Monthly Archives: June 2016

Project Management Needs Communication to Succeed

To be able to work with people you have to communicate. This is a fact that very few people object to.

But communication is not always that easy. You sometimes hear that people talk too much instead of doing the work they should. And if they talk too much, they definitely don’t inform about what should be informed about.

To communicate inside a project you need a plan. Most project methods have a plan on how to communicate and what questions to answer. But, these guidelines are not always followed and by not following the guidelines you lose a lot of information and team spirit.

Some people say that “I have written this in the project management software so they should know what is happening.” This is of course true in many cases, but by just writing something in a system doesn’t necessarily make it communicated.

Scrum is one popular project management method in software development. Using this method the whole team meets up every morning to discuss what they did since last meeting and what they are planning to do next. This is a meeting where everyone stands up to make a point that the meeting should be short. Everyone has questions that should be answered and they are able to bring up anything that is needed for the project to progress smoothly.

This is a perfect example of organizing communication. There are other opportunities to communicate as well, but this way everyone will be able to become involved in what is happening and you don’t spend time on small talk during this meeting.

This example is not to promote one project management method, but to bring up a good example on what to think about.

If you enter a project meeting you should think about what is important for you to communicate to other members of the project. When writing down questions and ideas to be brought up you will solve a lot of things yourself just by thinking about them in an organized way.

By being prepared for the meeting you will also contribute to an efficient and short meeting.

To make sure that what is communicated is not forgotten about the information should be documented in the project management software for everyone to follow and see.

A lot of things are also brought up between the meetings. Project members discuss matters regarding tasks in the project and come to conclusions on how to solve them. These discussions can be done by chat, phone call or just talking.

However, not everyone understands the necessity to document the discussions. If there was a question needed to be asked and if the discussion led to a solution it is important for everyone to be able to take part of the information. Maybe not at the current moment but in the future. It will also be documentation that is important for the project management team to understand why a task was solved the way it was.

Some project management software have their own, integrated chat engine. Having this integrated you will be able to connect the discussion to a task automatically and not have to think about documenting the discussion. However, that is not as easy for phone calls or just a discussion in the coffee area.

As a project manager it is important to set up guidelines for how to document these discussions. If possible, create templates in the project management software to support the documentation. You need to make the guidelines so easy that they are easy to follow and people feel it is bearable to document (since most people do not like to document too much).

A lot of people are great at communicating. However, organized communication is not that easy. It is therefore important that leaders give guidelines of the communication and follow these guidelines themselves to show good example. By documenting meetings in the project management software, project members will be able to go back to read what was communicated and you will also be able to reach people who were not part of the meeting. In some cases you will not have to communicate everything in a meeting but just communicate through the system.

Community In WordPress With Buddypress And bbPress

Running your own social network can be confusing and very complex to set up, but it doesn’t have to be. Buddypress was created to give you a simple way to bring WordPress user profiles to the front-end. This gives members the ability to view their profile information and interact with network components that are necessary to engage on your site.

BUDDYPRESS SOCIAL NETWORK

Buddypress has several features that are designed for communications and interaction. Here are the Spotlight Features:

• User Groups. Allow your users to create micro-communities.
• Activity Streams, for members and groups. Site-wide directory and single threads.
• Notifications, get notified. Smart read/unread options fully integrated.
• Friendships, create connections. It’s always about who you know!
• Private Conversations with several members at one time.
• Extend BuddyPress with hundreds of third-party WordPress plugins.

If you are planning to set-up a network on your WordPress site, I suggest that you do not set it up when you launch your site. I have personal experience with setting up a network prematurely, and it’s not a good idea if you have little traffic coming to your site. You will end up spending valuable time tweaking your site and playing with features instead of creating quality content for the growth of your site. Remember, a network will not grow your business just because you install a few plugins. Instead, focus primarily on content marketing and aggressive advertising campaigns to reach your target audios.

If you have followed this series, then you know the X Theme is fully integrated with Buddypress and bbPress. That means the set-up time will be dramatically decreased than if you tried to setup network configurations on a WordPress theme that is not integrated with these plugins. You can always install Buddypress later down the road with a few clicks of a button if your subscribers are asking for intelligent interaction on your site. It’s always good to be prepared, but these features may not be a necessity for your business model. Try to always manage your time properly and don’t just install plugins just to install plugins. That mindset could be the death of your business!

X THEME INTEGRATION

You can easily integrate Buddypress and bbPress with the X Theme. X uses the WordPress Live Preview Editor to handle these plugin configurations. It also has built- in menu functions for both Buddypress and bbPress. This makes the setup time very fast.

bbPress

bbPress is forum software, made the WordPress way. It was also created by the people who developed WordPress. So you know the plugin will be lightweight and secure. Here is the Philosophy behind bbPress:

1. Open Source, always and forever.
2. Less (code) is more.
3. Code is poetry.
4. Simplicity is a feature.
5. Speed & security are paramount to a great user experience.

I really enjoy the simplicity of bbPress. It really is a quality forum software that is perfect for support forums, community discussions and even mastermind groups. I have installed it on a few of my sites and it has been proven to be very reliable. Once you install bbPress you will notice three new menu tabs in the WordPress dashboard – forums, topics and replies. You can moderate all your activity from these 3 tabs. Optionally, you can delete and pin posts from the front-end. Out of the box bbPress is simple and has basic features. But there are hundreds of add-on plugins you can install to bring greater functionality to your community. The options are nearly endless!

Communicating More Effectively

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Communication should be a main focus of every organization. Without properly established lines of communication, important information can easily get lost in translation. How does your organization communicate with employees on a daily basis? For most companies this day in age, the most common form of intra-organization communication is email. Moreover, with the ever increasing popularity of smart phones that enable users to check email remotely 24 hours a day, face-to-face communication is, sadly, becoming a thing of the past. While every nonprofit has a bottom line to consider, management staff should never lose sight of the importance of using technology to more efficiently facilitate the flow of information between members of the organization. Despite the many free or low cost tools that exist today, resources to increase intra-organization communication are often overlooked. A quick Internet search returns hundreds of results for these types of tools. However, weeding out the good from the bad can be a lengthy and somewhat frustrating process. To get your search started in the right direction, offered below are a few free or inexpensive tools that can help promote effective communication in the workplace.

Communication Within Your Organization: Email, Chat, Shared Docs, and More

Google for Nonprofits – Email and Beyond: If your nonprofit is looking for a way to improve internal operations, engage supporters and promote your cause – then Google for Nonprofits is right for you. This program offers functionality, flexibility and many valuable tools that help to increase communication and collaboration between members of the workplace. What’s included?

  • Free or discounted version of Google Apps for your organization – Nonprofits with fewer than 3,000 users are eligible for the free version of Google Apps. Organizations with more than 3,000 users receive a 40% discount on Google Apps for Business.
  • GmailA leading email service offering 7 GB of storage per email account. Easy to use and even offers the ability to have email accounts on your organization’s domain.
  • Google Calendar – Increase productivity and streamline workflow by assigning and tracking group and individual tasks through Google Calendar. Use Google Calendar to create company-wide sharable calendars to coordinate meetings, set calendar reminders for pending “to-do” tasks, and communicate more effectively with team members.
  • Google Docs – Google Docs is cloud-based word processor and file sharing application that enables users to create, share, and store files in “the cloud.” It’s an easy and efficient way to collaborate with team members. Google Docs allows you to set up folders and even control privacy settings so that only those who you want to “share” the file with have access to it. The best part is there is no software to install, no additional hardware necessary, and no files to back up. Access your files from anywhere – at home, in the office, or on your smart phone – 24 hours a day.
  • Google Chat – Need to have a quick conversation with a team member? Google Chat is perfect for doing just that. With text chat, you can send instant messages to co-workers and even send and receive files. For times when a face-to-face conversation is necessary, Google Chat has a handy video chat feature.
  • Other great resources – Google AdWords, YouTube for Nonprofits, Google Earth Outreach Grants. Be sure to check out the eligibility criteria to see if your nonprofit qualifies for this great opportunity.

BigMarker – Free Web Conferencing Tool: BigMarker is a free online tool for web conferencing. There are no restrictions on time or group size. Users can chat via voice/instant message and share desktop views, PDFs, and/or Word documents on conference participants’ screens. All that’s necessary is an internet-accessible computer, a microphone, and speakers.

Microsoft Software Grants – Discounted Software and More:Another important piece of the puzzle to improving intra-office communication is software continuity. Increase office productivity and efficiency by ensuring that all office computers are running the same version of the same software programs. By doing so, you will ensure that all documents are easily accessible to everyone within the organization. Purchasing software programs can get quite expensive, especially for nonprofits on a tight budget. To help reduce the financial burden on nonprofit organizations, Microsoft offers free and low-cost software and even software donations. Your organization may be eligible to receive popular programs like Microsoft Office, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SharePoint and more for free or a at discounted rate. Click here to learn more about this program.

YouSendIt – Large File Sharing Made Easy:Every once in a while, you may need to send or receive files that exceed your email mailbox limit. YouSendIt makes sending and receiving large files a breeze. Sign up for YouSendIt Lite and receive many of the benefits of the paid program – for free. Send files up to 50MB and allow up to 100 downloads of every file. Your files remain available for 7 days, giving your recipients plenty of time to download what you’ve sent.

Communicating To Your Audience: Spreading the Word with Social Media

You may be thinking to yourself, “Can social media really impact my organization that much?” Well, the simple answer is yes. For example, consider Facebook. With over 500 million (and growing) active users and some 700 billion minutes a month spent on Facebook by people around the globe – Facebook offers a world of opportunities for organizations looking to reach a completely new demographic. The bottom line is that if your nonprofit has failed to implement a social media strategy into the daily operations, then you’re behind the times and missing out on a great opportunity to spread the word about your cause. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn provide organizations with an excellent tool to connect with current volunteers, recruit new participants, and even communicate and support other nonprofit groups. Announce and promote volunteer opportunities, share event photos, recognize volunteers, collaborate with other organizations, facilitate group discussions and more – all at the click of a button.

For organizations considering implementing a social media campaign, here are a few important things to keep in mind.

Be consistent. Social networking requires interaction! If you think that simply logging on to Facebook or Twitter once a month and posting an occasional update will get the job done – you will be sorely disappointed with the outcome. Yes, managing your social media accounts can be very time consuming and somewhat frustrating. However, there are many free tools available to help you streamline this process. HootSuite, for example, is a social media dashboard that allows you to manage multiple social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, WordPress, and more) at the same time. Monitor keywords, schedule messages, and track your success – all from the HootSuite dashboard. If you’re looking for a tool that will save you a great deal of time – HootSuite may be the solution for you.

Provide meaningful content for your followers.If used correctly, social media can serve as a gateway to building lasting relationships with volunteers and other nonprofit organizations. Therefore, much emphasis should be placed on providing meaningful content for your followers. Share resources that both volunteers and volunteer professionals may find useful. Engage your audience by starting discussions, asking questions, sharing photos, uploading videos, and more. Your social media success will depend upon the overall experience you provide for your followers.

Participate on pages other than your own. Take the time to interact with other groups’ social media pages – comment on Facebook posts, “Retweet” important messages from other nonprofits on Twitter, take part in surveys, share articles from LinkedIn groups. Show your support for other nonprofits and they will likely do the same for you.

Be patient. Social networking takes consistent effort on your part. With time and a lot of hard work, you will slowly see your fan base grow and interactions increase. However, do not expect this to happen overnight.

Find free resources to help with social media management.Many tools exist today for the sole purpose of simplifying the management of social media. A couple great resources to help get your search started in the right direction are: Heather Mansfield’s “33 Fun, Useful, and Totally Random Resources for Nonprofits” and “50 Social Media Tactics for Nonprofits” by Chad Norman.

Communication With Volunteers: Utilizing Technology to Simplify Volunteer Management

Volunteers are the lifeblood of any nonprofit organization. Without dedicated individuals who are willing to donate their time and skills because they believe in a particular cause, many nonprofits would cease to exist. The paradox, however, of having a volunteer-based workforce is that it takes time to recruit, schedule, and manage them. For years, organizations have depended upon inefficient paper-based systems to manually track volunteer activity using such things as spreadsheets and handwritten notes – resulting in a huge amount of unnecessary administrative labor. Under paper-based systems, communicating with volunteers can even be a challenge. With so many constantly changing variables like phone numbers and addresses to track, the task of manually keeping a current list of volunteer contact information is a nightmare.

Thanks to the introduction of cloud-based systems, nonprofits can transform the formerly time consuming, frustrating task of volunteer management into a fully automated, worry-free process. With volunteer management software, like VolunteerHub, organizations can improve overall efficiency by spending less time on minuscule administrative details and more time focusing on big picture goals. Post volunteer opportunities online, print sign-in sheets, track volunteer hours, send email reminders and thank you messages, limit registrations, generate rosters, and more. Participants can search and register to work events, track volunteer hours, and even update and manage their personal account information – freeing up valuable time for your staff to work on other important tasks. If your nonprofit still depends on a paper-based system, it’s probably time you consider a cloud-based system. If you’re not sure that volunteer management software is right for you, check to see if the system you are considering offers a free trial. This is an excellent way to check out all of the available features and ensure that the system fulfills your every need.

Technology at Your Fingertips

If you’re considering whether or not your nonprofit can afford to invest the time and money into implementing technology, the real question you should be asking yourself is can you afford not to. With the many free and low cost resources available to help manage such things as intra-office communications, social media, and volunteer coordination – technology that will improve the overall efficiency of your organization is literally at your fingertips.

Custom Software Development

Outsourcing and outstaffing are relatively new terms. Both firmly stepped into the IT sphere, and sometimes get confused. Indeed, they both involve remote work; after all, IT is all about remote work nowadays. But the core difference is that where outsourcing hands a whole business process (read: software project) to a third party, outstaffing presupposes hiring dedicated employees of a software company to work on the project controlled by the business owner.

What Is Outsourcing?

Outsourcing is basically handing projects, functions, or activities to a third party, which has all the available resources to conduct it – such as qualified staff and equipment. With the importance of IT growing, businesses from various industries hand IT services to remote contractors which offer high-value IT products and services for lower labor costs.

The actual task of outsourcing is not saving money, but rather the opportunity to free the available resources and focus on new directions of core business activities, or develop those which need extra attention.

Why Is Outsourcing So Popular?

If IT is not the core activity of a business (which can be said about the overwhelming majority of businesses around the world), outsourcing is a reasonable solution to control the budget, avoid extra costs, help by lack of local resources, eliminate the need for hiring and/or training IT staff, and allow remote and efficient work in any part of the world.

There are several obvious pros to outsourcing that keep it running:
• lower costs of salaries and procurement (the latter is often left to your software contractor);
• you don’t have to overtake the HR record keeping, taxes, etc.; generally more responsibilities are delegated to your contractor;
• your contractor hires IT professionals and has the necessary equipment for development; therefore you get an easy way to access the state-of-the-art technologies and high-class IT professionals;
• your contractor manages and supplements project documentation – you receive it at the end of development, along with the source code and the deployed product;
• you are enabled to free your internal resources for core business activities.

The drawbacks include increased amounts of time required for communication: discussing details, clarifying requirements, and so on. Your contractor will have to adapt to your business environment and expectations. However, the problems of distance is what outsourcing successfully struggles with, and the more streamlined the contractor’s work processes are, the more successfully they overcome these problems.

What Is Outstaffing?

Outstaffing is much less talked about, yet has occupied its place in the IT sphere. The general mechanism is as follows. Your business hires the outstaffer’s employees, who continue working at their regular workplace, but basically ‘change’ their employer. In a nutshell, these are designers/developers/QA engineers who work on the tasks that you give directly. That’s the main difference from outsourcing.

Where outsourcing is the complex support of the whole project, outstaffing is all about hiring – the rest is a matter of contract and its details. Generally outstaffed employees work on a remote basis; sometimes people are invited to relocate and join the team permanently. The client may say, ”I need this person for further work, I don’t want to hire anyone else, and I’m fully satisfied with his/her work.” Actually the companies that work in outsourcing, receive such proposals as well, but in most cases they cannot guarantee that the same developer will be free when the client needs him/her. Outstaffing also presupposes problems of psychological tension, motivation, and adaptation (especially for new employees from different countries).

Which One Is For You?

These two options can provide high efficiency by urgent need. The choice of the method depends on the situation. Hiring a dedicated specialist makes sense if you are ready to guide their activities and take more responsibility, since you are in full control here. And if you require a certain amount of workforce which you don’t have at the moment, outstaffing can be the means of getting it.

If you are already acquainted with these employees and satisfied with their work, you may hire them to continue their work, for example, regularly maintain and/or test your website.

If you have a whole project to be completed (the actual majority of all cases), it’s more reasonable and convenient for you to outsource it to a competent team. Even if you don’t have any experience of work with an offshore software company, there are freelance marketplaces that ensure the needed level of transparency, and NDAs for protection of your confidential business information that might be disclosed to your contractor for the successful completion of the project. Outsourcing is more of a partnership, and very often the business and the software company grow fruitfully together through lasting business relationships.