5 min read

Collaboration Best Practices - 3 Reasons Why Email Hurts Your Productivity

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 12, 2012 11:00:00 AM

The following content was taken from Atlassian.com:

One of the turning points for communication in the workplace was the invention of email. Historically it’s been the easiest way to make contact in any business relationship – short, pointed conversations with the teammates you work closest with, or quick messages to people you’re communicating with for the very first time. You could say it changed the way we all work. Since its inception, however, the notion that email is also a good channel for team collaboration is what’s holding us all back.

Email is great for communication, but not collaboration…

 

Email is an effective means for communication, but when it comes to collaborating with your team on projects and getting work done, it’s a major hindrance to your team’s productivity.

  • Group conversations grow unwieldy too quickly
  • Keeping track of the most current version of an attached document is the modern-era’s needle in a haystack
  • It’s nearly impossible to maintain clarity about what needs to get done, and by whom

At the end of the day, when it comes to collaborating with your team, email wastes A LOT of your time.

Don’t get us wrong, email is not all bad. It’s really effective at quickly and effortlessly communicating with others, but it just doesn’t scale. When it comes to productively working together with your team, it fails to help you get the job done. Here are three reasons why we feel email is killing your productivity.

1. Your email inbox is a lot like quicksand

You receive a ton of email each day (yeah, like you didn’t already know that!) – some of it’s important, some actionable, some is SPAM, and some is unavoidably pointless. As a result your mornings go wasted in your attempt to reach inbox-zero. It’s a losing battle. Each time you take a step forward, you take two back. You’ve likely tried all the organizational features your email client has to offer to control your inbox – labels, filters, multiple inboxes, smart inboxes – but at the end of the day, your morning consists of at least an hour of unavoidable email ground-and-pound. You also probably manage emails when you get home at night and even first thing in the morning when you wake up just to keep your head above water. I’m preaching to the choir here, right? The fact is that this is the norm these days and hardly leaves you anytime to get real work done.

Pro-Tip: Use the ‘Four D’s of Decision-Making’ model

According to a article published by Microsoft, of the email you receive:

  • 50% can be deleted or filed
  • 30% can be delegated of completed in less than two minutes
  • 20% can be deferred to your Task List or Calendar to complete later

With this in mind it’s good practice to decide what to do with each and every email you receive – you have 4 choices:

  • Delete it
  • Do it
  • Delegate it
  • Defer it

2. Your email inbox silos your team’s tacit knowledge

Email is regularly used to share and discuss work, but that doesn’t mean its supposed to. Attaching files and documents or linking to them via shared network drives makes for a complete mess. Countless versions of shared files and relevant follow-up conversations are trapped in email inboxes everywhere. Your inbox is a graveyard for valuable tacit knowledge, knowledge that gets buried deeper and deeper every minute of every day. It’s truly criminal.

So, what’s the real problem? Email is a tool that best serves simple communication, not discussion, and certainly not collaboration either. When you send an email asking someone to review your work, the most valuable piece of information being transferred is not the file itself, but the ensuing conversation. Regardless of the fact that it’s incredibly difficult to find this email in your own inbox later, no one else outside of the email thread has the opportunity to benefit from this transfer of knowledge, keeping stakeholders in the dark.

3. Switching context between work and email wastes a lot of time

The rate at which most people check their email is astonishing – it’s practically become a nervous twitch. Just like Pavlov’s dog, your email has you trained incredibly well.

The problem with checking your email so much is that you rarely have a solid block of time to get any real work done. Take into consideration that if you’re actually checking your email 36 times an hour, and it takes 16 minutes to refocus after handling an incoming email, your workday is basically non-existent.

Switching contexts is distracting, if not annoying, and your email is the number one culprit – destroying the focus you need to get your job done well.

Pro-Tip: Practice Timeboxing to increase personal productivity

Thanks to email, staying on track at work is nearly impossible. Timeboxing is a time management technique that limits the time during which a task is accomplished. Start with 25 minute intervals. Work on a task for 25 minutes, take a 5 minute break, then commit to email for 25 minutes, and finally take another 5 minute break. Repeat. Focus. Flourish.

If 25 minutes sounds like a lot of email time, it sure beats checking your email 36 times in a single hour. At least with Timeboxing you can put all of your energy both into your work and email respectively.

Is there a solution?

We’ve outlined the major problems with using email to collaborate with your team, and even provided a few tips to help avoid the daily snags of collaborative emailing, but these are just simple workarounds. They don’t necessarily get at the core of your problems, which is that email is not the best solution for team collaboration.

OK, we are Atlassian Experts so we’re obviously biased, but we encourage ut clients to use Confluence and HipChat, Atlassian’s team collaboration and group chat tools, as means to reach decisions faster with less email and fewer meetings.

Topics: atlassian blog business confluence efficiency enterprise management optimization process project technology value collaboration information
4 min read

How to Customize your Jira Dashboards

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 12, 2012 11:00:00 AM

About Dashboards and Gadgets

The Jira Dashboards is the first screen you see when you log in to Jira. It can be configured to display many different types of information, depending on your areas of interest.

If you are anywhere else in Jira, you can access your Jira Dashboards view by clicking the ‘Dashboards‘ link in the top left corner of the Jira interface.

The information boxes on the dashboard are called Gadgetsjira-4_1-jira-dashboard-example

If your user account has only one dashboard, the tabs on the left of the browser window will not be available and the dashboard will occupy the full window width.

 

You can easily customise your dashboard by choosing a different layout, adding more gadgets, dragging the gadgets into different positions, and changing the look of individual gadgets.

You can also create more pages for your dashboard, share your pages with other people and choose your favorites pages, as described in Managing Multiple Dashboard Pages. Each page can be configured independently, as per the instructions below.

 See the big list of all Atlassian gadgets for more ideas.

This gadget will only be available if it has been installed by your Jira administrator.

 

  The Firebug add-on for Firefox can significantly degrade the performance of web pages. If Jira is running too slowly (the Jira dashboard, in particular) then we recommend that you disable Firebug. Read this FAQ for instructions.

 

Creating a Dashboard

The dashboard that you see when you first start using Jira is a “default” dashboard that has been configured by your Jira administrator. You cannot edit the default dashboard; but you can easily create your own dashboard, which you can then customize as you wish.

To create your own dashboard:

  1. At the top right of the Dashboard, click the ‘Tools‘ menu.
  2. Select either ‘Create Dashboard‘ to create a blank dashboard, or ‘Copy Dashboard‘ to create a copy of the dashboard you are currently viewing.

You can now customize your dashboard as follows:

 

If you are using multiple dashboard pages, you can only configure dashboard pages that you own.

 

Choosing a Dashboard Layout

To choose a different layout for your dashboard page (e.g. three columns instead of two):

  1. At the top right of the Dashboard, click the ‘Edit Layout‘ link. A selection of layouts will be displayed:
  2. Click your preferred layout.

Adding a Gadget

  1. At the top right of the Dashboard, click the ‘Add Gadget‘ link.
  2. A selection of gadgets will be displayed:

     Select a category on the left to restrict the list of gadgets on the right to that category.
  3. Click the ‘Add it now‘ button beneath your chosen gadget.
  4. Click the ‘Finished‘ button to return to your Dashboard.
  5. If the gadget you have selected requires configuration, you will be presented with the gadget’s configuration page. Configure appropriately and click ‘Save‘.

Moving a Gadget

To move a gadget to a different position on your dashboard:

  • Click the gadget and drag it into its new position.

Removing a Gadget

To remove a gadget from your dashboard:

  1. Hold your mouse over the top right corner of the gadget, until a down-arrow appears.
  2. Click the down-arrow to display the following menu:       
  3. Click ‘Delete‘.
Topics: jira atlassian blog implementation issues management optimization process-consulting project tips tricks tracking consulting-services
5 min read

Bamboo 3.4 Holiday Release - Git Submodules and EC2 Windows Support

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 15, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Bamboo 3.4s ready for download and ready to spread a little joy for the holidays. This release provides some gifts for Atlassian’s Git users, and will bring joy to those expanding their continuous integration process into the cloud.

What’s New in Bamboo?

Improved Git Support & Compatibility

Git users can get more out of Bamboo during their holiday break. Satisfying many votes from our Git users, Bamboo’s integration with Git’s now compatible with Git submodules. Git submodules are simply a reference to another repository at a particular snapshot in time.

  • Ruby, Python, and Javascript software projects often have dependencies on third-party libraries
  • Java developers need specific versions of a library in java that have not been released

The new support for Git submodules allows Atlassian users to structure your projects the way you want, and makes it easy to build multi-module projects. The full capabilities of your Git client are now at your disposal for Git-based development. Simple and powerful, just like Git!

Note: Building with Git submodules requires that you have a native Git client and add it as an agent capability in Bamboo. If you’ve not configured your agent capabilities to use your native Git client Bamboo will use the embedded Git client (which doesn’t support submodules).

 

Curious about Git submodules and how you can use them? Learn about Git submodules here.

Share Repositories

The holidays are all about sharing, so Atlassian thought repositories in Bamboo should join the fun. In Atlassian’s previous Bamboo release, Atlassian introduced the ability to monitor and check out code from multiple repositories. Multiple repositories in Bamboo are great for both small projects that wish to build and include externally developed open source software as part of their project, and large projects that consist of multiple modules located in different repositories. Whether you are working on a small or large project, you may be using the same repositories across multiple build plans in Bamboo. Following the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle, you can now share your repositories across these plans. Bulk manage repositories across multiple plans with a single configuration change. For admins, that means you don’t have to edit each plan/job to change a repository. All you have to do is go into the Shared Source Repositories, and make your changes there.

  • Changing working branches: post release, you may want to change the working branch. Now you don’t have to go into each job and update the Source URL manually.
  • Changing servers: if you are moving servers and changing base URLs, simply change the base URL in one place.
  • Changing passwords: admins update SCM passwords (every month) as per company policy; now you don’t have to edit each plan/job to reflect those changes.

A huge time saver for those trying to keep repositories in sync across multiple plans.

Define a shared repository that can be used globally. From there, you can share the configuration with as many plans as you want.

After you update your shared repository configuration, the changes will be picked up by all Plans that use that repository. Share away!

Grow in the Cloud – Elastic Agents with Windows Support

Give your team the ultimate gift, more build power. For those of you taking advantage of elastic agents in the Amazon EC2 cloud, Atlassian now has Windows and .NET support.

Growing capacity
Considering growing your Windows instances without having to install Windows? It all comes within an Amazon EC2 image. After the image is spun up, you can be easily connect to your instance with a Windows Remote Desktop application from any operating system.

Windows application testing
Windows instances from Amazon are great for any Windows installer testing. Like a typical VMware image, an EC2 image can easily be discarded after use, which is important because some Windows applications leave too much left over in the registry. If you need to test Internet Explorer for your web front end tests or Microsoft SQL Server for your database backend, it’s all possible on Amazon EC2.

Saving installed applications
Just like Linux AMIs, you can install any packages, add software, and make system configurations. Easily save these changes to your new AMI image, which can be added to your Bamboo EC2 Image configuration.

Windows EC2 with Amazon and Bamboo allows for elastic growth to meet your demands.  Don’t have enough VMWare hardware to go around? Expand your build system into the Amazon cloud, along with Bamboo’s elastic agents.

Want to get going on installing elastic agents on Windows/.NET? Check out a how-to blog on elastic agents and Windows.

“Easy on the Eyes” Emails

There’s alot of “bling” flashing around, so Atlassian decided to make emails more “blingy”. There are many options to receive builds notifications in Bamboo – RSS, instant messenger, IDE pop-up, through Jira and email (the most popular). The goal of all these notifications is to digest the information you need quickly, so you can resolve any issues. The new email template makes it a whole lot easier to find important information about a build at a glance. Identify which test(s) failed, view code changes, and jump to the context of changes directly from the email. Not to mention, it looks and feels like the Bamboo UI.

 

Agent Security

Sensitive information’s now even more secure in Bamboo. Verify that remote agents are allowed to connect to the Bamboo server, and prevent unknown agents from connecting to the server. When Agent Security’s enabled, an administrator must manually approve agents before they can communicate with the server in any way.

There’s more…

  • Improved dashboard performance: your dashboard should feel a little snappier with improved caching
  • New Bamboo logo: You may have seen the new Bamboo logo on our website. It’s now in the product!  

This release has over 107 new features and improvements implemented. Check out the full release notes for more details.

Ready to download

The Bamboo Holiday Release is now ready for download – get started with a 30-day FREE trial or upgrade your current instance.

Or upgrade to Bamboo 3.4

Topics: atlassian blog agents bamboo holiday java management project release windows cloud development git javascript email-notifications
2 min read

Team Calendars 1.6 Released - Share Your Custom Dates

By Praecipio Consulting on Nov 28, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian’s Team Calendars development team has been working hard to make Team Calendars the glue between Jira and Confluence. They’re excited to announce that their next major release - Team Calendars 1.6 - is available for download now!

Since Team Calendars 1.0, you’ve been able to map default date fields in Jira – issue and version due dates – on a Jira Calendar for everyone to see in Confluence. This was really helpful for Product and Project Managers to visualize the schedule of a project. However, folks have since told Atlassian that these are not the only dates important to teams. Atlassian listened, and with the release of Team Calendars 1.6, they’ve extended the Jira Calendar type to support your custom date fields in Jira.

Display Custom Date Fields from Jira on Calendars in Confluence

If you have custom date fields for your Jira Projects – ‘QA Due Date’, ‘Scheduled Deployment Date’, etc – you can now map them on a Jira Calendar inside of Confluence.  It’s quick and easy to set up from wither the the ‘Create Jira Calendar’ and ‘Edit Jira Calendar’ dialogs.

The custom dates fields you select for any given particular Jira Project will show in month, week, and list views. When you combine your Jira and People Calendars you’ve got a solution that gives your team a better understanding of a project’s progress and the ability to identify potential resourcing issues that may impact its delivery.

How can this feature help you?

If your team is using Jira for project tracking or change management, check out this post to learn how Team Calendars 1.6 can help your team deliver projects on time, all the time, and keep track of when changes were made to your internal systems.

Losing track of all these new features?

We don’t blame you! Here’s a quick review of what Atlassian’s been up to, in case you missed it.:

Enjoy and keep your eyes open for a little present from Atlassian’s Team Calendars Development Team just before Christmas.

Topics: jira atlassian blog calendars confluence project release software development atlassian-products bespoke
1 min read

Christopher Pepe to Speak at DevChatt

By Praecipio Consulting on May 24, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Christopher Pepe, head of our Atlassian practice, will travel to Chattanooga this weekend to present at DevChatt – a tech-focused conference for software developers and technology enthusiasts. His presentation – “Jira and Greenhopper for Agile Development” – will focus on how plugins are greats ideas but not the only ideas, how there aren’t any silver bullets, and how to use Greenhopper more effectively for Agile. Be sure to check it out – Christopher will knock your socks (or flip-flops) off.

Jira and Greenhopper are customizable Atlassian tools used for a variety of things. They excel at issue tracking and task/project management. If you’ve never heard of Atlassian, you should know they recently received a $60 million investment from Accel Partners, the same folks who invested in the likes of Facebook and Etsy – meaning it’s likely Atlassian will become a household name in the technology scene in the next five years.

DevChatt’s Chattanooga location is quite relevant in light of the city’s recent achievement: the fastest internet in the US. In 2010 the Electric Power Board (EPB) of Chattanooga released one of the nation’s first fiber-optic SmartGrids, giving commercial and residential customers 1GB-per-second internet speeds. Because of this, there’s a wealth of opportunity and entrepreneurial spirit in the up-and-coming Tennessee city – making it the perfect place for a collaborative conference like DevChatt.

Follow Christopher on Twitter, or meet him in person this weekend. Hope you enjoy DevChatt!

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile facebook internet issues management partners project smartgrid tracking utilities greenhopper
1 min read

Forward Planning in Greenhopper

By Praecipio Consulting on May 6, 2011 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian’s GreenHopper has a ton of features to help you organize and plan projects. But some features are harder to find than others. Christine Bang’s new post series The Three Pillars of GreenHopper highlights out-of-the-way features you can use when planning your projects.

Check out Christine’s first post in the series here, discussing how to view project backlogs, working with statistics, and deciding on new project tasks.

Topics: atlassian blog plan project greenhopper

Merry Christmas!

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 24, 2010 11:00:00 AM

 

From the Praecipio Consulting team, Merry Christmas! We hope you have an enjoyable Christmas holiday.

We’ll be taking a break from our blog over the next week while we celebrate the holiday, so this is our last post of 2010. Thanks again to all of you who gave us feedback on our posts; we’re glad to hear our blog has offered valuable perspective on IT, BPM, project management, and a host of other enterprise matters. We enjoy helping others, and look forward to blogging more in 2011.

Until next year,
Christian, Joseph, Chris, and Brian…who escaped this photo.

Topics: news blog bpm enterprise management project consulting-services it
2 min read

Confluence for the Gaming Industry

By Praecipio Consulting on Dec 7, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Atlassian’s Confluence is a key supplement to its Jira product. Confluence acts as a powerful project management component, breaking down information barriers within the development environment and keeping everyone on the same page. With an extensive list of plugins and Microsoft Office integration, Confluence can improve information sharing extensively – especially when working in tandem with Jira.

This post assumes the reader has a reasonable understanding of Confluence (if it’s unfamiliar to you, check out Altassian’s intro video). The post highlights how Confluence – as a component of Atlassian’s Agile approach – can streamline game development. Check it out:

Idea central. Confluence can easily serve as a repository for group ideas – and more importantly, offers more structured brainstorming. This is very important in pre-production environments.

Project central. Configuring Confluence to serve as a central portal for project information makes it easy for team members to get current project news from one place. In a hectic production environment, having a page that pulls in the data you need is great.

Personal homepages. Each Confluence user has their own homepage, and can easily write about what’s happening on their team, in their project, etc. This is much easier than navigating a wiki, and also allows developers to find team members with specific expertise.

Permissions. It’s important for all companies to have a mature permission scheme when it comes to file access. Confluence offers thorough permissioning options, so developers can feel confident in the integrity of their work.

Flexibility. Confluence and Jira are each flexible enough to be used differently by different project teams. One team, for example, may use Confluence to track milestones while another might use it to schedule individual tasks by the hour. Tom-ay-to tom-ah-to, it’s improving each team’s productivity by fitting their unique needs.

Documentation. Documenting applications is of course a critical part of the development process. Confluence makes documentation effective by making it searchable, ensuring users have access to up-to-date information on the fly. That’s extremely valuable since game developers need quick access to tech specs about game branding/design scheme/etc.

That’s how game developers are leveraging Atlassian Confluence to streamline project management in the development environment. And once again, it’s worth noting that much of what’s covered above applies to business of all types – not just those in the gaming industry. Check out our Confluence blogs to learn more about how Confluence (and other Atlassian tools)  can boost your operations.

Special note: We mentioned this in a recent post, but if you’ll be attending South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin in March 2011, stop by our booth at the SXSWi Trade Show. We’ll have a Confluence (and Jira) demo live, and have our developers behind the table.

Topics: jira atlassian blog scaled-agile confluence management project show sxsw trade documentation homepages integration microsoft
1 min read

Client Spotlight: EPB of Chattanooga

By Praecipio Consulting on Sep 21, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Electric Power Board (EPB) is an electric and telecommunications company owned by the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. EPB provides electricity, cable, and as of this month, the fastest internet in the US to greater Chattanooga.

EPB has showed itself as one of the most progressive public utilities in the US by, in addition to providing 1GB internet, actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. EPB had already begun their Smart Grid program before the Obama administration included billions of dollars in grands for Smart Grid projects in the 2009 economic stimulus program. EPB’s internet offering piggy-backed off the fibers laid in place for their Smart Grid.

EPB’s Smart Grid has created a platform of innovation for the city of Chattanooga as a whole. In addition to offering an array of R&D opportunities, the Smart Grid has essentially invited companies from across the US to use the grid and 1GB internet streaming to work on complex projects and develop next-generation applications – a huge stimulus for the regional economy.

We’ve been proud to be involved with EPB’s innovative efforts since 2007. We share EPB’s passion for innovation, efficiency, and sustainability; sustainable energy practices and technology are critically important for our future. During our time in Chattanooga, we’ve:

  • provided Project Management for the development of EPB’s two new websites, EPB.net and EPBFI.com
  • implemented robust Microsoft SharePoint process frameworks for managing and facilitating legal matters, RFPs, and a host of other business processes
  • developed Process Lifecycle Management methodologies that have improved EPB’s operations
  • implemented ITIL-based methodologies and best practices, making EPB’s IT processes more consistent and repeatable

…and a whole lot more. Good technology supports good processes; good processes make for good profit and reducing expenses. It’s been great to help EPB reduce expenses during a critically important (and exciting) time.

Read more about EPB on their website – and check out the cool 1GB-powered things happening in Chattanooga at ChattanoogaGig.com.

Topics: blog assessments efficiency implementation internet management optimization process process-consulting project sharepoint smart development grid itil lifecycle microsoft bespoke
3 min read

FAQ's

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 31, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Since we’re a consulting firm with a funky (we prefer “unique!”) name, we’re always armed with answers to the questions that follow “we’re Praecipio Consulting.” It would be a little silly to have an FAQ page on our website for such questions – so we’ve set out to answer the popular ones here. Ahem.

What does “Praecipio” mean?

For starters, it’s not a food or spice. Praecipio is Latin for the English words anticipate, advise, and instruct. We chose the name because its meaning matches our meaning. Praecipio, by definition, is what we do. You can read the full scoop on our name in Praecipio: It's What We Do.

So you do process management and bunch of software stuff – doesn’t that mean you’re just IT consultants?

No. Our partners are experienced in consulting in numerous areas – process lifecycle management, project management, custom software development, etc…and, of course, IT. All ends of a company, though, impact one another. One department’s initiative may impact another department just like the motion of a foot can impact the balance of the body.

When we say we work in all of these different areas, we mean to stress that we have to understand how the body works if we’re going to operate on the foot, so to speak.

I heard you host Microsoft Exchange, but couldn’t find much information about that on your website. Is that rumor true?

Yes. We offer Exchange migration, hosting, and support for businesses large and small, available upon request. We don’t advertise this heavily because it’s not our primary offering; we currently host Exchange for a handful of small businesses and have the solution ready and available for our clients’ benefit. Hosting has become a truly affordable and secure way to manage corporate email and content management systems.

We also host Microsoft SharePoint, offer cloud backup solutions, and re-sell / offer migration to Google Apps. If you’re considering any of these hosting solutions, talk to us now. We’d be happy to offer you advice and perspective.

You mention Microsoft technologies extensively. I run a Google Apps-based business – are you relevant to me?

Of course. Again, we re-sell Google Apps – and offer migration and configuration guidance to businesses who choose to “go Google.” Microsoft solutions aren’t best for everyone just like Google solutions aren’t best for everyone. We suggest the solutions that are best for our clients – not those with a particular brand name.

We do, however, have extensive experience with Microsoft SharePoint in particular. We have implemented SharePoint-powered solutions that have greatly lowered our clients’ operations expenses. Due to the success, we want to market that kind of solution to people we may be able to help, offering the proven track record as assurance. It’s rewarding to see our clients reduce their costs and grow using our solutions. Our SharePoint solutions have done just that, and if you think you can reduce your costs with a similar solution, we’d love to talk to you to learn more.

I’m a small business that doesn’t have an IT department or anything like that. Can you help me? Or do you just cater to the enterprise?

Yes, we can help you too! Partnering with smaller businesses (even one-man shops) offers us the chance to help you grow over time – which is essentially what we’re after with any work we do. Small businesses can take advantage of our free two-hour consulting sessions (we offer this to any first-time customer) for guidance and perspective. They can then have us as a point of reference as they grow.

Our hosting opportunities (Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, cloud backups, Google Apps) are most appealing to small businesses, since very few small businesses (and large ones, for that matter) want to own a server of their own. We take care of hosting and support for businesses who want to take advantage of those tools without all the overhead.

You mention “process automation” on your website. Are you taking away people’s jobs?

Certainly not. We’re not deploying robots, either. Read the full scoop in 4 Misconceptions of Process Automation.

I noticed you didn’t cover [this] on your blog. Do you plan to tackle that topic in the future?

Sure. If you have a topic you’d like us to discuss on our blog, just throw us the idea – we’ll have our quills ready. Call us, email us, tweet us…or just post a comment on the blog.

We’d love to meet you. Talk to us here.

Topics: management process project sharepoint tips tricks development hosting lifecycle microsoft bespoke
1 min read

Rule.fm: A Preliminary Assessment

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 17, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Rule.fm is one of the latest start-up business productivity suites to appear on the map. “Making productivity accessible, affordable, reliable, and fun,” Rule.fm’s capabilities include people, project, document, and time management. More are on the way.

Before we assess Rule.fm, let’s look at business productivity suites in the bigger picture. Every business – or at least every business that’s reading this – probably has a software platform upon which they run their business. Every business is looking for the easiest, simplest, cheapest software to manage it. The key here is integration. While older, more established IT environments may require costly integration between existing systems (Sales vs. HR), companies small enough to use Rule.fm could benefit greatly since it integrates high-level business processes and information. The more a business becomes technologically segmented, the harder it is to manage business information collectively.

A winning software is therefore one that can benefit every part of an organization – putting everyone on the same playing field, but also catering to unique departmental needs. Rule.fm seems to have this in mind. The folks who started Rule.fm emigrated from 37 Signals, which powers Basecamp, Highrise, Campfire, and Backpack – so it’s no surprise they’re developing an application that covers each of the 37 Signals niches…and more.

Rule.fm recently began accepting requests for invites. Their full product launch should occur in the next few months. The capabilities set will be small at first – but Rule.fm will eventually offer a complete sales cycle management tool, ticket requests, Google Docs integration, Google Calendar/iCal integration, a mobile browser, wikis, and more – as seen in their tour.

Rule.fm’s capabilities reflect business productivity software’s need for integration and scalability. When someone says “scalable software” in business, they usually end up discussing Microsoft SharePoint in some capacity – and while Rule.fm doesn’t appear to be scalable or flexible in terms of custom framework development, as SharePoint is, its intuitive interface and capabilities could be valuable to the business looking for a subscription-based solution. It seems like Rule.fm will offer businesses an out-of-the-box solution that doesn’t require additional out-of-the-box solutions.

Topics: blog bpm business efficiency enterprise management process project software collaboration
1 min read

Introduction to SharePoint for End-Users

By Praecipio Consulting on Aug 10, 2010 11:00:00 AM

There are many browser-based business productivity apps to choose from. Some help you manage projects. Some are accounting tools. Others enable you to share and edit documents. Few applications, however, allow you to do all of the above.

Microsoft SharePoint is one of those tools. And SharePoint doesn’t only do “all of the above” – it handles anything from serving as an address book to automatically finding, logging, and articulating key performance measurements from every area of an enterprise. It’s fully customizable, and lets users build in unique operations that fit their business needs. You can make SharePoint fit you.

Think of SharePoint as a concrete foundation. While other web tools that serve one business need are like pre-built homes, SharePoint is an empty lot upon which you can build whatever is best for you. Why buy seven houses you have to adjust your needs to fit when you could buy one that’s designed to fit you? In this scenario, you can start out with the basic bedroom, bathroom, living room, and kitchen, and build out as your business grows. As your business starts offering more services and acquiring more employees, you can add on metaphorical bedrooms and garages as the needs arise. You can even build a storage shed in the backyard.

SharePoint is a foundation for business that consolidates the things that make your business run – data, documents, processes, collaboration – into one software. It puts every part of your organization on common ground. While an employee in a company’s legal department may use SharePoint to store documents, a developer in IT may use it to create workflow that automatically documents sales transactions in a custom database. The software benefits BPM, CRM, ITSM, and every other kind of “M” by saving employees time.

The take-away here is that SharePoint is a highly-scalable tool that all employees can benefit from by using it for every-day business operations. The more you invest in the software, the more you get out of it – likewise, the more a business invests in SharePoint, the more money it saves over time from using SharePoint to promote efficiency. 

Topics: blog automation bpm business how-to management process project sharepoint
2 min read

SharePoint ROI: It's Up to You

By Praecipio Consulting on Jul 6, 2010 11:00:00 AM

ROIs matter most in high-effort, high-impact business decisions. Today, we put SharePoint ROI to the test.

Typically, the ROI from SharePoint depends on how it’s used. As Robert McDowell said in his book In Search of Business Value: “Technology provides no benefits of its own; it is the application of technology to business opportunities that produces ROI.”

There’s always buzz in the BPM world about how great information architecture/content management can drive organizational efficiency. Google’s “Return on Information” (ROI) Whitepaper explains why. Vendors have cited Google’s study to justify out-of-the-box document storage systems, relaying Google’s claim that an average employee spends 16 percent of their week searching for information (compared to Microsoft’s 30% estimate) – and that only one in five searches yields desired results. Companies have flocked to content management solutions to increase efficiency and provide for better project management with version-controlled documents and more organized collaboration. PM solutions like Basecamp have sprouted from this.

SharePoint has shown up as a project management and content management solution. Companies have leveraged SharePoint’s ability to:

  • Manage projects individually using customizable project pages
  • Develop project-specific document libraries with version control
  • Manage tasks/consolidate team collaboration
  • Improve employee productivity
  • Aggregate critical enterprise information
  • Provide fast, easy access to content

While these are legitimate SharePoint benefits, they account for only a fraction of what SharePoint was designed to offer. SharePoint is an enterprise platform. While it can be leveraged as a PM platform, using SharePoint solely for PM isn’t likely to yield the satisfying, long-term ROIs the business is looking for.

The highest SharePoint ROI occurs when the organization realizes SharePoint’s purpose and gradually adopts it as a platform that supports:

  • Content management
  • Process automation
  • Systems integration
  • Custom application development
  • Specific solutions (ex: RFP/Lead Management system for Sales, employee time log system for Accounting)

SharePoint’s options are limitless. The organization can integrate a SharePoint workflow, library, or collaboration portal for just about anything they want.

Today, however, the SharePoint ROI question may not center around how much/how little it will be used. The question is whether to adopt SharePoint or a combination of web-based applications for specific needs – something addressed in Forrester’s assessment of SharePoint 2010 adoption. Quick-fix 2.0 apps are the make-or-break factor here. While SharePoint has evolved over the last decade, it failed to keep up with the enterprise’s leveraging of social computing.

This issue, however, comes back to the original question: why are you using SharePoint? If you’re in the market for an out-of-the-box, quick-fix project management system, then a web-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) that integrates well with collaborative software is a great solution. If you’re looking for something that integrates well with existing systems and provides for better performance measurement over time, you’re clearly batting in a different ballpark. The ways you measure ROI for these two options are different.

We usually expect out-of-the-box, SaaS solutions to have better adoption rates (they look pretty), and therefore a faster ROI. We can measure its success by how much it improves productivity. SharePoint, however, is not a quick fix. In this way, adopting SaaS is like renting an apartment – you get what you need on a monthly basis, but you can’t knock down any walls or add that new patio you’ve been wanting. Adopting SharePoint is like building a custom home – you start off with an empty lot, and design and build the house to fit your wants and needs. And if you get tired of the linoleum floors you put in the kitchen, no problem. It’s your house. Rip ‘em up!

The ROI of SharePoint is up to you.

Topics: blog bpm enterprise management process project sharepoint saas collaboration
2 min read

Now Online: EPBFI.com

By Praecipio Consulting on Apr 26, 2010 11:00:00 AM

Our team’s project management and Microsoft SharePoint services have facilitated the release of the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB)’s EPBFI.com. EPB is actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. EPBFI.com will serve as an innovative communication platform for their 160,000+ customers.

Our skills and leverage of SharePoint as a project management tool ensured accurate communication and scheduling during the EPBFI.com project. The site, designed and developed by Chattanooga-based Medium, precedes the February 2010 release of Medium’s EPB.net; each new site has been designed to engage EPB customers with the company’s upcoming fiber optic service packages. EPBFI.com features a handful of new customer-focused tools, including MyFi– a portal allowing customers to access their EPB services account while learning about new fiber optic services.

We understand how enterprise-level environments operate and the critical nature of their services. Our team’s knowledge of how to effectively navigate the corporate setting guided Medium and EPB toward organized progress, and made sure EPB’s goals were accomplished on EPBFI.com. Our active leadership facilitated EPB’s success by ensuring all parties involved in the project had what they needed to succeed.

Our team enjoyed helping EPB Vice President of Corporate Communications Danna Bailey bring the powerful EPBFI.com to her customers.

“Their project management has greatly improved the efficiency of our project,” Bailey said.

Many thanks to the teams at EPB, Medium, and every other vendor who helped make EPBFI.com a successful tool for EPB’s customers. We’re proud to do our part by enabling EPB to accomplish their goal of a sustainable, energy-efficient Smart Grid for the greater Chattanooga area. The Smart Grid project is expected to have a positive economic impact on the region.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog management project smart grid
2 min read

EPB.net: Our Project Management Skills at Work

By Praecipio Consulting on Feb 25, 2010 11:00:00 AM

With the help of our project management, Microsoft SharePoint, and Business Process Management services, the Electric Power Board of Chattanooga (EPB) debuts its new site: EPB.net. EPB is actively building a 100 percent fiber-optic Smart Grid. Their new site will serve as an innovative communication platform for their 160,000+ customers.

EPB.net, designed and developed by Chattanooga-based Medium, follows the August 2009 release of EPBFI.com– designed to engage EPB customers with the company’s upcoming fiber optic service packages. EPB.net features a handful of new customer-focused tools, including a real-time power outage map developed by Medium—an outstanding partner in the project.

We helped because we understand Enterprise-level environments and the way they operate as well as the critical nature of their services.  We helped vendors and the client because we know how to navigate the corporate setting.

We were able exercise our flexibility by marrying our project management methodologies with the Medium Information Architecture methodology. That flexibility, in addition to our leverage of SharePoint as a project management tool, ensured accurate communication and scheduling between Medium and EPB during the EPB.net project. We understand how enterprise-level environments operate and the critical nature of their services. Our team’s knowledge of how to effectively navigate the corporate setting guided Medium and EPB toward organized progress, and made sure EPB’s goals were accomplished on the new site.

“The Praecipio Consulting team served as an advocate to vendors for what I saw this project being,” EPB Vice President of Corporate Communications Danna Bailey said. “They greatly improved the efficiency of the project; we couldn’t have done it without them.”

We facilitated EPB’s success by ensuring all parties involved in the project had what they needed to succeed. We’re happy to announce the launch of another Praecipio Consulting project management success: EPB.net.

Would you like more from us? Contact us here.

Topics: blog bpm assessments business management optimization process process-consulting project value consulting-services

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