The Incredible Story of the Gantt Chart

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Most of us see Gantt Charts within computers today. Hence, it is easy to assume that they are another offshoot of the digital era. If that’s what you thought, you are in for a surprise: for here is the incredible story of the Gantt Chart that spans across an entire century!

Rewind to the United States of 1918. The First World War has just ended. Colonel John T. Thompson, the inventor of the Thompson submachine gun, receives the Distinguished Service Medal, “for exceptionally meritorious and conspicuous service with the design and production of small arms and the ammunition thereby supplied to the U.S. army.” Thompson promptly sends a copy of this to a certain ‘Henry Laurence Gantt,’ with the following note, “A large share in this reward for the accomplishment of a great war task is due to H. L. Gantt and his assistants. The Gantt general control production chart was my compass.” Henry Gantt, mechanical engineer and management consultant, had already finished developing the Gantt Chart a few years before! 

Gantt chart

The Evolution of the Gantt Chart

Moving ahead, we reach the period when America comes under the clasp of the Great Depression. The Colorado makes its way into Arizona from Nevada through an arid, desolate stretch called the Black Canyon. And at this location, to control floods and generate power, the Congress authorizes the construction of the world’s biggest and heaviest dam. Apart from the sheer scale of the endeavor, torrid desert environment, the need to use unproven techniques and the lack of facilities at the venue, present additional hurdles. Still, Six Companies Inc, a consortium of construction companies takes up this challenge and turns in the ‘Hoover Dam’ to the government two years ahead of schedule! It stands today as a monument of courage of the 21,000 men who built it and attracts about a million visitors every year. And once again, Gantt Charts are given credit for playing a key role in the management of such a massive project.

As time progresses, the charts continue to get used in one successful project after another. The areas of application are various ranging from construction to finance and shipping to administration. Personal computers emerge in the 1980s and Gantt Charts become more complex and elaborate than ever before. With the internet gaining popularity, they begin to get employed in web based applications.

ganttchart_quote

In the August of 2006, we launched Zoho Projects, our web based project management app. Taking into account the significance of the Gantt Chart, we shipped the very first version featuring one. We bear in mind that it is indeed a great journey that has brought the Gantt general control production chart of the first world war to the Gantt view that comes to you from the Zoho cloud today. And this inspires us to take the story further in interesting, new ways.

On that note, we are happy to announce that we’ve rolled out a set of new enhancements to our Gantt Chart. The Gantt view now has two charts; the one you have been viewing shows task bars sequentially and we’re calling it the ‘Chronology Chart.’ We have added a new ‘Milestone Chart’ to give you the bigger picture. You can now view your milestones, the task lists they contain, and the tasks in these; all in one place.

The only way to set dependencies between tasks was to go to the dependencies view; not any more. You can now do this right within the Gantt Chart. Just click and hold on the predecessor task bar and drag to the dependent task bar, and your dependency is set. 

You could set the period for which you viewed the chart to the current month, the previous month, the whole year or a custom period of your choice. We’ve added a new option here called ‘project span’ that  automatically displays the chart for the duration of the project.

Please view the below video for a detailed walk through of the new features. Our Getting Started Guide also has an article on Gantt Charts.

UPDATE: These enhancements were well received and we have launched a newer set of updates. The Incredible Story of the Gantt Chart continues here.

References:

  1. ‘The Gantt Chart, a working tool of management,’ Wallace Clark, The Roland Press Company, 1923
  2. MegaStructures – Hoover Dam (National Geographic Documentary)
  3. Wikipedia articles on related topics (en.wikipedia.org)

Customer Spotlight: When Landing the Right CRM Can Take You to the Next Level…and Beyond

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secita

“We had been through the ringer!”

Those were the words that Secita Solutions founder Mike Moore used when describing his search for an adequate CRM to use.

“I tried ACT, Sugar, Maximizer, and Vtiger and was tired of looking for CRMs…until I found Zoho.  As soon as I did, I started planning big things down the road for Secita because I immediately knew Zoho was going to take us to the next level…and beyond!”

Read more

Meet us @ CeBIT 2014, Sydney

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CeBITAustraliaHere’s  some exciting news for the SMBs in and around Sydney! We’re taking part in CeBIT Australia, the business technology fair of 2014 being held in Sydney Olympic Park, Australia.

Visit us at Stand J-61, where we will be showcasing how you can manage your business with our products, particularly Zoho CRM, Zoho Campaigns and Zoho Creator.

If you’re already using these apps, we’d love to hear about your experiences with Zoho.

We look forward to meeting you there!

Intuit lobbies against small businesses

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With tax day behind us, small businesses across the country can finally move on to enjoying the warmth of spring. Unfortunately, the tax system has grown increasingly complex and burdensome for small businesses. According to a 2014 NSBA survey, more than 40% of businesses spend over 80 hours dealing with Federal Taxes. So, who is to blame for the pain small businesses endure year after year?

It’s not (entirely) the government’s fault

You can’t blame the federal government for not trying. However, past attempts by the federal government to simplify this nightmarish process have been futile. There has been no action on President Obama’s proposed legislation on return-free filing or pre-fill tax filings, where the IRS would compute your tax or pre-fill your tax forms based on the information already collected from employers, banks and other institutions.

The party pooper

As with any groundbreaking legislation, there is opposition and criticism. Some say that the already overly burdened IRS is not in a position to take on this monumental task. Others say that the complex US tax laws prohibit such a filing system. With any contentious legislation, it is always interesting and surprising to see who opposes seemingly obvious reform. In the case of return-free tax filing, one of the biggest opponents is the tax preparation software maker, Intuit. According to opensecrets.org, Intuit had paid several million dollars to stymie moves by the government to offer return-free filing. A Forbes story says Intuit had derailed the California’s free electronic filing program and was influential in putting to sleep a similar program at Virginia.

What is Intuit afraid of?

Intuit generates a major chunk of its $4 billion in revenue from sales of TurboTax, its popular tax preparation software package. Intuit certainly has a lot of reasons – over one billion of them - to keep the status quo. If there is a free alternative to Turbotax, Intuit’s ultimate revenue machine will be punctured.

Hey Intuit, leave the government alone

While offering tax preparation software solutions is not a core mission of the government, in this particular case its demanding citizens to comply with a complex tax code, and hence it’s obligated to offer all technological means to reduce this unwelcome burden. The idea of return free filing is not new; In fact, it’s prevalent in European countries like Denmark and Spain.

Resistance to changes in our tax system comes in many forms – no doubt it has been a political hot potato for decades. But, in the case of streamlining the arduous filing process for small businesses, the feet dragging is coming from big business – Intuit. We urge Intuit to allow the government to proceed with return free filing.

 

Zoho CRM – Discontinuing Integration with LinkedIn

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Back in 2011, to help our customers focus more on selling and less CRMing, we started offering integration with LinkedIn along with various other important features. Our users quickly embraced the integration with leads and contacts modules and it became one of the popular features in Zoho CRM.
Discontinuing integration with LinkedIn
Fast forward to today, we are unhappy to announce the discontinuation of the LinkedIn integration with Zoho CRM immediately. The latest changes in LinkedIn’s Developer API agreement do not allow us to offer this integration to customers any more without strategic partnership. In the past few months, we have been trying our best to convince the team at LinkedIn but we have been unsuccessful. Recently, we received this notice from the LinkedIn API review team:

LinkedIn prioritizes whom we partner with based on strategic alignment, size of opportunity, and current needs. At this time we do not believe your product would add enough sufficient value beyond our existing products to warrant a partnership.  However, given the dynamic nature of our industry, we are continuously evaluating our partnership criteria and potential partners.

At this point, LinkedIn has made a conscious choice to restrict their CRM partners to just two companies. We obviously think that is a bad idea, and we don’t understand how it is in their own interest to adopt this approach. However, we hope they would reconsider this decision. Until then, we have no choice but to discontinue this feature. We are sorry that it has come to this stage.

We will continue to explore the possibilities of strengthening our integration with social platforms, like Facebook, Twitter and others.

Thank you for your support!

- Gopal

Collaboration just got easier with the New Real-time Editor in Document Library

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Last year, we released Document Library, which made it easy to manage all your sales collateral, marketing material, proposals and more, right within Zoho CRM. Now, we’ve gone a step further and improved our editor in Zoho Docs to support chat collaboration and real-time editing.

Take this case of the Sales Team at Zillum Corp. Patricia, one of the sales reps, is excited! She has just closed a big deal, which she had been working on for a few months. She starts working on the Service Level Agreement, and notices some sections that require help from her manager and the legal team.

She shares the document with Charles from the legal team, and instantly he is notified about the document via email. When Charles views the document, Patricia gets an alert, and she can even chat with him then and there! That’s not all, she can also see what Charles is revising, and in turn, Charles can also see the changes Jasmine is making. And the whole document is finalized in a matter of minutes and sent to the customer.

Document-LibraryNow, that’s a lot easier to communicate with your team and get the reviews done instantly, right?

The new editor is available in Zoho Sheet, Zoho Writer and Zoho Show. Do try this feature and let us know what you think.

2 Ways Live Chat Can Enhance Your Customer Service

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Landing a new customer is 5x more expensive than keeping an existing customer. How do we keep our customers happy? By providing outstanding support. LiveDesk let’s you delivers outstanding customer service and keeps your retention rates high.

Let’s look at a scenario below that is all too typical in business.

Riley and Karen, both customer service managers, are upset. One of their biggest customers is threatening to leave. José Pérez, the COO of B2B SellingStrategies, just complained of bad service during a critical timetip5

This is a pretty common conversation today. Several businesses are adopting live chat as a channel for customer service, in addition to traditional ones like email.

Here are 2 ways to enhance your customer service by implementing a live chat solution, Read more