Category Archives: project management

12 Best (FREE!) Techno Tools to Kickstart the NewYear

The following tips are compiled from a colleague, Ken MacLeod of  TheMacGroup:
  1. Teamly.com is a great new website for managing your TOP 5 priorities, and those of your team as well.  It sends you great reminders & forces the habit of setting TOP 5 goals daily.
  2. Outsourcing Things Done This company hires and manages executive assistants based in Manila for people like me.  My assistant Melanel is based in Manila and managed by people I’ve never met.  In fact, they interviewed and trained her for me.  I assign tasks to her weekly, and she cranks through them like a normal assistant would.  We communicate via their company Wiki & Task software as well as Skype Video & email.  Sure beats paying someone $40,000 a year who lives in North America when I can get the same work done for $1,200 a month by her.  She’s got her business degree from one of the top schools over there too.
  3. Time Scroller – great free App for iPhone & Widget for MACs that allows you to see multiple cities time zones at the same time.  You just scroll over with the mouse and it shows you when meetings can be set up at times that make sense for people in different time zones, countries etc.  I find this super helpful when setting up conference calls with CEOs that I mentor in Europe, Asia & Australia.
  4. Tungle.com  Free online application that seamlessly uploads your calendars.  Others wanting to book time for meetings or calls with you simply look at your Free/Busy slots.  All they can see is if you are free, they can’t see any details of the busy appointments at all.
  5. Dragon Dictation – allows you to leave a voice message which comes back to you transcribed for you to tweet, send as an email, copy & paste etc.  Works awesome.  It’s free.  And works great in noisy environments too.
  6. eLanceGuruMechanical Turk – All three are great services for getting miscellaneous admin and technical tasks done by remote casual workers around the world.  If eBay is a place where you sell stuff and people bid on what they pay to purchase your stuff, these services work the same way.  You simply post your project that you need done, when you need it done, and people bid on what they are willing to do the work for.  You’ll get references & samples of prior work and you can often get work done for 1/10th of what you’d pay a full time employee to do it in America.
  7. Google Docs  – There is no need to keep purchasing software applications like Word & Excel for your employees.  Google Docs gives you these applications for free and IF you need to have something specific you can have one version of the real thing running on a shared computer in the lunchroom.  Why pay for software licences year-after-year when you can get the same tools for free in the cloud.
  8. Basecamp – Fantastic project management software.  Simple to use.  Easy to access.  And way less cumbersome than any of the big project management tools companies waste time using.
  9. Crowdspring & 99 Designs – These are both great services that many companies could utilize when getting random things designed..  You post your project up and what you’re willing to pay and people from around the world submit designs to you hoping to be chosen.  If you chose them, they get paid.  It’s a great way to use Crowdsourcing to get marketing work done cheaply and quickly.  It’s often as good as anything a normal designer would do for you.
  10. HARO – This free service which is called Help A Reporter Out sends you emails daily with writers around North America who are looking for experts to include in stories they are writing.  Its an easy way to grow your brand.
  11. RSS Readers – Don’t waste time going to each individual persons blog that you read.  Set up an RSS Feeder that downloads all the blog posts for you to one place – and has them synchronized both on your laptop & iPhone..  That way you can read them when you have spare time to kill versus reading them while you’re at your desk and could be focusing on project work.
  12. Ambiance – Simple App for your desktop or iPhone which plays background sounds at night when you’re on the road, trying to fall asleep in a strange hotel room.  I used it recently while staying at The Driskill Hotel in Austin which is supposedly haunted.  Falling asleep while listening to waves rolling up on shore made sleep easier than worrying about ghosts, or listening to traffic 10 streets below

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Low Hanging Fruit Model – Prioritize for Better Business Results

One of the best tools to help you focus and prioritize progress and to clean up problems / procedures in a particular area of your company is the “low hanging fruit” matrix.

Here are 7 easy steps to turnaround complaints into results:

1)  Choose a topic area where you want to resolve an issue or improve processes

Some examples I have used in the past:  customer billing / invoicing, inventory management, logistics flow, contract agreements, business opportunities.    Your topic should be a theme (a complaint or else “we should do this opportunity”) that comes up in conversations regularly by employees.  Your goal is to identify areas which need management attention to deal with issues or opportunities.

2)  Call a meeting with key stakeholders

Make sure the attendee stakeholders include the vocal employees and some of the “complainers”.  Invite employees from a wide range of functional areas, and those who are interested in or accountable for fixing the issue or resolving the problem at hand.

3)  State your “theme” issue, then brainstorm a list of related problems or sub-problems

Set ground rules that all ideas will be accepted without judgement; one brainstormed idea may trigger even better ideas, issues or sub-problems.  Encourage breaking down the issue into smaller components and describing each.

List your brainstormed items on a whiteboard or flipchart.  Group any very strongly related items together into one statement or initiative.

4)  Quantify each resulting item as to High, Medium, Low –  in terms of frequency of occurence, and High, Medium, Low in terms of cost or dollar impact.  When this is done, get the group to agree where each item would be plotted on a grid using one axis for “Dollar Impact” and the other axis for “Ease of Accomplishment” or “Frequency of Occurence”

5)  Prioritize the issues into a ranked list.   Start from the right hand upper corner of your matrix (this is where highest value opportunities and easiest “quick wins” can give your project momentum).  Each quadrant offers different results, from fast and easy “low hanging fruit” to “big wins” which may have a longer term or more difficult implementation.   Make sure your group members agree on the relative positions of each item, and then as a group assign a top-to-bottom ranking.

6)  Build an Action Log, stating WHAT the Issue is, WHO is accountable, WHEN delivery of a solution is expected, and HOW (the “how” may be blank to start with, until assigned employees have met to discuss solutions)

7)  Follow up regularly.  Meet with the team to tweak your list and review progress on completing the Action Log.  By assigning accountable persons to each sub-project and reviewing status results publicly with the rest of the group, your team will be more motivated to stay on track.