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It's About Time! The Journyx Blog
For the past few weeks we've been asking our (very gracious) customers to take a second of their day to fill out our 2014 Journyx Customer Satisfaction Survey. We've carefully parsed together the results--comparing our findings with the 2012 survey from two years ago--and data is so fascinating we thought it couldn't go unshared. Each and every one of you that answered our survey contributed to helping us figure out ways we can do better, ways in which our product is used the most and how we can be of service. See the results for yourself in our interactive infographic below!
Happy Monday, everyone! It feels like we're finally moving into the Fall season. For us here in Austin, that means three days of beautiful 60-degree weather and then it's time to break out the parkas. For American businesses - large or small - that means getting ready to close the books and start fresh, and one of the best ways you can do so is by hiring new staff. We've got all of the best forums and resources below for you to do just that.
- StaffingIndustry.com has a blog full of helpful advice, tips and more on how to get the best employee for your buck in the coming hiring season.
- The Staffing Stream is a blog that goes by the mantra of, "voices of the staffing industry". They're all about inside perspective for the best possible information, and it shows. Check them out.
- The Staffing Robot is an agency designed to help staffing firms get noticed on the web with graphic design services, SEO management, branding and more.
- Staffing Talk is a news and blog website, offering more than just advice - it offers the latest statistics in the job market, aggregated industry news, the fastest growing cities and more.
Want to find more on social media? Check out these groups:
- LinkedIn - Recruitment Consultants and Staffing Professionals
- LinkedIn - HR, Staffing and Recruiting Professionals Forum
- LinkedIn - IT Staffing & Services
- LinkedIn - Temporary Staffing Professionals
- Google+ - IT Staffing - Recruiters and Candidates Unite
- Google+ - Staffing Events
- Google+ - Staffing Daily
This last Tuesday we demonstrated and revealed what the latest updates in the new version of Journyx 9.5 will do and how it will massively affect how you spend your time. These new features ensure that you are able to get a complete picture of your project costs and revenues both in terms of forecasts, and as they are realized. v9.5 also includes greater flexibility in calculating your project costs and contract-based bill rates as they are applied to your project work. Other major features in the list include:
- Custom project costing and billing rates based on project roles and/or assignments
- New custom entry environment that can be used for tracking equipment utilization, widget completion, etc.
- Single tracking environment for entering employee reimbursable expenses and mileage
- Leave request handling improvements
- New option to set up entry screen column-to-column filtering via imports
- New option to set up a custom semi-monthly time period that is not always limited to the end of a month
The full webinar is below, as well as on our Journyx YouTube page for those that want to learn more.
Many business owners have reached the point where their current software is no longer working or is out-of-date and are forced to examine the alternatives. At the rate technology is evolving, that point is realized once every two years; or every other week when it comes to smartphones. But when it comes to business software, the thought that crosses many minds is, “I have a talented developer on my team--why can’t I just have them code a solution?” Building your own solution may seem more budget-friendly in the face of high monthly fees from enterprise-level SaaS companies, but when it comes down to the wire, how do you determine what the best choice is for your business?
All-in-one options: Are they really that simple?
The idea of building your own software often stems from looking at the all-in-one applications available on the marketplace and believing that your team may have the technical chops to build something as good or even better. The problem is that many all-in-one products aim to be good at everything -- packed with pedigrees and assured by awards -- but they aren’t as comprehensive as they seem; even a giant company like SAP can’t be all things to all people (and all businesses, for that matter).
So where do you start? The first step is to have a thorough understanding of costs so you can create a budget, and that means knowing what works for your bottom line and what doesn’t..
Building your own software: Not actually time or budget-friendly
When considering the build versus buy scenario, budget is obviously a major factor -- but make sure it’s not the ONLY factor.
●Managers often view the cost of their own employees as free--which isn’t the case. If you have billable client work that your employees could be working on instead of building and maintaining software for your company’s infrastructure, then you’re actually losing money by having them build your software.
●If you’ve got competent employees, you’re likely underestimating the amount of work it’s going to take to get a software solution built. It seems like they always get things done quickly and on time, so you assume this will be quick and easy for them too, but that may not be the case, especially if you have a small team.
●Even after the solution is built, you still have to factor in maintenance and support of the product. Think about all of the security holes that are discovered every year in software that’s built and maintained by companies --and imagine taking on the work of finding all of those security bugs and fixing them yourself. That’s what you’re doing when you build your own piece of software.
An article from The Next Web delved into this very idea and asked Henrik Werdelin, the Managing Partner of Prehype, to give his best estimates of how much it would cost to essentially create your own product from the ground-up.
“You could still build an Instagram-like product inexpensively, in the $100,000 to $300,000 range over a three-to-six-month period,” said Werdelin.“But even with a billion dollars of investment on day one, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever be in a position where you might grow as quickly as Instagram.”
You really can’t underestimate the amount of time and evolution that goes into a software solution. Which brings us to our next point.
Find the happy medium
The best solution that will save you both time and money is this: research, research, research. Do some digging, look at reviews and testimonials online and buy the best software packages that do 80-90% of what you want, and integrate them together. Most software solutions today integrate with other industry leaders (Quickbooks, for example, integrates with Bill.com, Shoeboxed, and more), and the ones that don’t usually have open APIs--which means you can often make them play nice together with much less work than custom-building your own solution. If you look at this list of integrations on Zapier, someone else may have already done the work of making them work together for you.
How to tell if you’re the exception to the rule:
That said, there are a few circumstances where building your own solution might be the right move. If you have:
●A very specific problem and there doesn’t seem to be anything currently on the market that solves it
●A talented developer with nothing to do and no client to work on
●And (most importantly) needs that won’t be changing anytime soon (that are truly not met by any solution available on the market)
If any of those are the case, then it might be time to look at building your own software.
Have you ever faced the build vs. buy debate in your business? If so, what solution did you go with?
A little while back we focused one of our Monday Link-Ups blog posts solely on GP Support communities. Now it's Dynamics SL's turn. With that, this weeks Monday Link-Ups brings you SL support tools of all types. Check out the resources here!
- Dynamics SL Users Group - the official community for users and VARs alike, this is a great place to share ideas, resources, tools, questions and meet in groups around the world.
- Dynamics SL Software Advice Review - just looking around in the market and wondering if SL is right for your organization? Check out this Software Advice review. It lists specs like functionality, support and product quality and rates it based on actual user reviews. You can even connect with a Partner to get an installation going.
- Dynamics SL Overview from Microsoft - this overview from Microsoft themselves lists video demos (both interactive and non) of the product to get you a better feel of the tool, connects you with Partners and more.
- The Official Microsoft Dynamics SL Support Community - Maybe you already own Microsoft Dynamics SL? Check out this great support community. Aside from help from your VARs, you can connect with other users and see what problems they're experiencing, what's been resolved, upcoming product releases and enhancements, CRM Connectors and a great forum for all involved with SL.
Maybe you're looking for more socially-focused communites to get connected with? Check out these great LinkedIn and Google+ groups below!
Business Analyst Times, partnered with Project Times.com, both leverage and excel the understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur, CEO or in a leadership role. This might be because many of their contributing writers are actually CEO's offering up their best advice, penning the changing world as they see it or simply relaying new info they've learned to the masses. They've even published work from our very own CEO, Curt Finch.
This article, "5 Timeless Communication Truths the Digital Age is Changing" was written by Speaker and Blogger Ryan Jenkins. Visit their site here for the full story.
Do you know the fool-proof way to know if someone desires a connection with others? They are breathing. For those playing at home…that’s everyone among the living.
Even the most introverted introverts still have a deep desire to share and connect. Humans crave connection. The explosive growth and adoption of social media is proof. We are all communicating but are we connecting? Why is it that in our always-on and always-connected culture we struggle to truly connect with people?
Perhaps we need a refresher on the truths of effective connection. These truths are timeless but their application has changed due to the three communication disruptions: technology, social media, and the emerging generations.
TRUTH #1: CONNECTING REQUIRES SELFLESSNESS
But first…DO NOT take a selfie. First, focus on others. The moment you become more concerned with your own agenda during communication is when you’ve lost the connection with your audience. Turn “selfies” into “youies.”
Happy Tuesday, and hope everyone had a great Labor Day weekend! Today, we're looking at oil & gas industry resources. Journyx has a special focus in the oil & gas industry that helps Journyx customers to understand their costs better at the source – on a per-well basis.
Here are a few publications, upcoming conferences and other resources we've found to sink your teeth into.
- Pipeline Week Conference and Exhibition is a global conference that will be hosted in Houston, Texas on October 14-16. Register to attend before spots fill up!
- Deepwater Operations Conference & Exhibition is right around the corner. This conference will be in Galveston, Texas on November 4-6 2014.
- The Society of Petroleum Engineers is the largest individual-member organization serving managers, engineers, scientists and other professionals worldwide in the upstream segment of the oil and gas industry.
- We've heard Oil & Gas Journal referred to as the Wall Street Journal of the oil industry. This publication definitely keeps us in the know.
- Well Servicing Magazine is the competing publication to Oil & Gas Journal, and is a hub of latest geological developments, updates from Congress on the latest bills as well as a Rig Count roundup that they keep regularly updated.
Still want more? Here are some great LinkedIn groups we've found that will help get you started in the right direction:
- Texas Oil & Gas Professionals & Executives
- Houston Oil & Gas Professionals
- Petroleum, Oil & Gas Industry Professionals
- Oilfield Services
- Journyx for Oil & Gas Professionals
We're interested in learning all we can about the oil & gas industry - tell us what resources we missed in the comments below!
The Vistage Blog - Executive Street has been considered a converging hub, if not a home for executives and c-level businesspeople alike to glean new info, tips and read interesting articles from fellow executives on the topics they care about the most. They've even been kind enough to publish articles from our very own CEO, Curt Finch.
The following article written by Marc Emmer titled, "Are you Building a Business; or Something More?" is about the importance of cultivating a strong company culture and what it means in today's society. Check out the full article on their website here.
I spent several years serving on a not-for-profit board that was recently honored for its work in my community. Our charter was to build schools, and the school district commemorated our service with a plaque in a local high school. As the school board President gave his opening remarks, he spoke about the courage and determination required to overcome obstacles and erect something that can last into perpetuity.
Whenever we build something, whether it is a school or a business, we have the opportunity to build something larger than ourselves; we have the opportunity to create a legacy.
I have also been honored to work with very successful businesses built on the sweat of entrepreneurs, whose vision stood the test of time. In some cases, the businesses thrived as new generations innovated, and others faded away with the persona of their founder.
As companies build culture, it is important they tell stories, and reinforce the foundational elements that make a company strong and resilient. I am not talking about hanging a black and white picture of a founder (like something out of Mad Men). Companies have traditions and norms, often rooted in another time, when things like quality, or caring for others were not taken for granted.
I was facilitating a strategic planning meeting with a 35 year old company recently. The founder had died, and his nephew took over the reins. As we recast the vision for the company, and established a growth plan, I saw my clients eyes tear up. He could see the promise of the future, and the realization of the dreams of his uncle before him.
Whether it’s a group meeting or a one-on-one appointment, we’ve all had the experience of conversations running long. And it can be a real drag on productivity; one study shows that the average worker only actually works three days per week, or about 1.5 hours per day, with unproductive meetings being at the top of the list for wasting the rest of the work week.
At the same time, you don’t want to be that guy--you know, the one that cuts people off, acts like people are always wasting his/her time, and leaves abruptly--so how do you end a meeting gracefully and save the time of everyone involved?
All too often, we go into meetings with a list of topics, not an actual agenda. For example, “Marketing Plan for Q3”. A lack of clear purpose leads to directionless meetings that don’t actually resolve anything.
Instead, create an agenda that consists of what each team member needs to bring to the meeting, with specific questions to be discussed, and distribute it to your team prior to the meeting so everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Like so:
Marketing Plan for Q3:
●Sam: What did well on social media last quarter? What are your suggestions for building on those initiatives to improve in Q3?
●Brenda: What was our ROI on the webinars we hosted? Did one of the webinar topics do better than the others? What are your plans for next quarter?
●Catherine: What topics did well on our company blog and helped with lead generation? How will we use this information to improve?
●All: What are the common threads here? We’ll pick 2-3 takeaways and next steps.
We tend to think in blocks of 30 or 60 minutes, without realizing that this is actually quite a long time for a meeting. And since we’ve booked that time, the meeting just naturally expands to fill it, a la Parkinson’s law (the idea that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”).
Instead of booking 30 minutes, aim for a 15 minute meeting.
Reports vary on whether the optimum meeting length is 15 minutes or 45, but either way, the evidence is strong that when a meeting runs over an hour, it’s at the cost of the productivity and attention spans of everyone in attendance.
Not to go without mentioning, it’s best to never book a meeting on a Monday or a Friday. According to this article from Inc.com, a company polled their employees and found that, “if you're thinking of arranging a meeting for 9 a.m. on a Monday, only one in three employees is likely to attend...”
Meetings end and people have become lost in the details discussed, and may not be clear on what the final action item is, who owns it, and what the timeline is.
Have a five minute wrap-up at the end of the meeting. This works especially well in a one-on-one setting or in a small group (3-4 people). When you start to get to the end of the allotted time:
●Verbally make the group aware by stating, “Okay, we’re about five minutes out.”
●Recap what’s been covered so far in high-level points. For example, “We discussed the next steps for project XYZ, which are...”
●Especially as a project manager it’s important to remind them that you’re fully available to assist. “You’ve got my email and my phone number if anything comes up...”
●And leave room for their quick questions with, “Is there anything else I’m forgetting?”
This is a quick, polite way to keep everyone on the same page, impress the main takeaways from the conversation on both parties, and end the meeting on time.
What’s your best productivity tip for politely getting out of a long meeting?
It's getting close to that most wonderful time of the year, and that means that you'll either soon be upgrading your gadget, ERP Software, CRM or timesheet system. So for our Monday Link-ups this week, we've compiled a list of blogs, advice columns and forums all listing out their best ways to know when it's time to upgrade -- and giving the best solutions they've seen on the market.
- Your Accounting Software: For those using Quickbooks or Sage 50 Accounting Software, here's how to know when it's time to upgrade.
- Your Computer: 10 signs that it's time to upgrade your PC
- Your General Gadgets: Knowing when it's time to upgrade your gadgets
- Your Solid-state drive: Why you need to upgrade to an SSD right now
- Your PC and Server hardware: You know it's time for an upgrade when...
- Your time tracking system in the cloud: Top 5 reasons companies everywhere are using SaaS
The social media sites are on top of the latest updates in any of these tools, and will be the first to report on the latest gadget:
The International Community of Project Managers (ICPM) is a great website where project managers and HR directors alike can come together and read informative articles, grab free downloads and learn from each other on the best tips and tricks of being a project manager. They've even been kind enough to publish articles from our very own CEO Curt Finch.
This article titled, "Use These Eight Sections for a Terrific Status Report" highlight the key areas on how to accomplish the most data driven and insightful reporting for your company. Visit their site here for the full story.
Why is it that most of us don’t have a problem working 60 hours a week taking care of our stakeholder’s needs, and yet we have difficulty writing a decent status report? There are two major problems. First, some people do not have great written communication skills. However, in most cases, the problems with communication are not a lack of skills, but a lack of focus. Many project managers do not appreciate the value of communicating proactively. When they do communicate, it tends to be short and cryptic, as if they are trying to get by with the minimum effort possible.
The key to communicating is to keep the reader as the focal point – not the sender. Try to think about what the receiver of the communication needs and the information that will be most helpful to them. Ask yourself whether the information on the status reportis there to really communicate something valuable or is it just taking up space.
Typically the complete status report should include the following information:
In between TV, Internet, smartphones, tablets, new apps and the latest gaming systems, it’s no wonder the current generation has been dubbed “the most distracted”. On any given day, the average American has their pick between reading the latest industry research on their iPad, digging into a new book on a Kindle, playing Angry Birds, or watching the latest episode of a TV show on Netflix at any given time. In fact, according to a recent PEW Research study published in the New York Times, “nearly 90% of 2,462 teachers said that digital technologies were creating ‘an easily distracted generation with short attention spans’.”
But surprisingly, many researchers think boredom is a good thing--especially for kids. The argument is that it allows for imagination stimulus and unstructured play, which is how we learn to be creative. Some people argue that it’s not limited to children, including writer Mark McGuinness, who finds that boredom leads to curiosity, which leads to new ideas for writing projects. Not only that, but research itself finds that distraction combined with relaxation is great for stimulating creativity, even going so far as answering the question of why we tend to get our awesome ideas in the shower. But what if you’re stuck on how to channel that boredom toward better productivity and creativity on the job?
Healthy boredom solution #1: Creative side projects are your friend
If you’re more goal-oriented and having a set amount of unstructured free time doesn’t work for you, consider starting a creative side project. Having a project to gear your right-brained energy toward will allow for some downtime and relaxation without making you completely unproductive. The best creative side projects are low-risk (i.e. not attached to your income, which means there’s no pressure to fail or succeed), don’t have a deadline, and have a purpose (personal or professional).
There’s also some compelling research that people who actively work on creative side projects are better employees (being rated by coworkers as more helpful, creative, and collaborative on the job). And those same people feel more relaxed and in control of their lives. Having a creative side project gives people a way to escape from their work constraints without resorting to unhealthy escapism, like being on Facebook too much on the job or overeating to relieve the stress.
You could also choose to learn about something entirely unrelated to your day job, in a way that isn’t necessarily project-based. Coursera and Udemy have free courses on everything from Latin American culture to how to play the electric guitar, and Duolingo is a great free way to learn a new language from your computer or phone.
Healthy boredom solution #2: Let it go
Don’t try to fill up all your spare time with activities. Leave some time without structure, whether it’s going on a walk around the office, choosing not to listen to your favorite business podcast so that your mind can wander, or simply browsing Pinterest on your lunch break instead of working. The key is to set aside a half-hour or so; as long as the unstructured activity isn’t taking over your day, you should be fine. If you want to take it to the next level and cut out your devices as well, there are apps like AntiSocial and SelfControl that will take a set amount of time and block your phone/computer/tablet from being able to access email and social networking sites.
It’s our natural instinct to avoid boredom, because hey--it’s typically not inherently fun! In our daily lives, we crave feeling like we have a purpose that we’re working toward, so much so that we’re now filling it up with as much technology and communication-oriented activities as possible. Regardless of personality type, to function at our best, our brains need some off-time. The next time you find yourself feeling a sense of “I’m boreeeed” syndrome, lean into it instead of fighting it and take some time to yourself, guilt-free.
If you've been keeping a close eye on our list of upcoming events and webinars, you've seen that we're about to dive right into a webinar all about government contracting management systems (COMS). And we're so excited about it that we're bringing you a list of our favorite blogs, tips and tricks about (and for!) government contractors. Check it out below!
- SBA Classroom: The U.S. Small Business Administration has a classroom with multitudes of articles, workbooks and videos just to help you get on your feet and get certified (for those that need the certification).
- USAJobs.gov: Need to get on your feet, first? This is definitely the first place you need to check if you're wanting to dive into government contracting jobs. Take a look here first, and then follow that with CareerBuilder, Indeed.com and the like.
- Small Business Government Contracting Goals Met - First Time in 8 Years: In an article close to the topics you would already be seeing on the popular site SmallBusinessTrends.com, Anita Campbell powers through the 'why' and 'how' government contracting is working, and how it is now the prime time to break into the field.
- Broadleaf: Actual software solutions for those working in government contracting - a contract management system that can help track your contracts, generate billing documents and track deliverables, this software is a must-have on our list.
Still want more? Here are some groups on LinkedIn and Google+ that can help you get involved with the government contracting community. Have even more to add to the list? Let us know in the comment section below!
Smallbiztrends.com is a popular site geared toward - you guessed it - small businesses! They offer a massive swath of wonderful advice, trends and latest tips for small businesses owners, entrepreneurs, or even just employees working in a small business or startup environment. They've even featured some articles from our CEO Curt Finch.
This article titled, "10 of Our Best Email Marketing Articles for Small Business" by Shawn Hessinger offers advice to small businesses on how to kick your email marketing into the next gear.
If you think that email marketing is dead, think again. With most online businesses making most of their money from their email followers, it’s clear the approach is still quite vital.
First, email has always been one of the main communication channels on the Internet. It was there even before social media was born. So there is still a segment of the market that is more accustomed to communicating that way.
Second, email will always be a personal communication channel. Sure, some may feel that most email they get is spam. But almost everyone has an email account just for the sake of sending messages and files. This is exactly the reason why business owners should not take email marketing for granted.
With this in mind, Small Business Trends has come up with a list of past articles that can help you in this area. Here’s a collection of the best email marketing articles from our archives.
Maybe a “stress-free office” is a bit of a misnomer, because let’s be honest: if we totally eliminated stress in any and all forms, nothing would get done because we’d lose our sense of urgency. But too much stress has a lot - no, really, a lot - of negative effects, not just on work performance but on health and quality of life in general.
Here at Journyx, one of our philosophical tenets is “don’t make things more stressful than required.” Stress due to personal conflict or something as trivial as an unnecessarily strict dress code lowers performance and generally has a negative effect on company culture. We want our company to be a fun place to work.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t require high quality results from your employees. You should absolutely expect high performance. But it’s another thing entirely to stress out over a small mistake (or even a perceived mistake) that has no actual negative effect on, well, anything at all.
So what’s the right balance between a healthy amount of stress and too much?
Many people operate under the idea that negative feedback is simply a part of management, and it is, but it also isn’t. Unfortunately, oftentimes a manager leaves an employee alone until they do something wrong. Then the employee gets negative feedback and tries to improve based on that negative feedback, without ever having a clear idea of what they are doing well.
As an engineer, it’s really just my nature to be more negative. That’s just how my brain works - I see all the problems remaining to be solved and want them to be fixed as soon as possible. It’s a natural instinct. As managers, we often just assume that our employees and team members know that the other work they do is great; it’s just that we want these other three things fixed, as well. (Of course, we don’t necessarily feel the same way when we are on the receiving end of the feedback!)
Research shows that the number one motivator of employees isn’t cash, isn’t promotions - nope, it’s personalized, immediate recognition of good work from managers. You know, getting a “thank you” here and a “great job” there. And really - how much time does that take out of our day? As long as the employee actually is doing a good job and isn’t phoning it in, why not? Consider this: even though we try to keep employees motivated with cash and bonuses, it turns out that positive reinforcement actually stimulates the same neural pathways as receiving money.
It’s a win-win: You can motivate your employees better and cut costs! (Just kidding, don’t take away your employees’ bonuses.)
So, how do you apply this to your management style?
Here are a few pointers:
●Make sure you’re not using the “Leave Alone/Zap” management style described earlier (term coined by Ken Blanchard). Do your employees, or even just your other team members, only hear from you when they’ve done something wrong?
●When it comes to positive reinforcement, an immediate response from you is best. Don’t have employees wait until the end of the year to find out all the good stuff they’ve done, because chances are either they’ll have forgotten or you will (not exactly ideal for keeping people motivated!)
●Keep your positive feedback sincere and specific. You don’t have to go on and on - but make sure they know what you liked about their work.
Managing is certainly an ever-evolving art seeing as how everyone is different and no two people will respond exactly the same way. But minimizing stress and maximizing positivity is a great place to start. What tips do you have for making the workplace more pleasant?
Last week our Monday Link-ups blog post featured our top 5 favorite project management apps. This week, we're taking it to part 2 where we'll feature 6 more apps that can save you minutes in any given project, regardless of industry. Check out this list and see just how much time it can save you.
- Freshdesk: depending on how long your support teams ticket queue is, simply responding to customer support emails can take up a lot of an employees time. Malleable to different types of personalities and workflows, this tool not only helps out the support desk but also the manager overseeing it with a simple UI. You can prioritize, assign and label the status of a ticket with just a click.
- Unroll.me: May actually be the best thing since sliced bread, Unroll captures all of your most-frequently-mailed marketing emails and compiles it all into one sheet where you can unsubscribe all at once. It's a dream for those who have accidentally clicked one too many times on the accidental "subscribe me" button.
- Concentrate: a popular app that's stellar if you're not the greatest at multitasking (myself included) and need a little extra help shifting from say, a left-brained task to a right-brained one.
- SelfControl: one of those apps that's quickly cropping up on the market as something of a lifesaver, it actively blocks incoming/outgoing email for a set amount of time so you can get prioritized and focus on the task at hand.
- Localist: this app centralizes your event planning and poses a 70 percent increase in attendance.
- Anti-Social: one of our personal favorites, this one blocks the ever-so-distracting social media sites from your radar for a set period of time so that you can put more focus into your project and less into Twitter.
Still want a little more? The following are some must-follow blogs on time management. Have more that weren't on this list? Leave a comment in the section below!
MSDynamicsWorld.com is the forerunner in the latest Dynamics news, trends and tech. If there's an update in any Dynamics ERP System, they're the first (and most trusted) to cover it. They even have featured some work from our very own CEO Curt Finch!
This article titled, "Cloud Terminology 101: Six Terms You Should Understand About Cloud Computing" by Rob Curls, Solutions Consultant at Tribridge, highlights and clarifies some key terms to better understand the black hole of a mystery that can be cloud computing.
"No one understands the cloud! It's a mystery!"
Those words of anguish, from Jason Segel to his co-star Cameron Diaz in a new comedy, sum up the confusion that still surrounds cloud technology for most people. In this case, the pair discovers that their computer has uploaded undesirable personal data to a cloud-based file sharing service, making it visible to everyone they know. Can they get the offending content back, saving some shred of their dignity in the process?
While this is a fictional story wrapped around a comedic personal mishap, it identifies some key challenges we face with cloud computing today, from the lack of controls for safeguarding data to a general lack of knowledge in the general public.
For those of us in the business community who work with systems like Microsoft Dynamics, managing sensitive information such as customer data and payroll records requires understanding some of the common cloud terms and what they mean to an organization. And you'll need to be able to explain these terms to others who require at least a basic understanding of what the stakes are in a cloud-based business environment.
1. What is "The Cloud"?
When it comes to internal accountability for your company’s employees, there’s a balance that needs to be maintained - and it’s not impossible to attain. Using time tracking as an example, employees must track their time to projects, tasks, customers, etc. so that you can understand costs, know where you’re profitable and where you’re not, bill and pay accurately, and see where your projects are at.
That said, there is a line between managing and micromanaging. While getting the above data is important and necessary for your business to grow, micromanaging will hamper the growth of your business and create an unsatisfied, disengaged workplace. On average, employees who know they are being watched perform at a lower level, which has a direct impact on their quality of work, happiness and ease in the office, as well as ability to get along with others. The micromanager is also left dissatisfied, knowing that time spent hovering over employees could be better spent getting valuable projects done.
So here’s how to effectively manage without micromanaging:
We’ve found there are two key components:
1: Be specific
The key here is really clear communication. You need to make sure that everyone’s on the same page, particularly when it comes to the specifications for projects and their deadlines.
It might be a dead horse to beat, but there’s a reason that the SMART goal setting process is so popular. Here’s a brief overview:
- Specific: When people are confused about the project or their role in it, chances are they aren’t going to get their work done correctly.
- Measurable: If the task isn’t measurable, how will your team member know when it’s done?
- Assignable: This is a given, since you’re managing a team.
- Realistic: Don’t overload your team members. They’ll just submit a lower quality of work in an attempt to get it all done.
- Time-oriented: Without a deadline, tasks can quickly be forgotten about, put on the backburner or fall through the cracks entirely.
2: A review process complete with status updates
To keep your team members accountable, they need to be meeting with a manager for a review process regularly. What “regularly” means can change from manager to manager. What’s important is that the review process shouldn’t be about accusations, but an honest and open forum where either party can air concerns; where the manager can ask the employee, “What’s holding you back? What can we change that will make it easier for you to get your work done?” This can be done monthly or quarterly, and should be counted as a separate process from submitting project status updates.
When it comes to status updates, you need to have accurate ways to monitor progress. Ideally, this will consist of two parts:
- Information tracking: This can be done without the manager checking in with the employee for updates. Information tracking is an easy way to see progress at a glance, such as a project calendar on a wall or a shared drive.
- Quick status updates: Here, team members can air concerns about a project and answer any specific questions about what’s holding them up or what problems they foresee with their assignment.
Overall, trust your instincts. If you’re in-tune with your team, it will be easy to notice when an employee is in stress-mode or, on the other hand, when a project is going smoothly. At the end of the day, it depends entirely on the personality of the employee and their respective project manager. Know that no two tasks are alike, and that having a way to track information without physically and literally being in your employee’s business will alleviate the thoughts of having “big brother” hovering over their shoulder. Follow these steps, and a more enjoyable workplace environment is bound to flourish.
For the most part, we all have a means for managing our projects. While many still prefer old-school style sticky notes and a notepad (myself included), most of us in the information age have gone full-digital. To use the ubiquitous phrase 'there's an app for that' would be an understatement. There's an app, a Facebook group, a Google+ hangout, and a webinar for that. So we've listed the highlights for you all on the Journyx blog in this weeks' Monday Link-Ups. Check them out below!
- Asana is an app that goes by the phrase, "teamwork without email". It's both a task and a project management app that incorporates keyboard shortcuts, commenting capabilities, linking options and tags for the whole team to collaborate with.
- Sqwiggle is one of those developer masterpieces that is great when many team members are working remotely. Unlike Google Hangouts which is always active, Sqwiggle is more passive, capturing a snapshot of you working every 10 seconds or so as opposed to being on video feed all day. And, if you want to chat with someone, all you have to do is click their picture.
- Basecamp is a project management tool for those that may want to go in the less big-brothery direction. It's been around for roughly 15 years has grown just by word-of-mouth.
- Creately is super unique in that it allows for better project management via the use of diagrams and image mapping, giving team members the best idea of the flow of a project from start to finish.
- Glasscube is free, fully on the cloud, and easy to use for those just looking to not only manage their own tasks better, but to also be a more effective project manager. Here you get to leave comments, tips, add or remove tasks for your team.
Still want a little more? The following are some must-follow Facebook, Google+ and upcoming webinars to check out. Have more that weren't on this list? Leave a comment in the section below!
Continuing in our third week of our infographic series, (see one and two here) we decided to save the best for last. A few years back in some of our earlier Journyx product updates, we heard from a good handful of our customers that they wanted us to integrate more fully with Microsoft Dynamics, and especially Microsoft Dynamics GP. Well, we heard your requests and made it happen. Today, we fully integrate with Microsoft Dynamics GP Project Accounting, as well as AX and SL.
Then, this last March we went to Microsoft Convergence 2014 in Atlanta and were completely wowed by the Microsoft Dynamics community. The VAR's and ISV's alike seemed to have a cohesive partnership that would make a Texas football team jealous. You can read all about what we learned here. It was incredible; we went back to Austin having gleaned much more knowledge than we had intended.
So what did we do with this newfound info? We compiled data from the best sources - including articles from MSDynamicsWorld.com and ERPSoftwareBlog.com - and even interviewed VARs for their thoughts. What we found was that the Microsoft Community is absolutely flourishing - with NAV in the lead with 102,000 companies using the product and GP rounding closely behind in 2nd place with 47,000 companies.
And here's the thing, it's absolutely all about the implementation. Many companies try to take it on themselves, and fail, or hire an inexperienced VAR and find similarly dull results. In fact, according to an MSDynamicsWorld.com article titled, "New ERP report notes implementation challenges, cloud hurdles", "72 percent of projects have exceeded their planned durations, and 66 percent of respondent organizations have received less than 50 percent of the measurable benefits they anticipated".
See for yourself; check out the infographic below. Remember, it's all about the implementation and getting it right the first time. Since the Dynamics community is so tightly knit, there are plenty of great resources to help you find the right VAR to get the implementation of your ERP system done well.