Using Zoho to Teach Students Project Management

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“Ahem, class, are you paying attention? Your first assignment is to find a project management tool that’s easy to use, friendly, and can work well with a CRM application.”

Believe it or not, that was the first assignment Robert Braathe of Braathe Enterprises gave to his students. Braathe runs a virtual internship program that gives college students real experience. And teaching project management is critical for operating in the real world, said Braathe.

“If you don’t have a project management tool in place, you’ll just throw a lot of spaghetti on the wall,” Braathe said. “With a project management tool you can keep things on track and do more things at once.”

At the Small Business Expo in New York, I spoke with Braathe about why he and his students chose Zoho. He said that Zoho met their comfort level. It was user friendly and most similar to Google Apps. But they also liked Zoho because they were looking for a CRM tool as well. In their search they discovered other CRM applications, but they were either very clunky or really expensive. With Zoho, Braathe and his students liked the interactivity with other applications, the ability of multiple people to sign on, and the ability to just scale it up as they need it.

It’s 2012! What’s in store for you this New Year?

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We’d like to take this opportunity to give our best Happy New Year wishes from everyone at Zoho, and may all our users have a great 2012.

The first thing to look at is what positive changes we could bring this New Year for our customers to get things done faster with Zoho Projects. On a similar note, we worked on THIS most crucial and missing functionality in Zoho Projects. And of course it happens to be the most discussed and popular topic of our customer forums too.

Yes, you guessed it right. Presto ! Subtasks got integrated into Zoho Projects as part of the existing task management module.

Let us see more about sub tasks in Zoho Projects :

Create subtasks to stay focussed on what matters
Starting today, you’ll be able to create subtasks in a single click. For this, mouseover a particular task you can see a double-headed arrow, click Indent Button to indent the task, making it a subtask or click Outdent Button to outdent the task, making it a summary task in quick time.

Easily import sub tasks from MS project
Before you can only import tasks from your MPP/MPX file. After this update, now you can import tasks along with its sub-tasks i,e all your work break down structure is carried right from your MS project into Zoho Projects.

Sub TasksGantt and dependency view gets better with subtasks
With this update, you can see sub tasks appearing right on your gantt chart. This gives you an easy way to view and print sub tasks from gantt view. Furthermore, you can find sub tasks in  task dependency which lets you better organize your tasks in dependency view for an effective task management.

Finally, sub tasks as part of your templates
Just like normal tasks, you can capture the sub-tasks as part of your project as well as task template in Zoho Projects.

So how do you get started ? Easy ! Here’s the link to Subtasks and ofcourse a short video

What editions is sub tasks available?
Sub tasks are available for all Premium and Enterprise customers i.e., $299 & $599 annual plans and $35 and $80 monthly plans. It is also available for existing Valuepack 3 customers. See Plans and Pricing

Login to our Project Management Software, start exploring the subtasks and don’t forget to leave your feedback as comments here or mail us at support@zohoprojects.com

Coming up next is Task duration in hours. Stay Tuned !

Creating Better Experience in Zoho Projects

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We evaluated the existing user interface, sketched out different designs, discussed the merits and demerits of each to have a flexible user interface that is easy to use. After an extensive design journey with many iterations,
finally arrived at the new version which we’ve shipped. We are very happy with the outcome and believe it simplifies your use of Zoho Projects.

Ease of use
This goal is obvious, but what exactly does ease of use mean in the context of a task entry ?

As an example, for regular task entry, one very important aspect of “ease of use” is that to enter or edit a task requires very few clicks. This is something done over and over each day and any extra click quickly turns into an annoyance for the user. That is why the new contextual pop-ups are designed to keep the number of clicks to a minimum in Zoho Projects.
Our contextual pop-ups offer a powerful and an easy way to enter tasks, create events in calendar, log meetings, associate documents/forums and do more right from the same page in matter of few seconds.
Here goes the snapshot showing a contextual pop-up implemented in task details view

Contextual Pop-ups in Zoho Projects

Let me walk through the important changes implemented in Zoho Projects with focus on simplicity and ease of use :


Customize your columns in task view


Are there certain columns in task view that you don’t need to see each time you log in? For this, use the new Customize Columns
feature to choose the columns you’d like to hide. Simply click the new ‘Customize Columns’ link and select the columns you’d like to hide and you’re done.
Easily distinguish attached files in tasks

Before, there is no way to differentiate tasks with associated files or forums from the rest. Now, the newly introduced notes with attachment icon quickly helps you to distinguish the tasks with associated files/forums from others at the blink of an eye.


Gain more visibility with gantt charts


Great that you can drag and edit gantt charts, but should be able to drag into the next month rather than stop at the end of the current month. With this update, comes the custom period which allows you to view and edit tasks beyond current month. Isn’t it cool? Best of all, gain deep insights about the project progress with all tasks (open/closed) chart view.
Allocate tasks from resource charts


Want to allocate a task right from the resource chart view? Just click on a grey bar against a particular team member’s view and a contextual pop-up gets displayed. With this, enter umpteen tasks right from the resource charts and save your time.

Learn more about other features from What’s New


We see that we did most things right. But as always, we realize that there is room for improvement.

And remember, every time you send a feedback, you’re triggering us to work towards making your experience the best with Zoho Projects.

Log into Zoho’s Project Management Software
, play around and share your views about the new changes as comments here or mail us at
support@zohoprojects.com

Zoho Projects In Your Pocket: Our Web App is Here

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Your projects don’t stop just because you’re away from your computer. And now, with the new Zoho Projects Web App you can stay connected with your projects and your team wherever you are.

The Zoho Projects Web App allows you to access all of your projects while on the go. You are able to see the Project Stream and see what everyone on the team has been up to – finished tasks, new posts, comments, wiki pages and any other activities from the members of your team.

You can also go in and see the tasks that you have open and update their status, any notes and mark them as finished when you are done. How’s that for giving your team real-time info? And if something new comes up while you are out and about, you can also of course add a new task right from your phone.

Our web app is available starting today – and all you need is a Zoho Projects account (including the Free edition). Once you’ve setup your account just head over to m.zoho.com using your phone’s browser (iPhone or Android), and start getting things done, even while on the go.

Rodrigo

 

Just In: Resource Utilization & Editable Gantt charts

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Employees are considered the most valuable assets of an organization. The ability to deploy employees effectively against projects enables organizations to utilize and maximize employee productivity. For this, project managers need an efficient system to place the appropriate employees in the right teams at the right time.

Project managers often face questions like how the work to be performed by a team is to be captured, who estimates the amount of effort required, where this information is to be stored and reviewed for accuracy etc. There are no magic shortcuts. You need the right tool that can capture and show the resources utilized within or across all projects of your organization.

The latest update of Zoho Projects offers this crucial feature called Resource Utilization chart, that accurately captures all of the above in a single place. With this chart, you can now get the most out of your valuable resources, i.e., Your Team,to accomplish critical tasks that are overdue by effectively realigning members based on their skills. You can also quickly gain insights into whether your resources are being under, over or optimally utilized in a matter of few minutes.



And…Refreshing new editable Gantt charts!


Before this update
: The Gantt chart in Zoho Projects has always been a challenge for us, since everyone used it in their own unique ways. Previously, it didn’t have enough room to capture more details about tasks. And printing the chart was a bit of a hassle when it was loaded with more data.


Here’s what we did:

We reworked the entire Gantt chart design to make it more appealing and useful for all. And of course, made it easier for printing too.

Best of all
, now you can simply drag the task bar in either direction and edit your Gantt chart. Isn’t that cool? But it doesn’t stop there. You can also export as PDF and send it across to your team.

We’ve also put together a step-by-step guide to get started – Gantt & Resource utilization.

User Access:

Resource Utilization view is accessible for portal owner, joint admins and project managers. While the editable Gantt is available for all user roles except for client users.


What editions are these features available?

Here’s the link to the latest revised Plans and Pricing.

a. Resource utilization / Edit Gantt charts are available for all Premium and Enterprise customers i.e., $299 & $599 annual plans and $35 and $80 monthly plans. It is also available for existing Valuepack 3 customers.

b. The Reports tab, which includes resource utilization and editable Gantt charts (across all projects) is available only for Enterprise customers i.e., $599 annual plan and $80 monthly plan.

Here’s short video explaining the new Gantt chart and Resource utilization features.

We hope this round of updates makes it more useful and a little easier on the eyes of everyone who uses Zoho Projects. Play around with the new reporting features available at http://www.zoho.com/projects/ and let us know your views at
support@zohoprojects.com
.

Multiple Zoho Products Win the Trust of Secure Link Services

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We are quite excited to present Mr. Julian Weber, Managing Director of the software development firm –

Secure Link Services Ltd
. In this post, he shares his experience about how Zoho became his go-to software vendor for ALL his business needs.


A little about Secure Link Services

Secure Link Services is a software development firm with offices in Zurich, Switzerland and Dhaka, Bangladesh. Launched in December 2010, we currently have 15 full time employees and extend our team with more than 10 contractors, partners and other third-party collaborators. Our mission is to deliver superior quality, speed and reliability in software development, and we intend to set market-leading standards in the globalized markets of information technology.


Secure Link Services’ Challenge

When we chose the software to underpin our operations, we had to take a number of factors into account. First, we considered price and usability. We are a startup company, so our administrative requirements are limited to the industry standard and every franc, taka and dollar counts. Another related consideration was, whether to buy the applications and run them on our own or whether to rent the applications and let someone else run them in a software-as-a-service model.

In addition to price, the other factors included 1) how to best support employees in Switzerland and Bangladesh, many of whom are constantly traveling and 2) how responsive vendors are to customer support issues, including fixing and upgrading their software.


Zoho Solution

The first Zoho application we used was


Zoho Projects
.

For two and a half years, I had been using Basecamp, but it was expensive and I didn’t like the UI. So I switched to Zoho Projects and found it to be one of the greatest tools for both admin projects and engineering related ones. My initial experience with Zoho encouraged us to adopt Zoho applications for other administrative purposes, and today we use Zoho Books, Zoho CRM and Zoho People as well as Zoho Projects.

Zoho Projects – As a startup, we had to create a lot of operating documents from scratch – our code of conduct, employee manuals, things of that nature. So within Zoho Projects, we created a project for each document and assigned tasks to the administrative teams. This way, we were able to report on the progress of each document, track who was doing what, and identify and address any problem areas. We do the same thing to maintain the code and content of our website, write a brochure, and perform just about any other administrative task. We even use Zoho Projects to manage marketing campaigns that go beyond the scope of Zoho CRM in terms of detailed planning, execution and management.








Zoho CRM

I  had been using Salesforce in another organization before, but Zoho CRM seems to be more flexible and definitely is more affordable. What you find in Zoho CRM is almost the same functionality as in Salesforce and it follows the Dominant Design in the CRM market.

Right now, we use contacts, accounts and leads exclusively, but we have assessed various other functionalities which we will soon use, as our marketing activities grow.



Zoho Books

This is really outstanding. We evaluated a number of online accounting applications in addition to Zoho Books, but we really like the processes behind Zoho Books. It’s very easy to use, very intuitive, e.g., the “Money In” and “Money Out” tabs in the UI.

The usability from complex bank transactions, creditcard handling to automated invoicing and estimating is really strong. We also like the support of multiple currencies in Zoho Books, and the customizable document templates are nice. Additionally, the reports give us a clear picture of our finances, taxes, and our business overall.


Zoho People
 
– We use Zoho People to keep track of information on our employees and
our third-party contractors. For employees, we track details related to
demographics, employment history, performance assessment, salary data,
emergency contacts, and other information. And we use Zoho People to
provide monthly salary, allowance and expense reports. We fully
customized Zoho People by adding our own approval workflows and custom
fields so we can adapt to the conditions of the Bangladeshi
jurisdiction.


Zoho’s Impact

The decision to work in the cloud with Zoho was initially motivated by cost and accessibility. But over time, working online with Zoho has proven to be a superior, long-term approach for us. In addition to the savings advantage, Zoho gives us software that’s easy to use and, if we want to modify it, easy to customize. The applications are updated constantly, not every year or couple of years. And as we grow, all we have to do is create an account for new employees, and they have access to the full Zoho suite.

Another area in which we are seeing a big impact is administrative efficiencies. Here, Zoho Books and Zoho People stand out most significantly.

By using Zoho Books, we save roughly 40 percent of a full-time employee. We’ve basically cut our accounting time in half, particularly the time it took to track expenses, receipts and other records. Likewise, Zoho People saves another 25 percent of a full-time employee, largely because of its self-service aspect.




If you too would like to share your Zoho success story,


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.




Cloudcamper picks Zoho Projects for Cloud based Collaboration

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Cloudcamper
 provides cloud computing solutions and online software to small and medium business as well as to divisions within larger enterprises. The company is a reseller for both Zoho and Google Apps. Cloudcamper has its main office in Oostende, Belgium as well as five remote offices, each staffed by one of the company’s five partners.


The distributed nature of Cloudcamper skill sets, mirrors the distributed nature of the company’s work force. However, when a client needs a cloud solution that requires the talents of several Cloudcamper partners, the company has to act as a single, unified organization.

To that end, the company needed a way to coordinate the activities of its partners and its contract developers working on any given client project.

 The Zoho Solution
 For Cloudcamper, Zoho Projects provides cloud-based collaboration that supports the company’s structure and work style.

“If we didn’t use

Zoho Projects
, our job would be hard. We’d have to use
a shared spreadsheet or something to get an overview of all our
projects,” says Philip Debaere, managing partner at Cloudcamper. “Now, we open Zoho Projects and in one view, we
see all our open projects and their status. And the integration of the
other Zoho applications means that, for instance, I can send a project
to a customer in Zoho CRM and pull an invoice from Zoho Projects in Zoho
Invoice. Those features are really strong and well executed.”

Cloudcamper relies on Zoho Projects to track the time, partners and contract developers spend on tasks. Debaere and his partners review these time logs to calculate the profitability of projects and to uncover problems in project delivery. The information may be used to adjust prices to more accurately reflect time investments.

The Zoho Projects Gmail Contextual Gadget keeps Cloudcamper users in their Gmail user interface but lets them create a project, transform an email into an actionable task, assign tasks, and more.


Read more
 on how Cloudcamper benefited from using Zoho Projects.


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