The Ten Terrific Tweaks of Zoho Projects 5!

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A couple of weeks ago, we announced, the new Zoho Projects 5 with Five Fabulous Features.​ By now you know we wouldn’t have stopped with just that. Allow us to present the Ten Terrific Tweaks of Zoho Projects 5!

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allinone-search1. All In One Search

You can now search users, projects and their contents in one place. The results come neatly organized in separate sections.

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arrow-planned-hours2. Arrows showing Planned vs Logged Hours

In the tasks view, we’ve added a column that just shows an arrow next to each task. A green arrow pointing downwards here indicates that the logged work hours so far, is less than the planned work hours. However, a red up arrow indicates that the logged hours have overshot the planned hours. Scanning through this column gives you a quick overview of how well your team is able to stick to plan.  Read more

Zoho Projects 5 is Here and Five Fabulous Reasons to Love It!

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2015 will be the year for Zoho Projects. That’s no idle boast, for it’s still January and we’re
already announcing Zoho Projects 5!
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1. An Intuitive New User Interface: The new UI is faster, more appealing and with a full-screen design that makes the best use of your display. But we didn’t stop there. We improved convenience and organization at the same time.
  • Most recently accessed projects are displayed on the top bar, letting you switch easily.

  • New project customization tab shows up on the right panel, providing context as you make changes.

  • Gantt charts and other reports are now grouped together.

There’s more here for you to explore and discover!

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Basecamp users, BUMPing is now easier than ever!

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Ever since we launched BUMP, our Basecamp User Migration Program, organizations by the hundreds have been migrating to Zoho Projects. Why are they doing that? With Basecamp, you only get the basics covered like sharing files, assigning tasks and checking due dates. Zoho Projects is an advanced project management system with milestones, Gantt charts, dependencies, sub tasks, document management, advanced reporting, issue tracking and a lot more.

And you don’t pitch camp, when the doors of a palace are open before you!

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Zoho on Zoho: How we use Zoho apps to run the show at Zoholics

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Our goal for each Zoholics user event is to make it perfect for attendees – our customers who travel from all over the world to learn and make the most of Zoho apps for their business.

Making sure that everything is perfect involves coordinating so many major and minor aspects related to each event. What makes this even more challenging is the fact that most of our teams are geographically distributed and work across various time zones (more about working remotely with cross-cultural teams here.)

So, how do we do this for not just one, but four annual Zoholics events?

Here is the story of the people, processes and Zoho apps that work behind-the-scenes for each Zoholics event.

Setting the stage.

Pre-event Planning: To start with, we need to discuss and decide on the agenda for the event. Raju, who is the chief architect for all Zoholics events, initiates these discussions over Zoho Connect, our intranet where everyone watches out for important announcements and discussions.

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Basis these discussions, we use a shared Zoho Sheet (our spreadsheet app, part of the Zoho Docs office suite) to draft an agenda and assign speakers for each of the sessions.

After we have the agenda ready, we move to a dedicated Zoholics Projects’ portal for further discussions such as content, promotion, logistics and travel. Everyone who will be speaking at the event or helping organize any aspect of it is invited to join this Project portal.

Over the next few months leading up to the event, the Zoholics Project portal becomes the “virtual meeting room” where we all check in to participate in discussions about the event and to post or follow updates about the status of event-related tasks.

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What is great about using a Project portal for such discussions is that everyone can stay in the loop and get notifications over email or on the Zoho Projects’ mobile app. There are no communication gaps or operational lapses.

One of our first discussions over the Zoholics Project portal is about travel for the event. We create and share another Zoho Sheet – this one allows employees from other cities who’re traveling for the event to input their travel dates. Since the travel team is also part of the Project, they’re able to book flight tickets and hotel rooms.

Event Promotion: We also start a discussion about promoting the event through these channels – social media, email invites, banners within our products, log-out pages as well as the Zoho Buzz newsletter. Promotion-related tasks for each of these channels are assigned to the owners. Read more

The Secret of Effective Project Management

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Let me get straight to the point. The Secret of Effective Project Management is finding the right balance between managing too little and managing too much. And in order to understand how to walk this elusive middle path, let us first take a look at the extremes.

In a quest to give their team a free hand and keep things moving fast, some managers end up taking an over simplified approach. When they do this, they lose track of important aspects of work. When their team would want their guidance, they wouldn’t know it and hence would not be available to them. As a result, the team would end up heading in a different direction from the one they want to steer it in. On the other hand, other managers wanting to stay in charge make their processes too sophisticated. They fill their work places with rules, regulations and policies. A large part of the workday is spent logging what is done, getting permissions and just adhering to protocol. And all this makes the team’s progress a lot slower than what it can be.

Let us examine this phenomenon with an example. Say a manager needs to work with a team of designers to create a new website for his company. An over-simplifying manager gives the team an idea of what he wants, agrees on a deadline and disappears till then. He believes, he has given his designers a lot of freedom. But when the work is done, he realizes many things don’t fall in place. He wants to project his business as long-serving, stable and trustworthy and the heavy use of fire-engine-red and sporty fonts don’t really reinforce that.  He realizes with much despair that the site needs lots of rework and this is good news to nobody.

The manager who overdoes things, creates a detailed specs document that specifies permitted image and font sizes, graphics to text ratio, page sizes and a long list of dos and don’ts. She wants the team to log the time spent on each file they create and also send her daily reports on progress. And the team feels it would be easier to write a program that parses through these specs and dumps a matching template than create one themselves! Read more

Say goodbye to unproductive workplace practices and build a culture of collaboration with Project Management apps – Part 2

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projects_blog2meeraThis is the second part of a 2-part blog series. Read the first part of the series here.

The myth of multitasking.

When you’re trying to get multiple things done with different sets of people, it might seem easy to multitask by doing everything together. But this can be counterproductive because your attention gets split between activities. You’ll take much longer to complete each activity, and this can negatively impact your overall output and quality of work. Several independent psychological researchers have established that multitasking results in reduced efficiency due to cognitive ‘switching’ costs.

Switching from a task before you complete it also causes the Ziegarnic effect – the tendency to experience intrusive thoughts about unfinished tasks. The only way to resolve the cognitive dissonance that comes from a lack of closure on an unfinished task is by completing that task.

A good project management app is one that lets you simplify complex projects so that you spend enough attention and energy on each task.

To simplify complex projects, you can organize them according to a hierarchy of easily manageable units such as milestones, task lists and tasks. Split your tasks into the simplest sub-tasks that can be easily completed before you move on to the next task. You can also set task dependencies to help identify and complete dependent tasks. And of course, the sense of completion that comes from finishing these tasks can help avoid the Ziegarnic effect!

Encourage everyone in your team to restrict their focus to completing one thing at a time – complete one task or participate in one discussion or just catch up with activity streams in one project portal. Finish any one thing before you move on to the next.

Treat different project portals like separate rooms – you cannot be in more than one at the same time.

Resist the temptation of switching to another tab or project portal before you’ve completed what you wanted to do. Read more