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Zoho Projects Review

zohoprojectslogo

For this post I’ve decided to do something a little different. I’m going to do a review on a Zoho.com product called Zoho Projects. This is a project collaboration tool designed specifically as a business app. I’ve done this review using the “one free trial” that comes with registering to use Zoho products.

Who/What is Zoho?

Zoho is a relatively new player in offering online applications. However, they offer a comprehensive suite of web-based applications for anything from word-processing, powerpoint creating to project management, web conferencing and invoicing. You can check out the Zoho Corporation about me section here, or visit their web app. home here. Registration is free, and you can use your exisiting Google, Google Apps or Yahoo! account to register also.

The Low-down on Zoho Projects

The interface for a project is rich and simple to use. It provides easy access to a diverse set of tools related to project management and collaboration. Each user has their own dashboard and can upload some details about themselves to their personal profile. They also have a status update field much like Facebook and Twitter that lets them update others in the project about what they are doing in less than 140 characters. The dashboard displays all project members’ updates and  latest activities whilst also providing access to an RSS feed to receive these updates in an external RSS reader. See the dashboard below:

ZohoDashboard

As you can see Zoho Projects offers the following sections: Tasks and Milestones, Calendar, Meetings, Reports, Forum, Wiki, Chat an Users.

Tasks and Milestones
In the Tasks and Milestones section you can create Milestones. Under each Milestone can lie several task lists which each contain a number of tasks. Each of these can be allocated to a project member and assigned dates to be completed. In addition, tasks can be given dependencies so that one must be completed before the other. The milestones are then reflected on the calendar showing when it is due. The dashboard updates section highlights new tasks and they are also feed into the RSS feed.

Meetings
The meetings section lets users arrange meetings. The meetings have a time and date associated with them and can be allocated to specific users in the project. Notes can also be attached to the meeting for further detail. The calendar displays upcoming meetings and status and RSS feeds are updated with new meetings.

Reports
The reports section presents the user with a number of charts and such to document current task lists and milestones. These can be separated into each user and presented as bar graphs, Gannt charts and so on.

Forums
The forum section is just like any other standard forum platform allowing forum posts and users to reply to posts.

Wiki
The wiki section allows users to create pages and edit them like any wiki platform. Nevertheless, the Zoho Wiki has powerful word processing tools available from the custom GUI at the top of the editing pane. This allows for complete manipulation of the wiki content. RSS feeds are available for all pages so users can subscribe and receive updates. Comments can also be posted on individual wiki pages for feedback and collaboration amongst workers.
ZohoWikiExample

Chat
Chat enables users to communicate via an Instant Messaging service. It is similar to a group chat in any messenger service such as Windows Live Messenger. You can also send files to other people in the chat.

Users
This section is for managing the users associated with the project. Users can include employees, contractors and even the clients. This is the one-stop hub for viewing fellow employees profiles and communicating directly with them. Having clients as users is useful for gaining feedback from them by communicate directly to better understand their needs.

Summary

I think Zoho Projects is an extremely powerful tool for managing projects. The wide range of useful and applicable tools it offers its users are both powerful but at the same time extremely simple to use and navigate. I believe that this web application would be useful for small businesses and project teams. Whether it can handle extremely large project teams is another issue but I think it could quite possibly do the job. Just like all the other applications Zoho offers, this tool has exceeded my expectations and I will quite happily use it in the future. This tool is a prime example of an Enterprise 2.0 tool because of the intergration of many web 2.0 features such as: status updates, RSS feeds, wikis, and so on.

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What do Pixar, Google, Lockheed Martin, AT&T, P&G and Best Buy have in common? E2.0

Continuing on from my last few posts, I’ve found an interesting study conducted by McKinsey Quarterly titled, “Six ways to make Web 2.0 work“. The article is 100% focused on the internal aspects of Web 2.0 in businesses (or Enterprise 2.0) and discusses topics such as:

  • The new tools available to business in comparison to older style tools. Ie. Automatic transactions vs. enabling participation and collaboration.
  • The gains to be harvested from unlocking this participation
  • 6 ways to unlock participation amongst employees and make web 2.0 work.
  • and what’s next?

Particularly of interest to me were the numerous case studies they reported. I’ve just taken huge chunks of block quotes here to demonstrate my point but you should definitely read the whole article for more clarification and meaning.

At Lockheed Martin, for instance, a direct report to the CIO championed the use of blogs and wikis when they were introduced. The executive evangelized the benefits of Web 2.0 technologies to other senior leaders and acted as a role model by establishing his own blog. He set goals for adoption across the organization, as well as for the volume of contributions. The result was widespread acceptance and collaboration across the company’s divisions.

[…]

At AT&T, it was frontline staffers who found the best use for a participatory technology—in this case, using Web 2.0 for collaborative project management. Rather than dictating the use, management broadened participation by supporting an awareness campaign to seed further experimentation. Over a 12-month period, the use of the technology rose to 95 percent of employees, from 65 percent.

[…]

Google is an instructive case to the contrary. It has modified the way work is typically done and has made Web tools relevant to how employees actually do their jobs. The company’s engineers use blogs and wikis as core tools for reporting on the progress of their work. Managers stay abreast of their progress and provide direction by using tools that make it easy to mine data on workflows. Engineers are better able to coordinate work with one another and can request or provide backup help when needed. The easily accessible project data allows senior managers to allocate resources to the most important and time-sensitive projects.

Pixar moved in a similar direction when it upgraded a Web 2.0 tool that didn’t quite mesh with the way animators did their jobs. The company started with basic text-based wikis to share information about films in production and to document meeting notes. That was unsatisfactory, since collaborative problem solving at the studio works best when animators, software engineers, managers, and directors analyze and discuss real clips and frames from a movie. Once Pixar built video into the wikis, their quality improved as critiques became more relevant. The efficiency of the project groups increased as well.

[…]

To select users who will help drive a self-sustaining effort (often enthusiastic early technology adopters who have rich personal networks and will thus share knowledge and exchange ideas), a thoughtful approach is required. When P&G introduced wikis and blogs to foster collaboration among its workgroups, the company targeted technology-savvy and respected opinion leaders within the organization. Some of these people ranked high in the corporate hierarchy, while others were influential scientists or employees to whom other colleagues would turn for advice or other assistance.

When Best Buy experimented with internal information markets, the goal was to ensure that participation helped to create value. In these markets, employees place bets on business outcomes, such as sales forecasts.6 To improve the chances of success, Best Buy cast its net widely, going beyond in-house forecasting experts; it also sought out participants with a more diverse base of operational knowledge who could apply independent judgment to the prediction markets. The resulting forecasts were more accurate than those produced by the company’s experts.

Source: McKinsey Quarterly. (2009). Six ways to make Web 2.0 work. Retrieved August 21, 2009, from, http://www.mckinseyquarterly.com/Six_ways_to_make_Web_20_work_2294#SubmitLetter

Increase your productivity with web 2.0

The rise of web 2.0 is perhaps more famous for its social media sites such as Facebook and MySpace, but underneath the hype of social media websites there are a myriad of tools made simply to make our lives easier. This blog post is designed to give you guys some links to great web 2.0 tools to increase your productivity in everyday life.

Collaboration is at the very heart of web 2.0 and as such these tools can bring a new meaning to sharing and collaboration. Almost every tool in this blog post gives users the ability to share their findings with the world. The network effect is a term used to describe the added value a user gives to an application. The greater the number of users of an application the greater value that application will have for its users.

Tools for the workplace or study environment

  • Take Google Docs for instance. Signing up allows you to create and share online documents and invite people to view or edit them AT THE SAME TIME as you are. Check out the video here.
  • Need to create a mind map for an upcoming project? Why not do it online at Thinkature.com. This site makes mind mapping easy, and editable. Plus you can share it with co-workers to work on collaboratively.
  • Many people find it hard to update and manage their personal and work calendars. Get rid of the old paperback calendar and upgrade to Google Calendar. This tool allows you to manage your calendar online from any computer or internet-capable mobile device so you can take it wherever you go. It also allows you share your schedule with family or co-workers. And if you really don’t have time to check the calendar, why not let it remind you via an email or sms reminder?
  • Need a job? Or looking to increase your network to increase job opportunities? Why not check out LinkedIn.com, the tool that lets you link with networks of people and collaborate on business ideas or share your expertise.

Tools for more personal use

  • Bookmarking used to be a personal, home computer sort of thing. But with sites like delicious, you can take your bookmarks with you anywhere. Furthermore, delicious organises and allows you to share these bookmarks with the world so everyone can have the best links to the best information.
  • YouTube.com is an extremely popular website for viewing videos. Anything you’ ever need is one there, and if its not, upload a video yourself. YouTube is also a hugely popular advertising tool for viral ads, company ads or personal advertising.
  • Amazon.com lets you find books for personal or study use in their huge range of products. Its your one-stop-shop for books, DVDs and CDs.
  • Flickr.com – Upload your pictures for friends and the world to view. Customise the  privacy settings and invite friends to view your pictures all for free.

I hope you have found many of these links useful for increasing your productivity in the workplace or at home.

More on blogging + interesting blogs

So I think I’m starting to get used to the idea of blogging. At first it seemed unnatural to me to put what are usually my own thoughts out to the wider online community. But now I’m growing used to the idea as people are starting to give me positive feedback.

I’ve gained significant insight in how to blog effectively at the following resource: http://www.problogger.net/archives/2006/02/14/blogging-for-beginners-2/ by Darren Rowse.

There are huge benefits to be gained from reading and posting blogs and after doing a bit of searching I’ve come across some interesting blogs which I have categorised below:

Personal Interests:
Guitar Player Gear Guide – Great blog about the latest guitar gear on the market. Useful for keeping up on latest tech.
Google Blogscoped – A blog that unofficially covers anything Google. Great external resource for following the latest Google developments.
Google Blog – The official Google blog. The one-stop-blog for everything Google.
Bungie.net blog – Transmission’s from the Seventh Column.
Woork
– Web Design, tutorials, resources blog. Helpful resource for web designers.

Enterprise 2.0:
Bill Sweetman Internet Marketing Professional – A blog from an Internet Marketing guru. Provides links to internet marketing advice and writes interesting blogs about how businesses can use online tools to further their business.
Sacha Chua’s blogroll of enterprise 2.0 blogs – A link recommended by Sacha sharing all of the blogs on Enterprise 2.0 she reads.

I’ve never really looked at many blogs before but after discovering these I’ve found there is a wealth of information to be gained on blogs.

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