Organizing Projects

We mentioned before that great client relationships is the first part of business success. The second component is delivering on your promises. That is where Project Blogs come in. This is how you manage how things get done.

To follow along open Solve menu > Organize Project Blogs

You can change the default label of “Project blogs” to something more specific to your business e.g. Properties, Portfolios, Locations, Cases, Jobs etc.

Contact pages are used to record the interactions with a client related to developing the relationship, building trust and qualifying business opportunities. Once the client buys something, your team needs to provision the product/service. If that requires coordination of information and people a Project Blog is created, linked to the contact and used to manage “the project”. The type of information related to building the relationship is normally quite different than information used to provide the product/service. That’s why it’s beneficial to manage project related information and activity in a different place.

Let’s introduce the projects area by trying out a metaphor. Imagine your team is meeting a client in a conference room. Someone is standing near a whiteboard, marker in hand, making notes, listing tasks, circling items on it to take stock of a plan, share ideas and work through questions. Solve Project Blogs help you manage that same type of flow of ideas and information, but online where it is accessible and more efficient. Everything known about a particular project or business transaction is in a single place where it can be updated as the situation unfolds.

You might consider also using Project Blogs to manage internal projects such as hiring, marketing campaign, office move, etc.

Since Project Blogs can be shared with any external person, some Solve clients use Project Blogs to propose services to their clients i.e. a way to document the scope and plan of a proposed project, before the sale.

By working with many clients we know for certain that there is much benefit from sharing project information with your clients. Making a gesture to make project information available makes you more transparent, instills trust / understanding, demonstrates you have a process, and gets the client more vested in your process, which makes communication and decisions immensely easier.

The interface for Project Blogs is very similar to that of Contacts, and of all Solve functions. We promised there would be less to learn! The “Organize Project Blog” section has two columns. The left column lists all your current projects, arranged either alphabetically by name, or chronologically by the last date it was used (depending on which column is selected). The right column is the slate for projects. This is where you will actually be creating and working with your projects.

Creating a new Project Blog

  • Click the “Create a Project Blog” button
  • Fill in information such as the project’s title, description and in the related-to field link the Project Blog to the client and anyone else who has an interest in the work e.g. contractors, staff, professionals, etc. Like contact information, Solve automatically saves your project data as it is entered in real time.

Introduction to Activities that super-charge Project Blogs

You can add any of the same activities mentioned in the contact section on a Project Blog. However, just like contacts there are a couple that are used more frequently than the rest.

Add a tasklist

Place a container for project tasks and milestones

A tasklist is a container for a set of related tasks; it is not a task itself. A tasklist can group tasks that relate to a phase, a common outcome, or a particular area of work etc.

  • Open the Project Blog you wish to add a task list to
  • Hover over the “Add an activity” button
  • Select “Add a task list”
  • It’s common to enter only the Title of the tasklist, however there are additional fields available to further customize the list
(Title)
The title of the entire task list, such as "Marketing Brochure"
(Add milestone)
A tasklist with a date will appear as a special milestone on the Next Actions and Calendar pages. Milestones are general indicators to help the team manage their activity around, but do not have any special powers of their own.
(Description)
Description of the task list – this will appear directly under the title, providing an area to further explain the general objectives or instructions, etc.
(Completed)
When a tasklist is marked as complete it will no longer show as a milestone in the Next Actions report
(Do not display on the published view or send notifications)
As we’ll explain a bit later on, Project Blogs can be shared with people who do not have normal Solve accounts, such as your clients. This option allows you to hide a specific activity, in this case a tasklist and all the tasks within it, from that published view
  • Click anywhere outside of the form to add the tasklist container to the Project Blog

Adding tasks to the tasklist

  • Click on the Add a task link located to the right of the tasklist’s name then enter task details
(Title)
The title of the specific task, such as "Write copy"
(Description)
Description of the task – which appears below title in the task list. Generally this is where you document the background or instructions for the task.
(Color label)
This option enables you to label items with color to group tasks by priority, type, or any other criteria you desire.
(Responsible)
Assign this task to a specific individual.
(Send email notification now)
Select to send an email to notify the responsible individual that they have been assigned this task.
(Add schedule)
Enables a setting a Due date
(Due)
The date the task is due on
(Add time)
Narrow the due date to a specific time
(Work remaining)
Enter time remaining for task to be completed, the start date of the task will be automatically determined by subtracting the time remaining from the Due date
(Ignore weekends)
Select if you do not wish to include weekends in the start date calculation
(On completion)
Enter email addresses of people who should be notified when the task is updated as completed (separate multiple addresses with a comma)
  • Click anywhere outside of the form to add the task to the task list

Upload files from your computer

Share files from your computer with your entire team

  • Open the Project Blog you wish to upload the file to
  • Hover over the “Add an activity” button
  • Select “Upload files from your computer”
  • Select the files from your computer you want to upload (notice you can select more than one at a time)
  • Common file types include Microsoft Office docs, pdfs, media files, but any file type is acceptable
  • The file now appears with its full title, an icon indicating the file type and an option to quickly update and replace the file.

Create a quick link to an external website so you can quickly pull up relevant information from the Internet in context with your work

  • Open the Project Blog you want to add a link to
  • Hover over the “Add an activity” button
  • Select “Add a link to an external website”
  • Enter to site’s URL e.g. http://www.norada.com
  • Include a caption that will serve as the title visible to your team e.g. This is an example of great design ;)
  • Click anywhere outside the form to add the link to the Project Blog
  • Your link now appears in blue in the Project Blog. By clicking on the blue caption, you will be directed to the link in a new window.

Grouping and organizing Activities with section headers

As your pages grow, group related items together to keep it easy to follow.

You learned how to rearrange your Activities and items by dragging them to a specific position on the page, but you can take your Project Blog’s organization and flow to the next level with section headers. These headers group Activities and items together and make your Project Blog easier to navigate. For example, you may have headers that categorize sections by date i.e. “January Activities,” by type i.e. “2014 Plan” or any categorization system that makes sense for your business.

Section headers are listed with other Activities. To create your Section Header, simply follow the same directions given to add any Activity. (Add Activity > Add a section header to group items)

The section headers act as a divider between sets of activities and will effect all activities that follow them, until the next section header. For example, when you click “Hide section details” all activities up until the next section header are affected.

Track time spent on tasks and more using time records

If you bill your clients hourly, time records are a fundamental aspect of your business. Even if you bill on a per-project basis, you may want to monitor the time being spent on certain activities for productivity assessment purposes.

  • Hover over the call log, event or task you wish to allocate time to
  • Click the clock icon that appears
  • Fill in the appropriate information, the date, person who performed the activity item, total hours, billable or not billable time and details that need to be reported

The time record now appears to the right of the item’s title in a green box and are reported in the Solve menu > Report and Update Activities > Show time tracking report for easy invoicing.


Sharing Project Blogs with your clients (or anyone else)

Wouldn’t it be nice if your client could keep an eye on that “white-board” with all those notes and ideas and follow the changes as they happen? Project Blogs have a special feature that let you share the page with anyone and it’s called “Publish”. Publishing a page does not make a copy of it, what it does do however is enable access to a simplified view of the page without requiring a Solve account.

Publish the Project Blog page

Provide each client with a direct link to their project page.

  • Open the Project Blog to publish
  • If you haven’t already done so consider adding your own logo, or better yet, add your client’s logo to the page by clicking “Show Form” and selecting a value in the Logo field
  • Click on the “Publish” button in the top right-corner of the page
  • Enter the recipient’s email address (or contact name to help find it)
  • Set the level of access you want this particular person to have to the entire Project Blog (Read only, Modify, or Add comments only)
  • Click the “Publish” link on the panel
  • Click OK to approve Solve’s standard project blog instructions, or personalize the email with your own message
  • The recipient will receive an email message with their own unique (and secure) web address:

The published version of the page does not allow the guest to edit any of the fields in the top of the page, or show any information that relates to other parts of the system such as category tags or related-to values.

Try publishing a Project Blog to your own email address so you can experience the process and features as your client will (you should logout of your Solve account before clicking on the link). Notice anything missing? Your client won’t need to remember another username and won’t need to learn “your” system. They’ll appreciate that!

You can publish a Project Blog to as many users as you need; each one gets their own web address.

Removing access to a published Project Blog

  • Open the Project Blog that was published
  • Click on the “Publish” button in the top right-corner of the page
  • Click on the red “X” to the left of the person you want to remove access to

After introducing this feature we discovered that co-working with your clients in a common workspace can really help improve efficiency, however, you don’t need your clients to be as active or excited about the Project Blog as you are to realize substantial benefits. Simply by publishing a project blog you become more accessible and transparent which instills trust, understanding and dramatically improves communication. Your clients are happier because they are more comfortable.

Completing the story by reviewing activity reporting …