Business in Florida Shifts Base to Zoho’s Camp

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“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” — Albert Einstein.

I like many things about the company Basecamp. They have written some remarkable books and maintain an interesting blog. Having their roots in design, their products provide a good user experience. Like us, they too have eschewed venture capital. Both companies don’t like the bubble-mania that so often sweeps our industry; our focus is on the the long haul. 

However, when it comes to product management, we part ways with them. The simplicity of Basecamp comes at a cost that it does not have the depth needed to handle complex projects. Their constant refrain of “Less is more” or rather “Less is less” comes in the way of the recognition that complex projects do exist. We, on the other hand, come from a conviction that simplistic slogans cannot substitute for product management. Product management is about making difficult choices in facing complex problems.

We provide a hierarchical structure consisting of milestones, task lists, tasks and subtasks to break down complex projects into easily manageable units. Views like the Gantt Chart and the Resource Utilisation Chart are needed to ensure that a project with different people in different places working on different tasks, sticks to schedule. There is essential, irreducible complexity in the real world. An app that can meet this complexity needs to be feature rich and sophisticated. Failing to acknowledge this practical truth, sounds to us like, “We don’t like complex problems, so let’s pretend they don’t exist!”

To understand how this difference in ideology can impact businesses, take the case of Sunny Land Tours, a Florida based operator specializing in trips to Egypt and the middle east.

Zoho Projects Egypt

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Tracking the Flow of Time

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A friend once called me to talk about a totally unexpected question he was posed in a job interview. The interviewer had simply asked him to ‘define time.’ I asked him what his reply was. He turned the question around and asked me how I would have answered.

Immediately, I didn’t know what to say. It was one of those things that you were always aware of but just couldn’t put into words. After considering a few approaches I came up with this:

“Time is that, which continuously turns the future into the past!”
“Haha, good attempt,” said the friend, “But words like ‘continuously,’ ‘future’ and ‘past’ are defined using time. So this cannot be taken.”
“Then what is the answer?”
“I searched about this. Albert Einstein came up with one of the most popular and accepted definitions. He said, ‘time is what the clock reads!’”
“Are you joking?”
“No I am serious.”
“Then how do you define a clock when you cannot say it is ‘that which shows time?’”

The friend just laughed and changed the topic.

The problem of utilizing resources such that their time is spent optimally is a crucial one for any project manager. And simplifying this is a prime area of focus for Zoho Projects. A couple of weeks ago, we rolled out several updates in our Gantt Chart, a direct visual representation of tasks with respect to time. Before that, we’d announced an advanced analytics add-on powered by Zoho Reports that gave you more than 50 ready made reports with rich insights. And now, we’re adding another bunch of features, that lets you take charge of time!

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Can Project Management Apps Kill Start-Ups?

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Do start-ups really need project management apps? Do these apps simply act as a tax on a fast moving team?

Posts like this one show that some people do feel this way. Let’s acknowledge that no software, however cool, can make up for poor vision or broken culture in a team. Software can enable us to work better, but software, by itself cannot make us better human beings. So if you have issues with team chemistry, don’t look to software for a miraculous cure.

With that out of the way, we are convinced that these apps can bring in significant advantages to any team when used aptly. Allow us to walk you through some of these. 

Zoho Project Collaboration

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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.

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)

Introducing : Import tasks and chrome extension for Zoho Projects

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Are you still stuck with spreadsheets to manage your work? Let’s look at a real-time scenario

Imagine your company suddenly receives a significant request, which is a deal breaker for your product. It’s due in 4 days. And your boss just puts you in charge of pulling it all together. You’ve just got a tiny window of time to discuss with Product Expert Tricia whether it’s possible to meet the deadline, to work with UI Designer Eddie for a last-minute interface and get the developers to start coding on this request.

Above all you’re trying to do all this through your company’s default medium – spreadsheets. Yikes!

The real struggles with spreadsheets

  • Unfit for agile business: Managing work with spreadsheets makes sense for personal projects but they break when you try to collaborate with a group to get work done faster.
  • Lack of visibility: It’s hard to track what part of work is been done and what’s still pending in a project.
  • Poor coordination: Teams which are geographically separated can’t work in unison to accomplish a common goal using spreadsheets

We already know the answer. No spreadsheets anymore.

At Zoho, we’ve developed a nice little feature to Import your Tasks from various formats like xls, json and csv files and quickly start collaborating from anywhere, anytime.

import-tasks

How Zoho Projects helps you

  • Assign tasks to team members and easily track who’s done what.
  • Communicate effectively with your team using feeds, forums, wiki and chat rooms
  • Tag files to easily find them later. This means you can quickly locate that Design from three months ago the next time a similar one hits your desk.

But that’s not all a couple of more exciting features are rolled as part of this update

1. From now on start shooting tasks into Zoho Projects with start and end dates, severity via email. Furthermore, if you wish to make an announcement use [announcement] tag and post a forum topic. Learn more about them in detail at Email Collaboration

2. If you are a power user of Chrome browser then this is for you. We’ve built a cool extension for chrome that allows you to see latest updates, create tasks, file bugs, post comments and do more right from within your browser.

chrome-extension

Give it a try and let us know what you think as comments here.

Zoho Projects Advanced Analytics: Projected Revenue Report

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We announced Advanced Analytics for Zoho Projects around a month back, and it has been well received. Project managers now tap into their projects data and get good insights of what’s happening in their projects.

The Advanced Analytics package came with a wide range of ready made reports and dashboards. One such report is the Projected Revenue report. We will see how this useful report is derived. Read more

Salesforce’s Do.Com Customers Can No Longer Do Much – Unless They Migrate To Zoho Projects

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banner.pngSalesforce.com recently announced that their Do.com project management service is shutting down early next year. Salesforce acquired the Manymoon startup, for which they reportedly paid between $25 and $35 million dollars, just about two years ago and they later renamed it as Do.com. We’re sure this leaves current Do.com customers searching for a place to go. Well, worry no more: we’ve got good news for you.

We just released our Zoho Projects migration tool that lets you bring your current Do.com data and continue working without skipping a beat.

Start Doing More with Zoho Projects

Zoho Projects is a tool that allows you to manages any kind of project from thought to finish. Zoho Projects goes well beyond planning, and helps your team work better together, collaborate and stay on top of what they need to do, even while they’re on the go.

Do.com users can easily migrate in few easy steps without losing the tasks, tasks lists, notes and other items they had already created. And of course, migration is free.

Migration is just the start

Do.com users that come into Zoho projects will primarily be looking to save their important data and work. However, they will soon discover all the additional benefits that Zoho Projects brings over Do.com, like time tracking & billing, gantt charts and resource utilization, advanced analytics and much more.

In addition, Zoho Projects integrates with the Zoho Office suite, works with Google Apps and allows you to bring files from Dropbox, Box.net, Google Drive and even Microsoft SkyDrive into your project.

If you’re a current Do.com customer, we welcome you into the Zoho family. Learn how to migrate your data into Zoho Projects at:  https://projects.zoho.com/doit