10 best digital marketing tools for 2015

Digital marketing tools

Online tools make it easy for you to handle all your digital marketing endeavors in the simplest possible manner. However, there are so many tools out there on the web that it can be quite difficult to select which one is worth the effort and which one is not.

To help you in this cause, I have come up with this list of some great online options that can help you accomplish more in digital marketing. So, without further ado let’s get going with the list –

1. Raven toolscomprehensive reporting, robust SEO research tools and steadfast social media monitoring. Combine all these features in one and you get Raven. Not to forget the constant additions and upgrades made in the tool from time to time that will help you stay updated with the industry. This go to software for all things associated with online marketing comes at a modest price of $99/month. And, the best thing is that you can try it for free during the 30 day trial period.

2. Visual Website Optimizer (VWO)what works best on your website? Which header fits perfectly? Which design is just the right one for your portal? Visual Website Optimizer has an answer to all these questions. Try multiple variants with customers visiting your website in real time to see what works and what does not. With features like experimentation, professional feedback, revenue analysis, user suggestions, segmentation reports, personalized targeting and many more, VWO is the best help for your online marketing gimmicks. And that too at a meager cost of $9/month for testing up to 2000 users.

3. Person Appcreate targeted marketing campaigns, visualize your target customers and even share your customer personas with the team in one go. Person App is the framework that lets you do all this in an effortless manner. To create customer personas in the tool, all you have to do is input statistics like gender, likes, behaviors and goals in a simple-to-read layout, and that’s it.

4. BuzzSumoGoogle has always said that content is the king, and a digital marketing campaign can never survive without good content. But how to know what type of content does the audience really want? Well, this is where BuzzSumo comes into the picture. Being a content marketing tool, it helps you to research the content, and shows you how similar content has performed in the past. With a free basic plan, and the Pro plan at just $99/month, BuzzSumo is definitely worth giving a shot.

5. Sprout Socialview audience demographics, conversion histories, track mentions, check engagement patterns, plan content calendars, network with other marketers and lots more. The list of things that Sprout Social lets you do is never ending. And, this is the reason why it has been the favorite tool for internet marketers for the past quite some time now. After a free 30 day trial, you can avail the deluxe plan that starts just at $59 for a month. Must say, quite low price considering the features that you get.

6. SocedoSocedo helps you to automatically favorite tweets, follow prospects, send direct messages, and lots of other stuff related to social media. You can simply find the prospects by typing a keyword, hashtag or any other criterion which according to you will help in the search. You can leverage social media to discover and qualify leads via automated engagement using Socedo. Free trial for 30 days, and the basic plan that promises to fetch 50 new targeted leads per day at a price of just $100/month make it a worthy investment.

7. FullContactthe tool is designed to help you reach to your customers with all the information that’s needed to build a lasting relationship. You instantly get the real name, photo and social-profile links to anyone who signs up on your website using FullContact. A great thing about the tool is that it lets you store more than 25000 contacts in under $10/month. And, to make the deal more lucrative FullContact offers to store first 5000 contacts for free.

8. SidekickSidekick from Hubspot let’s you see your contact’s professional history, latest tweets and company information. Not just that, you can schedule your future emails, and also get to know who’s opening your emails how many times as well. With so many things to offer, Sidekick changes the way email marketing has been carried out in the past. The free version gives you unlimited profile views and 200 email open notifications per month. And, if you want to avail the email scheduling benefits along with this, then you can get that by paying $10/user/month.

9. Autosendbeing an email marketing tool that helps you to send personalized, targeted emails and text messages, Autosend is an innovative way to reach out personally to your customers. Whether a visitor is making purchase or has just scrolled through the pages on your website, Autosend sends messages automatically to them, based on their behavior. And, you can track up to 1,000 users by paying a sum of just $39.

10. Picreelnot all the people visiting your site convert into business. In fact 96% of the traffic doesn’t even return. This is where a tool like Picreel can come to the rescue. As a typical conversion optimization tool, Picreel helps you to retain customers on the website by making customizable exit offers. The exit intent technology used in the tool is a sure-shot way to capture visitors on your site before they leave. Picreel packages start from $16/month with which you can capture up to 3000 users.

Have some more names to add to this list? Post in the comments below to share the tools you have been using successfully for your digital marketing efforts.

Image Credit: David Joyce/ My Work Desk on Flickr




ProofHub turns 4

ProofHub Birthday

Did you hear the buzz? It’s ProofHub’s birthday!

As we complete another successful year, the whole team is excited and plans to paint the whole town red. The brainchild of Sandeep Kashyap, the CEO & Founder of ProofHub; has grown up to become a flamboyant tool used and loved by people from all over the world. With more than 75,000 business from all across the globe using the tool till date, we take pride in being one of the finest project management tools in the business today.

As we look forward to another year filled with excitement, we would love to share the highlights of the past year. So before we indulge completely into the festivities, here’s a flashback at what we’ve accomplished in the last 12 months –

The launch of ProofHub mobile app

  • In the most anticipated update of the year, we successfully launched ProofHub mobile, the Android app that lets you carry your work wherever you go. So, now you can manage your projects even when you are on the run.

Lots of exciting new features

  • The past year also saw addition of quite a number of new major features in the tool. The features that we have added include logs, project templates, ‘All Time’ tab, estimated hours, email in, notebook, file approval, in app notifications and project overview.

An enhanced user experience

  • With features like Dashboard, task detail window and ‘Me’ view, ProofHub made it a point to keep all the critical project information within your reach.
  • Also, we successfully achieved a 3 times faster app speed than before.

For both the managers and team members

  • With the option to assign manager to individual projects, ProofHub lets you  maintain hierarchy in projects.
  • We also added the option of custom roles to the app. So, you can now specify roles to individual team members, make them accountable for the project process and let them contribute more towards success.
  • To make sure that the teams stay updated with the the tasks and milestones that are scheduled for today, we launched the feature Daily agenda email’. So, ProofHub ensures that none of the deadlines are missed now.
  • Email notifications for project managers came as our much anticipated feature to help you stay updated on all the project activities using emails and take actions when you don’t have access to the tool.

Killing monotony at work

  • The all new Emoji support in chat has received wide acclaim from the users, as it has helped to make those boring office chats quite interesting and bring their emotions to life.
  • We also gave you the option to white label your ProofHub account. With more than 16 new colors to select from, using ProofHub now becomes lot more exciting.

Breaking the language barriers

  • Adding to the list of languages that included English, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and French, we integrated German language within the tool as well. So, if you are a native german speaker, then you don’t have to face trouble in using the tool.

3rd Party integrations

  • In another exciting update, we integrated Freshbooks app in ProofHub. So, now it becomes easy to prepare invoice and bill your clients.

Apart from all these major updates, lots of small changes have been made in the tool throughout the year. You can take a look at them in our updates section.

Plans for the future

That’s not all folks! The upcoming year is going to be filled with many more exhilarating updates. We have plenty of stuff lurking around behind the curtain waiting to pleasantly surprise you. Here is a sneak-peek at some of the major updates that you can expect from us in the coming time, –

  • ProofHub Bolt
  • Native iOS app
  • Timer
  • QuickBooks integration
  • Integration with Box, OneDrive and QuickBooks
  • Import tasks from CSV
  • Introduction of new languages – Norwegian, Russian
  • Enhanced reports and gantt charts
  • Workflow
  • Recurring task

And, this is just a small peep at our future updates. There’s plenty of other stuff being carried out as well.

So, until next time it’s adios amigos from me.

Cheers!

Image Credit: Pedro Serapio/The Cake on Flickr




11 ways to excel at Project management

Grand Master

Project Management is no Rocket Science! You don’t have to be an erudite to become successful at Project Management. Although, there is much brouhaha about this term in corporate culture, but you will be amazed to see how in our daily life we all perform the activities that make us project managers in our own right.

For instance let me break down this simple scenario of looking for a new apartment into steps and then see how it goes –

  • Step 1 – Knowing what your requirements are and what is the outcome of the search (Initiation)
  • Step 2 – Understanding those requirements, setting priorities and then jotting down the options that you are going to do during your search (Planning)
  • Step 3 – Performing activities as planned i.e. calling brokers, searching on the internet, set up visits (Execution)
  • Step 4 – Unable to find an apartment that fits within your needs? So you reconsider your requirements and then begin the search again (Monitoring and Controlling)
  • Step 5 – You end up finding an apartment to move in (Closing)

With a closer look, we can see that the steps are same as you would need to make a project successful. The question that arises now is when almost all of us can perform these tasks without any hassle, then why there is always so much fuss about project management? While it is easy to say that we handle the responsibilities of a project manager in our day to day activities, but reality is otherwise, simply because the job of a project manager is at a much larger scale as compared to the house job (besides the fact that  there is always a boss shouting out loud on them to deliver the projects). Multiply the difficulties that you face while performing these tasks to a thousand times (or even more), and that’s what a project manager has to do on daily basis. Our daily activities can lay the foundation for developing a successful project manager’s brain, but it requires great skill to improve these abilities and come out on top and avoid the mistakes that can lead to failure of the projects.

Before we delve deep into the chronicles of successful Project Management, you must remember that ‘There are no new reasons for project failures, they go wrong for the same reasons all the time. And, the biggest sin in project management is to not learn the lessons of past failures.’

Well, let me share my list of 11 ways that can help you avoid these mistakes and excel at Project Management –

1. Lead like Leonidas
What was the biggest reason that the 300 spartans who fought in the battle of Thermopylae against 300,000 soldiers of the Persian army were able to create history? Well, it was the non-deterrent leader Leonidas, who gave chilblains to Xerxes and his men even with his meager army. A brave and a smart leader who knows how to bring the best out of his team can win battles, no matter how difficult they seem. This clearly explains the importance of leadership in successful completion of a project. So, being an able leader is the first thing in the list to become better at project management.

2. Document like a scientist
Do you know the best thing about scientists? Before they actually start working on how things happen, they first define what’s happening. And, this is something that applies to project management as well. Going haywire with the project straightway is one of the major causes that lead to failure. A clearly documented project scope, explaining the objectives, can set the tone right and put things in place for successful completion. Don’t forget, ‘What’ always comes before ‘How’ when we are looking to achieve something. Therefore, as soon as the project arrives you must go all guns blazing at preparing a scope document explaining the objectives of the project first, and then start working on how to achieve those objectives.

3. Plan like a grandmaster
Have you ever seen a grandmaster playing chess? He plans every move on the checkerboard in a meticulous manner so as to minimize the chances of a mistake. This creates a roadmap for winning the game. Being a project manager, you need to inculcate these grandmaster like abilities to plan each and every move that you are going to make in order to achieve success with the project. As Winston Churchill once said, ‘Those who fail to plan, plan to fail.’ So, as a project manager planning should be the most important thing for you.

4. Define like an artist
Planning a project is one thing, but making the team members understand that plan is entirely different. This is where defining the objectives of the project come into the picture. In order for everyone to understand the intricacies involved in the project, there must be well defined objectives with each and every detail laid out in front of the people who are going to be involved in it. This is something that you can definitely learn from an artist, in the way they portray the minutest details of their imagination while defining their thoughts.

5. Risk it to get the biscuit (but, be sure to assess the risk first)
Risks are associated with every aspect of the project, and continue to change over the course of time. However, you need to learn the art to assess those risks beforehand so as to keep things under control. Remember, effective risk management can be the difference between success and failure of a project. The best way to do it – prioritise the objectives, be prepared with the preventive actions (in case of adversities) and track the updates. As they say, you need to risk it to get the biscuit!

6. Who’s the quarterback and who’s the placekicker?
No, I am not asking you to get out in the football field to identify the positions. All I am saying here is that you need to define the roles and responsibilities to individual team members so that every person gets to know his/her accountability for a particular task. This will not just help in achieving the objectives in a better way, but at the same time will also help in building better leaders out of all employees for the future.

7. Adorn the Coaches’ hat
What does a sports coach do? He monitors the team and communicates with them just to make sure that they have a clear mind about what needs to be achieved. The job of a project manager is no different. A team is a team, no matter if it is out on a football field or working in a corporate office, and it is the responsibility of the coach to keep them aligned towards the objective of winning the championship (which in our case is the successful completion of the project). So, adorn the hat of a coach and continue to monitor and communicate with the team members about what they are doing good and where they need to do better.

8. Test it before it’s too late
Sculpt this quote in the back of your mind ‘the later you leave the testing in the development cycle, the more it costs to fix’. This is the reason why you must not leave testing to the end moment. Testing lifecycle encompasses Test plan, Test specification, Code tests, Validate test, and Run tests. One of the major reasons why teams fail to deliver projects as per specifications is simply because they employ an ad hoc technique for testing. Plan your testing before it gets too late, and see how smoothly things turn out to be.

9. Apply the thumb rule
Wondering what’s that? The thumb rule that holds true for project of any shape or size is that there is always room for improvement. However, that can be figured out only when you review the product before delivering it finally. The timing of the review holds the key here. You would not want to leave it for too late to have no time left for making the final changes. Being in the position where it is your responsibility to ensure that the product is customer ready before the final delivery, you must always perform a post implementation review.

10. Delivery is not the final destination
Opinions may vary from person to person in this regard, but it has been proven time and again that believing a project to be complete once it is delivered is a big mistake. A large number of projects declared as successful initially, never deliver the planned results simply because the results are not reviewed in the longer run. The biggest mistake that project managers make in this scenario is to disband the team as soon as the project is delivered. You must not mark the project as complete unless the desired results are obtained. In fact, realising those benefits by conducting a post implementation review (within 3-6 months of the delivery of the project) is something that can help you to sustain in the longer run.

11. Don’t let history repeat itself
As stated in the beginning, projects go wrong for the same reasons all the time. In order to avoid the history from repeating itself you need to learn from the mistakes made in the past. Failing to learn the lessons from mistakes made in one project and moving straight away to the next one is going to land you even deeper in trouble with the next project. Remember, lessons apply to everyone. So, devote a big chunk of your time to evaluate the project that you have finished and document the mistakes that you need to avoid with the next project.

And, once you have managed to successfully complete all this, it’s time to party!!!

After all, spending some time with your team to appreciate their efforts and success of the project is really worth it.

Like what you’ve read? Share your thoughts in the comments section to help us know what you think of this post.

Until next time, happy reading… :)

Image Credit: Jotam Trejo/ Front Line on Flickr




5 Tips to make enterprise collaboration tools work for your business

Enterprise Collaboration

“There’s too much work to do and too less time. Let’s collaborate.’

This is a common scenario in almost all offices. And, this has been mantra of success for almost all the big names out there that you find in the market. Collaboration within the enterprise has become the lifeline for finishing off complex projects, with organizations looking to do things in a faster, smarter and better manner. All this has led to the rise of a never ending list of enterprise collaboration tools that can help you to achieve more with limited resources.

While these tools allow easy capturing of knowledge and finishing off tasks in no time, the journey to collaboration tool adoption in an enterprise is still a complicated one. In fact, the headache of deploying a collaboration platform festers well beyond the technical hurdles.

If you have also been unable to make enterprise collaboration work for your business, then here are some tried and tested tips that can prove to be of good help –

  1. Define the motive of collaboration
    Are you targeting product innovation? Or looking for better staff retention options? Or, are in dire needs of process improvements? No matter what the scenario is, enterprise collaboration can come to your rescue and bail you out of trouble. However before you bring in a collaboration tool, you need to have a set goal first. The collaboration tool adoption in an enterprise can be a long journey, and it is always the best idea to have a roadmap as to where you want to reach at the end of this journey.
  2. Get personally invested in the tool selection process
    As the leader of the enterprise it becomes your responsibility to select a tool that seems appealing to the employees. According to Brian Lozada, director and CISO at the IT firm Abacus Group, “When employees are empowered, they are more likely to use and generate excitement for new collaboration tools internally.” A good way to achieve this is to get insights into the tools they are already using. And, this can play a pivotal role in determining the success of most collaboration efforts, with employees ultimately contributing to the adoption process.
  3. Build workflows and processes into technology, not the other way around
    An important thing to keep in mind when selecting collaboration tool for an enterprise is to not get seduced by the looks of a platform. Collaboration tools must be selected with the sole target of creating experiences that your employees can recognize as the superior means to achieve the results, rather than anything else. Embrace technology to demonstrate how these tools can change the way they work, rather than anything else.
  4. Invite all the devil’s advocates
    Collaboration allows the employees to capture each other’s fund of collective intelligence. And the meaning of collaboration itself defines the importance of bringing people together. So, why not begin by bringing the team together and let them pick holes in your assumptions and choices for the tool. By having the entire team share their views, both good as well as bad, about collaboration endeavors you can definitely get some great ideas about what they think of the various tools that are available out there, and which one would fit within the company’s culture.
  5. Start small and scale up
    The key to successful implementation of collaboration software lies in applying the right scale to social collaboration initiatives. Begin with the installation in a single team and scale up gradually. After all, you would not like all systems installed with the update, but no one participating. This is where setting the expectations right for the entire enterprise becomes so vital. Give your team the time frame for feedback, and for making adjustments to the new way of doing things, so that they don’t feel left out in the decision making process.

Now that concludes the key points that can help you in enterprise collaboration and to bring your entire team together. Have some more ideas to add to this list? Feel free to share those ideas in the comments section below.

Image CreditMichael Coghlan on Flickr




Still using paper to manage your projects? There is a better way…

Pen and Paper

Pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall of China, Taj Mahal. The whole world looks at these monuments as man-made marvels, but there’s lot more to them just great creation. These are examples of projects completed with great planning, execution and control. If we scroll through the history books, we can find countless examples of successful amazing project management and implementation. There is not much evidence about how these massive projects were executed in the past, but one thing’s for sure that our ancestors were damn good at project management.

With the passage of time, as organizational structure continued to evolve with human evolution, trends in project management also continued to evolve. We don’t have to go too far in the history books to look for these changes. For instance, 80’s and 90’s were the decades when organizations focused more on quality and globalization, while with the rise of 21st century, project management became more about adding velocity to everything that was being done within the projects. Thus, bringing forward the need of tools to speed up the tasks.

Talking about tools, technology has brought forward the useful option of project management software that can be used to complete tasks and manage things harmonically. Not just speeding up the tasks, but these tools have brought together different facets of project management to club them all at one place to ensure minimum chances of failing to deliver.

If you are still stuck with the old school methods of project management to jot down each and every requirement on paper with a pen, then it is high time to move on with and adorn technology.

Here is a look at the reasons that will compel you to switch to these tools for project management needs –

  • The nucleus of information
    A project management software serves the purpose as the common place where all the information about a project can be stored. You don’t have to worry about being lost in the heaps of documents and data scattered all over the local hard drives of your team members. In the form of a project management software you get a centralized hub for storing and sharing information that is easy to access and could be operated from anywhere with the help of internet.
  • Seamless collaboration
    When it comes to project management, the most difficult task that lurks around is to bring people together from different areas of expertise for collaboration. From assigning tasks and sharing documents to tracking progress and status updates, everything can prove to be a nuisance. However, a project management software can save you from all this trouble and take care of all these tasks. With the help of a project management software all these activities could be completed in the blink of an eye. And, that’s where the real beauty of these tools lies. And, the best part is that these software make it easy for a newbie to come and be part of the time at any stage.
  • Standardization of processes
    This is where things go wrong for majority of the organizations. Not having standardized processes can lead to the situation where improper information gathering and sharing could emerge as a common scenario. And, this can create confusion and roadblocks that can lead to project failures. However, a project management software can help to standardize the processes where everyone will filling the same required information, creating documents that look and feel the same and be consistent with the documentation.
  • Time tracking
    There can be quite a number of factors that can stand between you and meeting deadline for the projects. A project management software eliminates these factors to ensure that you never miss the deadlines and always stay on schedule. You can set a start and end date, break the task down to sub-tasks, each with specified deadlines and notify the team members about the same. In short, keep the team members on their heels by keeping them notified about the timely delivery of tasks all the time.
  • Effective communication
    What is the biggest factor that contributes to project failure? Ask any of the project managers this question and majority of them would come up with poor communication as the answer. Missed chats, late replies and unanswered emails all these contribute towards project failure. This is where a project management software can fit in. Being the central hub for all your project information as well as communication, a project management software can solve the problem of ineffective communication to ensure that the team is always in sync, never misses a deadline and communicates effectively.

This is just an overview of what you can expect to get with project management software. Once you start using them, you can explore the countless number of benefits that these tools can bring along.

If you have not explored this option of project management software, then it is high time you try them to see how they transform every project into a success story.

Image CreditDaria / epicantus on Flickr




Must read books for project managers

Bookshelf

Books can be the best friend when you are trying to unravel the mysteries of project management. No matter if you are a newbie in the field or a seasoned campaigner, there are written scriptures available to match with everyone’s needs.

However, the biggest problem is to find out which one is a worthy read and which one’s  not. In order to help you in this task, we have managed to pile up this randomly organized list of some great books on project management.

So, without further ado let me uncover the list –

1. The Effective Executive: The Definitive Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

The Effective Executive

One of the things that come to mind instantly when I hear the name The Effective Executive is the quote “The measure of the executive is the ability to get the right things done”. This simple mantra can make or break your career in project management. Getting things done rightly is not the only aspect that leads to success, it is the ability to do the right things that separates the best from the rest in this field. And, this is something that you can learn from this book. Penned down by Peter F. Drucker, one of the most influential management thinkers of current times, the book is a must read for anyone looking to up the ante in project management.
Highlight – Five essentials to business effectiveness laid out in an easily actionable language.

2. The Lazy Project Manager: How to Be Twice As Productive and Still Leave the Office Early

The Lazy Project ManagerSeems quite an unusual name for a topic like project management, but the book is definitely a big thumbs up when it comes to its content. Case studies, freehand charts, anecdotes, name it and you can find it all in this book written by the prodigy, Peter Taylor,  with more than three decades of experience in the field. The book paints a clear picture of how a project management professional can achieve more by putting in lesser hours at work. The book brings the perfect blend of entertaining quotes and serious project management guidance to ensure that readers thoroughly enjoy reading the book.

Highlight – The tried and tested 80/20 rule to explain how you can achieve more in less time.

3. The Mythical Man Month
The Mythical Man MonthAn all time classic, the book was written originally by Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. in the year 1975. However, in the year 1995 another edition of this book was launched. Though it is technically a software management book, but the lessons make it a must read for anyone related to project management. For instance, section on ‘the scheduling and management of a software’ is nothing short of a genius’ work. With some intriguing quotes such as “How does a project get to be a year late? …One day at a time…” and many others, the book is sure to leave you wanting for more owing to the interactive way in which the facts have been presented in the book.

Highlight – the exemplification of project management scenarios such as relating them to common things like comparing coding with the menu of a restaurant.

4. Making Things Happen: Mastering Project Management

Making Things HappenWritten by Scott Berkun, a Microsoft project veteran, the book has been critically acclaimed for its collection of field-tested philosophies and strategies. Based on the author’s real life experiences and expectancies as a newbie in the field, the book teaches you how to make things happen in project management. The personal tone in which Scott has explained the eight chapters separate the book from the usual project management guide books. And, the fact that unlike the prevalent giant guidebooks on the topic, this comes across in a simplified essay form, makes it a highly interesting read.
Highlight – Emphasis on theory and philosophy as compared to specifics of project management make it a worthy read for both technical and non-technical users alike.

5. Death March
Death March
Written by Edward Nash Yourdon, a pioneer in the software engineering methodology, the book’s title has been used in context to the biggest problem that IT projects appear to face. This quote from Pete Seeger will help to explain it better “We’re waist deep in the Big Muddy, and the big fool says push on.” The entire book is built around answering three of the most common questions related to project failures

  • how do IT projects turn into death march projects in the first place?
  • why do organizations often push ahead anyway, even after knowing a project has become a death march project. Why don’t they just re-scope the whole project?
  • how to get the project out of the state of death march?
    Highlight – skillful negotiations and improved project management tips are one of a kind.

6. Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work
Decisive
With this book the Heath brothers bring back the old school philosophy of a project manager’s ability to make decisions as the most important aspect of the job. Heath brothers are known for their engaging and compulsively readable style of writing, and with Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, they have tried to tackle the most imperative question in our professional as well as personal lives i.e. How can anyone do better? The book brings the perfect amalgamation of innovative strategies, along with a list of practical tools that can help anyone in making better  choices.

Highlight – The four step process designed to counteract the biases in decision making.

7. Peopleware: Productive projects and teams
Peopleware
The core philosophy of this book can be summed up in this quote taken from it ‘The major problems of our work are not so much technological as sociological in nature’. Oriented towards sociological aspects and conditions at work, Peopleware brings into light productivity in terms of quality. The author has given a wonderful example of Japanese work culture where it is a widely accepted notion that cost reduction comes automatically with high quality work. Unlike other books which revolve around the technical aspects of project management, DeMarco and Lister have managed to focus more on the sociological aspects, and this comes across as a breath of fresh air.

Highlight – Parkinson’s law, according to which the work expands to fill the time allocated for it.

8. Jack Welch and the G.E. Way: Management Insights and Leadership Secrets of the Legendary CEO
Jack Welch and the GE WayWith his book Jack Welch and the G.E. Way, the author Robert Slater has brought forward the insights of innovative leadership strategies employed by Jack Welch, GE’s chief executive for the past 17 years. It was his leadership that saved the sinking ship of G.E. transpiring it to emerge as one of the biggest players in the market with a staggering $300 billion-plus capitalization of the market. The book inspires startup managers to work the Welch magic on their organization and  dismantle the management layers, the employees and target audience.

Highlight – while writing this book, the author had unprecedented access to Welch and other prominent GE insiders.

9. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge

A Guide to Project Management Body of KnowledgeWhether you are looking for standard project management terminologies or A to Z knowledge areas of this field, this book is a must for you. As the brainchild of world’s leading professional association in project management (PMI), the book can serve the purpose of guidebook to help you clear professional certification and kickstart your career in project management. A favorite of almost all professionals who have managed to make a mark in the industry, this book is often touted to be the de facto standard in project management and is used as the reference book by newbies starting their journey in this field.

Highlight – highly researched theory content.

10. Gazzaa’s Guide to Practical Project Management: Tips and advice on Surviving the Project Management Journey
Gazza's Guide to Practical Project Management
The book breaks down the complicated task of Project Management into practical and simple concepts to help you understand better. From kicking off the project to planning and writing, along with risk management and implementing organizational change, Garry (Gazza) has managed to cover all the aspects in his writing. Breaking the essential components of Project Management down into practical, simple concepts, the author has penned down some interesting facts that can help newbies and seasoned professionals alike.

Highlight – addressing the four stages i.e. Initiation/Planning, Execution, Closeout and Project Control of project management with utmost ease.

11. Rescue the Problem Project: A Complete guide to Identifying, Preventing, and Recovering from Project Failure

Rescue the Problem ProjectThe book sheds light on the root causes of trouble that lead to project failures, and brings an in-depth analysis on each aspect of handling a project. With this book Todd, who has been helping Presidents, Vice Presidents, and C-Level executives in improving organizational efficiency with enhanced project management skills, brings the topic closer to life by connecting complex project management scenarios with examples from real life. Unlike other books that tell you how to run a project, this one goes a bit too far and provides advice on how to bring back a project when it is down in doldrums.
Highlight – Real world examples of what works, what doesn’t and why?

 

Image Credit – My To-Read Shelf by literarychica on Flickr




Company culture: why it matters

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‘A company’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its employees.’

Mahatma Gandhi

Did he literally say it? Nea, he didn’t. I’m just playing…

It’s a little tweaked version that I created to fit in this article. Gandhi might not have said the exact words, what he did say though laid the foundation of perhaps one of the biggest corporate traditions i.e. the rise of corporate culture.

The great man’s actual words were ‘A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.’ And, Tim Cook supported the Indian legend’s thought and his beliefs in the Google’s culture. That’s what the first line on the company’s Our Culture Page says ‘It’s really the people that make Google the kind of company it is.’

So, what exactly does the term company/organizational culture stand for?

First things first, there is no fixed definition for the term. While the Wikipedia definition says ‘Organizational culture is the behavior of humans within an organization and the meaning that people attach to those behaviors.’, there are researchers who have defined the term as ‘a set of shared assumptions that guide what happens in organizations by defining appropriate behavior for various situations.’ (Ravasi and Schultz)

Contrary to this school of thought, there are others who believe company culture is not something that employees bring with them, rather it is pre-existing in the organization’s DNA. After all, even companies with just one employee have their own mission, vision and values.

No matter what you think of the corporate culture, the fact which matters the most is that good organizational culture can be the difference between a successful and a not-so successful organization.

The question that arises here is what makes culture so important? Why it matters so much? By the time you will end up reading this post, you will have an answer to all these questions.

  • It gives a clear purpose to the employees
    If you were given an option to choose between waking up in the morning with a grimace thinking you have to go to the office or waking up clear headed with a smile on face knowing that you have something great to do at office today, which one would you prefer? I’m sure all of us would jump into the latter one. This is what makes corporate culture so important. What makes companies like Google and Facebook the best places to work on this planet is not the fact that they pay you well (although it comes as an added factor), it is purely because they have a culture where employees thrive. For instance, ask any of the workers in Facebook about their work culture and the one answer that you would get from them is ‘We don’t have rules. We have values’. And, this is something which separates them from the rest.
  • It builds an environment of trust
    Would you work in an organization where you have to think twice before leaving personal belongings unattended in the break room? Or be part of a company where you cannot count on the co-workers? Culture is the reflection of how an organization works. Anyone can hire employees who seem trustworthy, but getting them to trust the company values is something that requires quite a getting. This is the reason that top names in corporate world are never shy to invest in policies that work towards the benefit of their employees, be it adding a recreation zone in the premise or giving them privileges like access to lounges and spas to ease off the mental stress at work. Happiness is something that comes from within, but when we talk about job satisfaction it comes from the employers caring about the employees.
  • It helps in retaining the employees
    Most of the employees, no matter which part of the world you talk about, do not have the luxury to choose an employer based on their personal goals. Rather, they usually work wherever they find and try to fit in. Won’t it be wonderful if you had the luxury to choose an employment on the basis of your personality, your liking and your future goals align with the company’s goals?  Won’t you like to work there forever? This is what great organizational cultures can help to achieve. An overview of some of the best places to work with, be it Google, Twitter, Facebook, Disney or any other for that matter, can help you to see that their culture is weaved around the strings of policies that make the employees happy. And, this is what leads to their success ultimately.
  • It helps in raising the bar
    Knowing that the company will reward you for every effort that you put can inspire the employees to go overboard with their efforts and raise the bar every single time in whatever they do. Take a look at the employee reviews of some of the best companies out there on Glassdoor, and you will notice that majority of them chant about the work environment being so encouraging that they are able to make the most of their talent. In order for an organization to continue to grow, it becomes imperative that the employees continue to raise their work abilities, something in which the culture plays the most critical role.

I guess this much of jabbering is more than enough to help you understand why there has always been a huge hullabaloo about company culture and the importance it holds in making or breaking a successful business.

If you would like to add anything to it, feel free to share your views in the comments section.

Image Credit: Happy 5 years at Invo, Jon Follett! By Juhan Sonin on Flickr




The happy manager

In a recent study carried out at University of Warwick, UK, it was found that happier people are approximately 12% more productive at work as compared to their counterparts who are not happy. This clearly reflects that happiness is directly related to productivity and being happy at work really pays off big time!

Being the connecting link between the upper management and workers, it becomes imperative for a manager to not just be happy himself, but make sure that the team is happy as well.

This brings us to the question ‘What does it take to be a happy manager?’

After doing my bit of research, this is what I was able to figure out –

1. Leader: Although people use the terms manager and leader interchangeably, but there is a world of difference between the two. Management can be explained as the act of doing things right; on the other hand leadership is more about doing the right things. A good manager is the one who amalgamates the characteristics of a leader with his managing abilities to bring out the best results. Here is a look at how you can become a happy manager by improving your leadership skills –

  • Love, learn and share – teamwork is all about sharing. And, as Napoleon Hill has put in words “You can succeed quick and best by helping others to succeed.” As a leader you must not only assign roles and let them do their thing, but at the same time share your experience, knowledge and expertise with them. In fact, you must encourage the people in your team to share their experiences with other members as well. This can help the team to learn new things, and work as an icebreaker, in case the team has been newly formed.
  • Contribute equally – If your presence is not making any contribution, then your absence won’t make any difference. Teams are more effective, innovative and productive when everyone contributes equally. Being the manager of the team you need to contribute not only towards project progress, but also take care of the comfort of your team as well. Don’t forget a manager is as good as the team is, so your contribution becomes even more important. So, in order to be a happy manager you must learn to contribute effectively in team progress. Remember if everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself – Henry Ford.

2. Motivator: how many times do you step out of your home to go at work thinking I am going to have fun at work today? I suppose none. If you will start to have fun at work, then it won’t feel like work. And, this is what you should try to achieve as a manager. After all, all work and no play makes jack a dull boy. So, rather than letting your team transform into work slaves, try to incorporate something that makes it fun to work. Here is a look at what you can do –

  • Refresh and renew – incorporating some fun activities during break hour can help to rejuvenate the team. Social gathering and team outings can serve not only as icebreakers, but at the same time can help to freshen up the team after a hard week’s work. And, as the manager of the team it becomes imperative that you don’t let the work get monotonous and boring. By arranging for regular fun activities at work, you can eventually bring the best out of your team and see a sharp rise in productivity for sure.
  • Eat healthy stay happy – while this might come as a surprise inclusion for all of you reading the post, a manager must never ignore the importance of a good diet. This is the reason that a happy manager should not only keep a check on his diet, but at the same time inspire the team members as well to eat healthy, live better and work better. As they say, a sound mind lives in a sound body.

3. Manager: Management is nothing more than motivating other people. This is the simplest definition of management that I have ever come across. As the title of the job goes, a manager is the person responsible for managing the workers, assigning projects to them and ensure that every step (from inception of the project till it crosses the final line) is completed in the rightful manner. Being a project manager, here are some things that can help you to become a happy project manager.

  • Create happy workplace – while others just sit and wait for inspiration, a good project manager gets up and goes to do things the way they were never done before. It is the responsibility of the project manager to create productive workplaces where the team enjoys doing the stuff. Look at some of the big names from all across the world like Google, Facebook, Disney, Virgin and many more, one of the biggest reasons why they are so good at what they do is because they make it a point to create a happy workplace. Google took this theory to a newer level altogether by investing a lot more in employee support and employee satisfaction in recent times. The result came in the form of 37% rise in the productivity of employees afterwards.
  • Productive team means happy MANAGER – Research, facts, statistics and figures, all of these point out that productivity has a direct relation with happiness of the workers. A productive team means better results, projects being wrapped up on time and rise in the revenues. And, this is something that every manager wants to achieve. So, all in all it won’t be wrong to say that the job of a project manager is a two way barter, where the manager strives to make the employees happy at workplace. In return, the employees bring better results and make the project manager happy. As simple as that!

To sum it up, all I would like to say is that a happy manager is one who manages with “head”, “heart” and “hand”.

If you can incorporate these traits in your attitude, then I’m sure the transformation from being just any other manager to a SUPER-MANAGER will not take long to occur!

 




How to create a culture of innovation

Every organization has its own set of problems. While some focus on simply addressing these problems, there are others that go one step ahead and innovate so that the problem does not come in the future as well.

The big question that you need to ask yourself is whether you want to be part of the former or the latter?

I’m sure the answer would be the latter group.

Now, the question that arises here is how do you fabricate an atmosphere where innovation thrives? How do you magnify this strength of innovation into a source of competitive advantage? Most important of all, how do you create a culture of innovation?

Before we delve deep into the chronicles of creating a culture of innovation, let us first understand what exactly does the term culture of innovation mean? According to Scott Edinger, of the Edinger Consulting Group, “Excellence in leading innovation has far less to do with the leader having innovative ideas; it has everything to do with how that leader creates a culture where innovation and creativity thrives in every corner.” While for majority of us innovation is nothing more than the plain act of generating new ideas (a whole lot of them), but the reality is far from that.

Now that we have a thorough understanding about institutional innovation, let us shift our focus back from where we started i.e. how to create a culture of innovation in your organization? After meticulous research, I have managed to come up with this compilation of strategies that top leaders in the world have employed to foster a culture of innovation in their organization. So, here’s the list

  • Incorporate innovation in your DNA
    “Innovation, “as Steve Jobs has put in words,”comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.” There’s no point in belaboring the obvious that innovation is the one aspect that can make or break a business. Just like Einstein said it, innovation is everyone’s responsibility and not just the R&D Team, think of it as a constant evaluation of creativity rather than any of your pet projects. This philosophy has been the driving force for innovation at companies like Facebook, where everyone is looked upon as an innovator.
  • But before the first step, know thyself
    Every organization has certain set of values, behaviors, attitudes and feelings associated with its workforce. Before you start to work towards the change, you need to understand the climate of your organization. Will the employees be able to acclimatize to the change? How will they respond to this experimentation phase? What are the different structures that you need to keep in place in order to unlock innovation? Wondering how to do it? Well, here’s what you can do to help your employees adapt to this culture of innovation –
  1. Tolerate mistakes – if employees fear of being penalized for failures, their thinking is going to be crippled. As crazy as it may sound, but giving your employees the confidence of not being ridiculed, no matter how crazy their ideas may sound, should be the first point on your list. This feeling of reciprocal trust can prove to be a game changer for your organization.
  2. Solicit ideas – as told in the first point, innovation isn’t the sole province of top-level employees. Anyone who has a skill related to the project can come up with the multi-million dollar idea you have been looking for. This is the reason that rather than relying solely on the so called innovative thinkers of your organization, you should encourage all the employees to share their ideas and see how things turn out to be.
  3. Focus on results – give the staff members freedom to do their job. No matter how they do it, a breathing space where they can experiment, grow and come up with something new always helps in getting the best results. And, that’s what matters in the end. Isn’t is so?
  • Experiment and iterate
    Speed holds the key when we talk about innovation. However, that’s not the only thing that matters. Experimenting with those ideas first and then moving ahead with their iteration is as important as discovering the idea itself. And, Facebook comes across as the best example for this. Not only do these guys come up with innovative ideas every now and then, but it’s their experimentation and iteration that drives them to success. From Beta Testing to methodical implementation, they leave no stone unturned to make sure that only the best product comes out for the users. And, this is the reason that they have emerged as the leaders in technology. If Facebook can do it, then why can’t you? All you need to do is pick up the pace before slow speed becomes the death knell for your business.
  • Be the inspiring leader
    As they say ‘to bring the change, be the change’. If you want your employees to inculcate the culture of innovation within them, you need to analyze your attitude. Are you an inspiration for the employees? Do you motivate them to innovate? If not you, then who else? Here are some aspects of leadership that might be coming in your way, when it comes to inspiring the workers at your organization –
  1. dismissing others’ ideas simply because you don’t have the time to listen to them
  2. asking employees for suggestion, but never implementing them
  3. not being open to explore the possibilities of any novel idea put by any of the team members

If you can relate to any of these things after reading it, then you surely need to work on your leadership abilities first before you actually start to innovate.

  • Embrace failure
    People call failures infectious, stinky and pestilent. Not doubt they are, but the trick to embrace innovation is to accept failures in a similar manner as you accept success. The best leaders don’t criticize people who fail, rather they inspire them to strive harder the next time. Remember, it is all about thinking. And, there can’t be a better way to explain this situation in words then referring to the famous quote from Thomas A. Edison who failed 10000 times before successfully creating the electric bulb ‘I’ve not failed. I’ve found 10,000 ways that don’t work.’ Remember the glass is always half empty and half full, it depends entirely on the way you look at it.

That’s about it from my end.

Hope you had a Happy Reading!!!

 




The 7-point checklist that every project manager needs to look at

Plan, Organize, and Manage Resources.

This would have been my answer if you had asked about the roles of a project manager few years back. Ask me now and I can add gamut of other things to this list.

As times have evolved, so have the job responsibilities of the Project Manager. From being just someone who would manage things and handle the resources in an organization, the designation of a Project Manager has become something more like that of Tony Stark who has to come out wearing his Iron Man suit every now and then to save the day (in this case to save the project).

Here’s a 7-point checklist that every Project Manager needs to look at in order to be in a win-win situation all the time –

  • Being a fortune teller (not literally though)
    The key to becoming successful at Project Management lies in always looking a few paces ahead. The knack of fortune telling (or forecasting as it is commonly called in the industry) is imperative in this field. If you are good at number crunching, then the entire game can become all the more easy for you. Things like resource utilization, comparing project revenues, macro and micro-analysis of projects, and similar others can help you in forecasting the outcome, which is ultimately going to add up to bring an improved performance. Take a look at the best performing organizations in the world, more often than not they are accurate with their forecasts.
  • Getting into the Sherlock Holmes skin
    Another important thing that you as Project Manager must always do is to Identify the processes that have not been working for the organization and finding the most effective solutions to make them work. Or, in case there is no solution, then replace them with something better. In technical language, this is called as Pipeline Flow. And, to maintain the organization in an invigorated state it is important that you repair the bottlenecks while they are in infancy state. So, wear your detective skin to go out there and get rid of any gridlocks that might be hindering your team’s productivity.
  • Beginning with WHAT, not WHY
    For a Project Manager, asking what should always be more important than why. Questions like ‘what are the possible outcomes of the project? What are the challenges being faced by the team? What are the risks involved?’ should always be kept in first place. Last, but not the least, a Project Manager must know what exactly is the goal of project? A goal-oriented approach is not only going to help you achieve the goals, but at the same time will benefit in keeping a track of the things like project milestones and individual performances, as well.
  • Infecting with accountability
    Successful achievement of project objectives is one of the biggest responsibilities of a Project Manager. and, the best way to do so is by making the goals visible to everyone in the team. By doing so you are making every individual aware of the expectations out of their work. This will make them more responsible towards, and at the same time inculcate a habit of becoming more result oriented. After all, it is the project manager’s responsibility to make team members accountable for their performance.
  • Presence, visibility and engagement
    Lack of communication is the biggest reason for the failure of a project in almost all organizations. This is the reason that Effective Communication holds such an important position in a Project Manager’s inventory of skills. By communication I do not mean simply to talk to the troops, it’s more about being available to listen when someone in the team wants to share something about the project and the challenges being faced. Presence, Visibility and Engagement are the pillars on which communication stands, both in the good as well as tough times. And if you want the team to successfully achieve the target, then you must lay a foundation for effective communication based on these three factors.
  • Planning for the worst
    Ask any of the successful project managers about  their mantra of success, and 9 out of ten times you’ll get the same reply i.e. the key to success lies in planning for things that go wrong. Errors, Assumptions Gone Wrong, Poor Judgement, Fluctuations, and all such things are always going to be part of the project, no matter how well you plan things. To be a successful Project Manager, you need to develop the habit of seeing a problem beforehand and coming up with a solution for it before it could make an impact on the final outcome of the project.
  • Making friends with technology
    We live in a world where technology is everywhere and making friends with it can take you places. By making use of web-based applications like ProofHub, you can eventually share data, plan, communicate, collaborate, analyze and do almost all the other things that come to your mind when you think of Project Management. Remember, technology is never going to replace project managers, rather Project Managers who use technology will replace the ones who do not.

To sum it up, all I would like to say is that being a bawcock Project Manager is not just about planning, organizing and controlling things, it’s more about how you motivate the team to bring the best out in them.