Archive for : September, 2011

What’s in a name?

Last week we talked about the dreaded question, “Am I using it right? I suggested that as activeCollab users, we forget about the “right” way, and seek to find the way that works for us.

One major roadblock I often see when talking with people is that it’s easy to get hung up on the names of features — and miss out on the benefits of the function.

This week’s tip…

Forget about the names. Focus on what each “function” can do for you and your team!

Here’s what I mean: What comes to mind when you hear the word Ticket? It depends on who you ask. The concept of Tickets is a popular one in the Customer Support world, and because of this, a lot of activeCollab users can be confused about the value of, or even dismiss Tickets altogether. Most of us have some sort of experience with Tickets. The first thing that may come to mind is “Trouble Tickets”, but what if we removed the name of this feature for just a few minutes and reviewed the functions for what they bring to the table? Could you and your team, or clients approach these differently?

With each of our new nameless “mystery objects” we can….

1. Start with a main body area to post content, i.e. questions, copy, attachments, notes, links, images, etc.

2. Associate this mystery object to a category, milestone, due date.

3. Assign a person, or multiple persons…. one of them being ultimately responsible. And they will get an email notification when they are assigned.

4. Subscribe people for future updates and notifications even if they aren’t assigned to it – great for monitoring progress.

5. Reply to the email notifications to send in feedback, attachments, or give approval on the content of the notifications and it will be added to the running commentary on the thread.

6. Easily get back to the main content and review the history of work and comments related to this mystery object right from an email notification link.

7. On top of all this, add a related task for ourselves or someone else, and set a due date with the same great email notifications and automated reminders x days from the due date.

8. Mark it as completed and it will be automatically be available in an archive for future reference.

9. Not only this, but you could have an unlimited number of these objects as part of a larger object called a Project!

10. Ok I may have gotten carried away…. but there’s more… and I’m sure you could come up with some of your own too.

Sooo… do you think you could put a feature like this to use?

Now are we seeing the the same limitations as we did when we just thought of these as Tickets?

Are your team or clients seeing limitations based on the names of features like Tickets, Milestones, Tasks…. even Projects? Did you know that getting past this could be as easy as renaming it with a Localization file?

What’s a Localization file? Here’s another great example…the Localization file’s purpose is to support multiple languages i.e. German, Spanish, Dutch, etc…. But if we don’t get hung up on the original purpose, we can leverage the value of the feature! After all, aren’t we really talking about “language” anyway? It’s about getting your activeCollab installation speaking your “language” that makes it most usable.

Take some time to think if naming alone may be holding you back. Could “Requests” be a better name for Tickets in your environment? It was for one of our clients. What about any of these… Subprojects, Articles, Missions, Campaigns, or [insert your ideas here]? How about you? Do you need to find a new name for Tickets? OR just a new perspective so you can jump in and use it differently? Apply the same principles to Projects, Milestones, Pages, and Tasks too!

I hope this inspires you to ignore the “names” of features and focus on the “function”! With activeCollab there are so many possibilities to create a system that is perfect for the way you want to work, these suggestions are just the beginning. If you need help with a new perspective or optimizing for your needs — I’d be happy to help you more in a Rock Your Workflow session or three :)

BACK TO SCHOOL BONUS: For all my fellow students of life and perpetual learners… We’re offering a Rock Your Workflow special right now in the spirit of Back to School. Just enter the promo code BACK2WORKFLOWSCHOOL — and you’ll get 20% off on Rock Your Workflows (and anything else in your cart too!)

Am I Using it Right?

Let’s face it … we’ve all asked ourselves this question at some point in time in any activity, especially when it’s seeming harder than we thought…

Maybe it’s because we thought it should be easier. Maybe it’s just a remnant feeling from growing up in a school system that taught us there was really only one “right way” to do something. Whatever the source, it’s looming there in the back of our minds, nagging us like the buy now screen in some trial software.

This is often one of the key questions I get during our Rock Your Workflow sessions, and I’m not surprised at all… because this question itself inspires everyone in different ways. There seem to be two categories of people who respond to this question quite differently:

1. The push-harder group: For some of us, this question becomes a quest to continue to improve our workflow and seek out anything that will potentially help on that quest. We might own every single 3rd party module we can get our hands on, or we’ve personally customized our activeCollab installation until it’s almost unrecognizable from its original form! I’d say for this group, that burning question helps to fuel our improvement. We have turned this question into a positive for ourselves — and that’s a great feeling!

2. The walking on eggshells group: There’s another group of us out there too: those who can be held back by this confidence shaking question… Am “I” using it right? This group is walking on eggshells with every step of using activeCollab or anything we use because MAYBE the way we are using it… is not the “best” way. We’re paralyzed by the thought that there is only one way to get it right. But for this group, I believe that activeCollab can help liberate us from the “only one way to do things” mindset that we may have been taught. Sure, you’ll find better ways to do things than others, and maybe it was intended to be used differently than you are using it… but that’s not what matters right now.

The truth is… we all probably have a bit of both approaches in us.  So Regardless of how you react to, “Am I using it right?”, the most important question is…

What works for you and your team?

The raw unadulterated value of activeCollab, and why I feel that it’s often a popular choice for those moving from a more rigid system (yes, I’ll say it… Basecamp), is because the reality is one size (or shape) doesn’t fit all. Many get to a point where working around the system they are using, or with someone else’s mindset, becomes unproductive—and they now want to begin to shape things to fit their needs more. (Sure, they also often make the change because they are paying $150 per month, and having those limitations starts to eat at them.)

When working with activeCollab, keep in mind that YOU are in control – how do YOU want things used? Even if it’s not the initial purpose of the feature, does a work around help YOU and YOUR team? Make that part of your workflow and teach your team to use the system that way. In the next few weeks, I’ll share some more on this topic… Up Next, how a simple language feature can help your thinking and your workflow! Stay tuned for more.

Also if you haven’t already checked out the free article 7 Tips to make them love activeCollab, why not download it now

Here’s what some others are saying about the tips…

“Keep up the good work! I’m looking forward to reading about new stuff for activeCollab from you…!” Steven via email

“I hadn’t even looked at themes…  Installed the Modern theme – it makes a big difference!” @drewm via Twitter

I hope this inspires you to break through the question of, “Am I doing this right?” and find your own “right” way of using it. And then just keep making it more “right” for you as you go. If you need help with a new perspective or optimizing for your needs — we’re happy to help you in a Rock Your Workflow session or three icon smile Am I Using it Right?

Nathan
ActiveLabs

P.S. — Are you following us on Facebook or Twitter? If not, we’d love to hear from you — ask a question, start a discussion, or just say hi! If you’ve invested in our products or if you are just keeping up to date on what we are doing… we’d love to hear from you!