive problem areas at work, you need a set of features that give you relief from them and benefit you in terms of greater productivity.
How to harness the best from your resources is only a question best answered when you are using automated solutions that keep you and team in check of the various activities going on. So let’s get to pricing that is an important decision making factor for deploying an automated collaborative solution or software.
Usually, you will find 3-4 kind of pricing models available for any online software solution. Starting with FREE, then Basic, Enterprise and lastly, the customizable option for large user base to fit to all kind of audience.
Second, function to cost is storage space which again is keeping in mind that the software is running on cloud or third party servers or vendor servers.
If they are standalone software for project management or task management, then pricing could be basis number of projects or tasks allowed.
Some price plans have differential user base and others have differential storage base; or number of projects or tasks, that make it confusing at times to compare options.
I feel one should choose a software that fits in budget and fulfills need without getting into any comparisons much. There are so many other factors that play equally important role in decision making as price but somehow not really seen in the larger context.
Pricing could be anywhere starting from Rs. 200 a month to as high as 10, 000 a month. Be prepared to pay approximately Rs. 150 per user per month (minimum) for online management software that’s indeed a value add.
This figure can go up basis more additions in features, customization etc. but from a larger perspective it should not hurt your pocket much cause the change it will bring will be immense and save you from a whole lot of troubles.
This is what you pay for a burger these days, so it’s not bad at all.
Mid-sized to large organizations do have some kind of an intranet service offering basic utilities. Smaller organisations rely on free tools a lot. In the short run, they are both fine but in the long run; if you are the leader with a vision you will not go with these but adapt something that is more need based and specific to your interest. Considering, the price is not sky high, it is important to budget for it now than later. The more time you take now, means more difficulty you may have when your team size grows bigger. Changing mindset, moving all data into the online system and mapping team online will be some challenges on the way if you procrastinate.
Get on board, not when you are ready but getting prepared to be ready.
Features are many, getting the ones that matter to you
Stand-alone or collaborative solutions
Usually, you will choose to go for a stand-alone solution for a particular reason to do a particular job. Say, to manage projects you opt for project management software; likewise, to manage tasks or to-do list it is natural to go for a task management solution and so on. These solutions are easily available, online and quite proficient. However, collaborative online solutions are also available that do much more that stand alone solutions, at the same price. It sounds like a bonus; and when you are getting more features for around the same price, seemingly you will opt for the latter. That is, online collaborative tools or softwares.
- Company Intranet
- Communication management
- Project Collaboration
- Idea Management
- Task Management
- Document Management
- Social CRM
- Event Management
- Contact management
Among the online collaborative softwares, there is a large variety at different costs with different feature set. That’s, when you need to think, and get value for money. Features are many; getting the ones that matter to you is important.
How to start selecting or eliminating?
Let’s look at all the feature in one go, and split them into important, less important and good to have. What you see listed here in categories is something that can vary somewhat from organization to organisation:
- Access, interact, and update from anywhere
- Fast and easy to use
- E-mail integration
- 24/7 email Support
- SSL encryption for all communication
- Backup & Export All Network Data - One Time or Recurring
- Upgrade from hosted model on on-premise model and vice-versa
- Activate/Suspend/Delete Users
- Manage Groups & Projects
- Task Management
- Map projects, tasks, events, and notes
- Create, Edit, Delete and Duplicate Tasks
- Break tasks into sub-tasks, or group into projects
- You can group tasks into lists
- Track each task with project, description, due date, priority, and time estimates
- Track Task History
- Easy Task delegation
- Scheduled tasks in a calendar
- Manage tasks quickly and easily
- Attach Files to a Task
- Set one-time or recurring task deadlines
- Discuss file and tasks
- Project management
- Organize Projects with Labels
- Share Projects with friends and team
- Public, Private, and Secret Projects
- Files Library for Each Project
- Health Status of Each project
- Team management
- Time-management and filtering
- Powerful reporting
- Ticklers & Reminders
- Document management
- Heavy file sharing
- Document versioning
- Standard folder structure or File management
- Online file storage
- Communication management
- Discussions, Polls, Questions, Events and Praises
- Threaded Conversations
- Event management
- Invite Guests, Track RSVPs, Keep Attendees Informed
- Collaborate with Attendees Prior to Event
- Invite External Guests to an Event
- Event Calendar and List View
Less important features:
- Your Company Logo
- Knowledge Base articles
- Access controls at each level
- Communication management
- Convert emails to tasks; “Add to Tasks”
- Mobile access
- Tags, colors and stars
- Smart Filters
- Task / project management
- Task search
- ‘Task you allocated’ snapshot
- Get highest-priority tasks and their due dates, highlighting overdue tasks in red
- Review Deadlines and History
- Gantt Chart View of Tasks / projects
- Task Pool for Unassigned Tasks
- Preview and Print selected Task with details
- Invite Unlimited External Guest Users into a Project
- Document management
- Knowledge bank or Shared folder to post Departmental Announcements, Policies, & Procedures
- Online file management
- Team management
- Flexible hierarchy structure
- Manage your team – view team schedule
- Room for customization
- Integration with Other Enterprise Systems
- On-Site Training
Good to have features:
- Home Page Customization
- Desktop Application with Notifications and Feeds
- Fully-featured iOS app
- Companion Mac app
- Profiles with 1-click Import from LinkedIn
- It’s email friendly. Reply to stuff right from your inbox
- E-mail management report
- It works great for personal tasks and projects too
- On the go with apps for Android, iPhone and iPad
- Hook up your Google Calendar to keep track of your deadlines
- Add tasks from Twitter, Email, Browser and other places
- Tight E-Mail and IM integration; Easily IM Files up to 2GB
- Fully Searchable and Archived Chat Messages
- Group Chat for Teams of any Size
- Tweet your tasks.
- Access tasks with plugins for Chrome and Firefox
- Access tasks with plugins for Gmail, Outlook and Thunderbird
- Add a Todoist widget to Mac desktop, Netvibes, or iGoogle
- Access tasks via iCalendar
- Intuitive Drag and Drop
- Favourite and quicklinks
- Automatic refresh"
- Drag & Drop Interface to Easily Manage Tasks
- Assign Multiple Reviewers for a Task
- Address book/ Company Directory and Visual Org Chart
- Send Tasks to Archive
- Expand/Collapse grouped Tasks
- Export Task List to MS Excel and HTML formats
- Drag &Drop Tasks across the schedule
- Save favorite webpages
- Like, Watch and Link to any Feed
- Integration with SugarCRM
- Integration with SalesForce
- Integration with Siebel & Microsoft Dynamics
- API Access to Develop Custom Apps
You will notice that a lot of offers, value-ads and promoted features are basically 'good to have' and not 'must have'. TaskTrek, the software I’m using currently covers all the important and the less important features. What this software does is:
- Breakdown emails into well-defined work activities, tasks, or to do’s towards
- Make communication seamless and easy to understand
- Bring work teams (distributed) on a common platform
- Make knowledge sharing easy among all
While going for any software, remember three things – the need, the features and the benefits
Basis your need you will go for a particular kind of software. Then, you will search for options available to you and evaluate them basis the features they provide from an understanding of what is must have and what is good to have. Maybe, you would like to go for a free trial to get a hand on experience, in terms of navigation, user-friendliness and try out all important features one –by –one. Last, you will zero down on the software that addresses your initial needs and lends you valuable benefit.
Searching on web
Make your search easy by using key phrases like – collaboration tool or software, task management software, project management software, email management or internal communication tools, etc. You will surely get some good results. Word-of-mouth also works best in such situation.
What benefits are you looking for?
What do you want the shortlisted software to really do?
- Help you get organized better
- Help you towards gaining better team accountability
- Help you manage your emails and de-clutter your inbox
- Help you work faster and productively
- Help you collaborate anytime, anywhere
- Help you make sharing easy, especially heavy files
- Help you get all your work in one place and no shuttling around
- Give you real time updates and help you stay on top
- Help you collaborate with team on common knowledge faster and easily
So, on one hand there are a set of problems and on the other hand, there are benefits that you seek; in between is the solution. What will be your solution to make the ends meet? If you do it in a step-by-step way you will be faster in eliminating the inappropriate and getting to that one most-sought after solution for yourself, or team or your organization.Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 13:07
What works for you?
Evaluating your options for the right management software
Who is it for?
While you are evaluating the perceived options for a management software, you must not forget the end user- your colleagues, team members down the line and across functionalities. They are the ones who it is for; to keep them happy is your task in hand. Out of the parameters that you have in mind, some are for you as a manager and some for the employees.
What are the differential parameters?
Say, the software should be user-friendly or easy to use is something that anybody in the team or company would want. How much is the budget to allocate for the service, is your own parameter and not that of your team members’. Delegating task in a smooth manner and getting the benefit of better accountability in team is also something that you strive for, not necessarily your team members. To be able to collaborate online and be available at all times, anywhere is again something your team is likely to benefit most. These are few things that you would ascertain.
Your probable wish list
Irrespective of what the need gap (problems areas left unattended), there is a common wish list and then, comes a specific need list. A common wish list would be:
- An online software or web application that allows you to collaborate anytime and anywhere
- Easy to use or user friendly interface. No rocket science!
- Good support system. Best if the provider is based in your own country or location
- Flexible or scalable. Allows for changes or customizations
- Value for money
In all probabilities, you will find easy to use, online software at the price you can pay. However, getting a provider from you own location or country, something that is customizable and provides personalized support is difficult to vouch for, except that TaskTrek fits perfect.
Now, coming to specific need list is something only you can help identify basis the problems or difficulties that you are facing in everyday work space. You will be evaluating your options basis the features that each perceived option or software provides.
As long as you are a single user of the software and you have no delicate information that will go on it, you can risk using free applications on web or mobile but that’s not quite the case with most of us. The other thing is professionalism. That is, interacting or collaborating with clients using free apps doesn’t sound professional at all. Might as well, pay for the services that fit your budget and look professional, do it well.
Changing with time
All said and done, we all would agree that looking for management software and finding the right one is a job complete only if it fulfills certain objectives. Just window shopping for one and trying them out free is not quite the right approach until it meets certain parameters, wish list and addresses your specific need. Once you have shortlisted some potential providers, go for a test drive and get feedback from team. Lastly, deploy successfully.
It all starts from being prepared to being knowledgeable to being a change agent. As a leader or a manager or a business head, introducing change, innovation and new technology has never been easy and will not be till you have sorted your position and ingrained the importance for it within team.Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 12:53
Are you motivated enough to collaborate team online?
Adopt online collaboration software for your increasing network
Not everyone is motivated to work online, collaborate online and leave the old. Unless, it is a company policy that tells you to get on intranet, or leadership team is aggressive, or the problems are getting deeper. We all face challenges, basic challenges at workplace but we don’t really think of overcoming them the smart way. We struggle duplicating work, searching for information, digging our mail box, clarifying our stance and chasing for people, for information to get the work done. All this means time getting wasted in unproductive work.
It is a commonly seen in startups, small, mid-sized and even bigger organizations today. More in service sectors where communication is heavy and projects are many, clients are many and information is increasing manifold.
Only if you agree, read on as this will open your eyes to a new changed world that will help you organise now, prevent you from getting derailed and be your ancillary to achieve the set goals.
Threatening problems plus effective solutions equals motivation. Yes or no?
Realizing the problems
One big problem that is making you think, or collective problems that are stressing you out; do you realize that there could be a bundle of them but still not affecting you much. Here are some common challenges:
- Too many e-mails taking half of your day sorting
- Forgetting things, who said what, when etc. when channels to communicate are too many
- Unavailability of team / members / information in the most critical times
- Output is way different from expected brief as the proper delegation and control was lacking
- So much time spent in uploading and sharing heavy files with client, team in other locations
- Same contract, or proposal redone for another client from scratch
- Difficulties and time loss in hand over and hand holding new employee
- Client mistrust on finding inaccuracies in billing work hours
- Added stress in finding and compiling project information for reviews, planning meetings & appraisal
- Computer crashed and work stopped in the middle of something important
- Lot of back-and-forth emailing of files leading to wrong file being sent out mistakenly
These are some top-of-the-mind issues I can recall from my work experience before I got on TaskTrek. I must say, these problems could happen to you in your small set up too.
It is easy to decipher the problems and difficult to find solutions, as always. You may have a lot of options but the right option that works for you will be only one. Coming to know of that solution is a journey by itself and no window shopping. Your effective solution could be falling in any of the following categories:
- Free or paid
- Collaborative or a stand-alone (document management, task management, project management, to-do’s, team management, timesheets, email management, social media management) solution
- ERP solution (Financial Accounting, Human Resources, Manufacturing, Supply Chain Management , Project Management , Customer Relationship Management) for functional needs or a simple solution for basic task, project, team, communication, document management
- Web or mobile
- Software as a service (hosted) or product (on premise)
- Single user or team
- Managing multiple users (team, client and other stakeholders) or projects
Likewise, there can be many more categories. Understanding what will work for you from identifying these categories will help you look in the right places for the solution.
Once you are motivated, understand the problem areas and need for a solution; you will have to start looking for one. A planned approach is always better. Identifying the categories, stating your wish list, what features you would like in the software etc. Grab as much knowledge you can but in a controlled manner. This way, you will never feel burdened with information making you indecisive. It will help you to get away with the unnecessary faster and, focus on the main need, benefits, functionalities and softwares.
Realizing the problems and effective solutions will strengthen your belief in having one.
Software providers know their marketing well and how to entice the potential client. They play more on the value adds, offers and benefits directly to pull customers than striking an emotional cord on the root problem or the needs.
- If they give you a Free Trial or offer a Free account, use it to experience it but not before you have recognized your problems, motivated to change and have some idea of what you expect the software to do. If you don’t plan, you will not know what to look for in the software to make an informed decision.
- For every benefit or value-add there is a cost. Don’t get overwhelmed with offers and value-adds or features that you will never use. They are good to have but should not be prime parameters in decision making. Syncing features with other apps could be an example.]
- Complicated Gantt charts, or timesheet reports or dashboard could be very well a turnoff. They seemingly are important and very useful to have, but from usability perspective they may not be quite impressive. Check for features that you will need training, understanding and practice.
- Collaborating online is great but establish protocols, and don’t tie your employees down for something that can wait. This is the only way you can institutionalize it fully, and get your employees enthusiastic about it.
Only if you are convinced, can you institutionalize systems and processes.
- You need to understand the need
- Have a robust shortlisted solution
- Experience it
- Give time to adopt
- Set a timeline by when you feel you can totally control
- Customize the solution from time-to-time basis feedback
Most of the softwares available are fast track; meaning, instant log in and getting started. Ideally, it should not take more than 1 month to adopt fully for a team size of 10- 100.
Never Give Up spirit, have it in you!Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 February 2013 12:48