Project Management Tools

In this day and age, business owners are handling more than ever, multitasking and wearing a variety of hats. Project Management tools are available to help you and your staff access, utilize, and control projects either from a single user perspective or more intricate programs that allow for collaborative projects. They can be used to oversee everything from a simple marketing or sales plan to an elaborate construction project. These tools allow for scheduling, coordination, tracking issues and bugs, specified task lists, calendars, and messaging between staff and management, all in one meeting place accessible from anywhere in the world.

Businesses have long used integrated software for project management, such as Microsoft Office, a suite of programs each designated for one aspect of a project, including presentations in Powerpoint, spreadsheets in Excel, documents and mailings in Word, and email through Outlook. Another option is Google Docs – a free, online based office suite that allows users to create documents, collaborate with other users, and store data online.

There are also online and downloadable software options, some free with payable upgrades when you’re ready. These programs make project management far more seamless, typically with a simple setup process:

Trello
Podlio
Basecamp
Teamlab
Ace Project
Zoho Project
Huddle

See Office Solutions ME’s Business Resource Library page for more tools to help your business thrive today!

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iPad for Small Business?

Most people would agree that the iPad is a great piece of technology and really fun to play with, but is it a worthy investment for small business owners? Does it have enough features to compete with or replace a laptop or notebook computer? Could the iPad be the “Swiss army knife for businesses” or is it just another toy in a pretty package?

Here’s a list of tools and features that help set the iPad apart and justify its place in business;

  1. Portability/Mobility – The iPad is smaller than most laptops and lighter weight. Therefore, it becomes more convenient to carry on trips or to business meetings. This also makes it a great tool for presentations, because you can hold it in one hand, allowing for more instructional mobility
  2. Touch Technology – The touch screen of the iPad means less moving parts and gadgets to contend with, it’s more self contained, and has fewer accessories to buy. However if you want the attachments, Apple has made a Bluetooth key board and mouse for your convenience.
  3. Longevity – The iPad has a 10 hour battery life! This is much better than most laptops. No outlet searching needed when you’re on the road. Based on Apple’s track record with previous devices (iPod, iPhone) we assume that the iPad will also maintain its battery life longer than a typical laptop.
  4. Apps – The notorious Applications that developers have created for the iPhone and iPod are also available for the iPad. Apps allow easy ‘one touch’ access to commonly used programs and sites, and apps are generally faster than accessing traditional websites. For example, There are many social media apps that allow you to integrate various sites, reading apps that allow you to access news and information, media and video apps that allow you to be entertained and educated… the possibilities are nearly endless (as endless as the developers and users creativity). As a matter of fact, there are also many industry specific apps that help to make professionals and business owners more efficient.
  5. Reader– The iPad is a digital reader, i.e. a digital book, allowing for reading books and magazines without creating any paper waste. The handheld format and screen lock feature make the iPad a much better choose than a traditional laptop. And the versitility of the iPad make it a better choice than other readers, such as the Kindle. The iPad has the iBook store, as well as other options for downloading entire novels and reference books, and while the concept of carrying a library in the palm of your hand is amazing enough, it also allows you to search within books, change the font, change the pages colors, magnify text, etc…
  6. Digital Frame – One of the less notable features is that it also doubles as a digital photo frame. This may seem trivial, but think of the marketing possibilities… the iPad provides a much sleeker form of digital advertising for trade shows and presentations in comparison to most laptops.

Here is a list of items and features that the iPad still needs in order to truly contend with a traditional laptop or netbook;

  1. Camera – The iPad desperately needs at least 1, maybe even 2 cameras, with video capability. I think most people would agree that this will probably be a feature of the 2nd or 3rd generation.
  2. USB – At least 1 USB port would be nice. USB connectors have become rather universal, so a USB port on the iPad would certainly increase its usefulness and ability to compete with a traditional laptop/netbook.
  3. Apps – Developers still need to make more apps that are specifically for the iPad to increase the functionality. Apps are a huge asset to the Apple products, and the more there are the more the product is an asset to potential buyers.
  4. Flash – Many websites currently use flash technology, unfortunately Apple does not support this. Apple uses HTML5, while this may be superior, it does not change the fact that I can not view some sites on my iPad or iPhone. It may only be a matter of time before websites switch entirely to HTML5, but until then, I seem to need my PC.

On Friday May 21st, I won a 16GB WiFi iPad from Oxford Networks at the Maine Business Technology Expo. So, After 2 months of guilt free exploration, here’s my review of this device… All in all, I have to say that the iPad is a great business tool! And it will only get better with more time and technology changes.

Have your own thoughts about the iPad? Need more information? Leave a comment or Contact Office Solutions ME!

5 Cool Tools for Business

Every business (and business owner) needs tools to get the job done. Small businesses need especially versatile tools, that they can easily master and that offer the necessary value.

Office Solutions ME provides Virtual Administrative Support, so many of the tools that we use are software based or allow us to access the software that we use.

Here are 4 of the tools that we use most often, and really couldn’t operate without;

  1. Smart Phone – Not just a phone, but a miniature computer! We use the iPhone. It allows us to access the Internet, e-mail, social media sites, and so much more from almost anywhere! We can download applications that allow us to view and alter Microsoft Office documents, make calls via VOIP, scan QR Codes, and an endless number of other geeky yet useful things.
  2. Laptop – A notebook computer is really essential for any company, but completely unavoidable for a virtual assistant! To be able to complete client work virtually, you have to be accessible and able to respond efficiently. A laptop ensures that it is possible to meet your client’s demands from (almost) anywhere. This was our most recent purchase, as we upgraded from a 6-year-old Averatec to a Sony Vaio.
  3. Scanner – Green is gold! Being able to scan and e-mail documents, instead of faxing or snail mailing is another necessity. This improves productivity and creates less waste. Plus you can then store your documents electronically and save valuable office space. We choose the Canon MX860.
  4. External Drive – Back-up is King! With all of our electronic documents and important e-mails, we need to make sure we are protecting our assets appropriately. With an external hard drive, we can create protected and encrypted back-up files quickly and easily. We chose the Western Digital My Passport Elite.
  5. Blue Tooth Headset – Multi-tasking is easier when your hands are free, so our 5th and final cool tool for this post is the hands-free blue tooth headset. There are many versions, at various prices, but they are an essential for note taking, typing, driving, and other tasks without missing a call. We have a very basic Jabra that does the trick.

Please feel free to share if you have any other business tools that you can’t live without, or if you have questions about any that we have listed.

For product reviews and prices, we recommend cnet.com.

Need help getting organized and being productive? Please Contact Us for help with Administrative Support and Business Developement!

Time Management Tips & Software

Pocket WatchTime is money, time is of the essence, time is a valuable commodity! We never have enough Time, yet we take it for granted.

So, how do we make the most of the time we have? When it comes to business, there are many tools that we can utilize to make the most of our time and maximize our efficiency!

It’s all about organization and scheduling, then sticking with that schedule and using the tools that we have available!

  1. Set Priorities – Tasks will be different for everyone and may even change depending on the week or month. They can include any of the tasks you complete on a daily weekly or monthly basis; Client Relations, Blogging, Filing, Invoicing, Prospecting, Updating Social Media Sites, Newsletters, Mailings, Reading E-mail, Updating Websites, Working on Client Projects, Staff Meetings etc…
  2. Arrange Availability – Coordinate the activities that require others’ participation. Check with those that are involved in your tasks and be sure they set aside time for you. There’s no sense in scheduling time to meet with a client if you don’t know when they are available, or setting aside time for a staff meeting when staff will be out in training. Be practical about your time usage in order to get the most out of it.
  3. Create a Schedule– After you’ve determined the most important tasks and the best times to coordinate Wrist Watchwith others; it’s time to set a schedule. Set up task in order of priority and then block off the time during the week or month that works the best for each task. You may find that Tuesday is a good day to block off an hour for website updates, Wednesday or Thursday evenings are dedicated to business networking events, Friday mornings are the best days for staff meetings, Blogging will get done on the 10th and 20th of every month, AP/AR will be best completed on the 14th or 15th of each month, and you will check e-mails at 8am, 10am, 2pm, and 4pm.
  4. Use Tracking Software – Whether this is new to you or not, chances are you will need some sort of tools to assist you. This could be as simple as setting timers or alarms on you cell phone to remind you to check your e-mail or start prepping invoices. This could also be as complex as utilizing time tracking software. There are many versions of time trackers available, some are even free.
  5. Adjust when Needed – If it’s broke, fix it! If your schedule isn’t working, then adjust it! It’s not set in stone, it’s a tool that’s suppose to make you more organized and less stressed, more efficient and more productive. So, make it work for you. And you may find that you can’t do everything… it’s okay to get help!

Here is a list of some time trackers and project managers that I’ve discovered;

Find more time Management tips;

If you have tips or can recommend any time management software, please feel free to comment!

 
 
 

The Power of Presentations!

The ability to get in front of a crowed and captivate them is certainly an ART! There is so much that goes into a good presentation. There’s the ability to articulate, the physical appearance of the presenter, the setting of the venue, the content of what’s being presented, and the visuals being utilized. While majority of attendees are ‘visual learners’, we often place too much emphasis on the visuals of our presentation.

Here are a few things to consider when creating and using a PowerPoint or any other slide presentation;

Include;

  1. A title slide – Show your audience who you are as you are telling them. This gives them the correct spelling of your name and company.
  2. An outline slide – This is a basic agenda of what is to be covered, it sets the expectations of your presentation early.
  3. Pictures and graphics – You’re creating a visual, so make it interesting, use images that correlate with the topics being covered.
  4. Bulleted lists – Organize your topics into short bulleted lists. Avoid paragraphs of text.
  5. Summary page – Finalize your presentation with a wrap-up slide and be sure to include you contact information at the end.

Avoid;

  1. Reading your slides – Your audience can read (generally), they do not need you to read the slides to them. Your slides should only be outlines of what you are covering.
  2. Alternating slide transitions – Don’t make your slide transitions so crazy that they take away from your presentation. Keep it simple, consistent, and professional.
  3. Clip Art images – Don’t use standard clip art just because it’s there, it will make you look generic. Find and use images that are unique and meaningful to your topics.
  4. Make it readable – Make sure that you use a font style, color, and size that the person in the back row can read easily.

Remember, a PowerPoint presentation is simply a fancy poster board; YOU are still giving the presentation!

If you have any examples or additional suggestions to add, please feel free to comment.

 

iPhone: 4 Apps, 7 Features, 3 Wishes

iPhone

I’ve owned my iPhone 3GS since August, and have yet to share my favorite applications (apps) or my review of the phone overall.

In a nutshell, I LOVE IT!

My favorite  apps;

  1. TweetDeck – Twitter (social media) platform that allows me to manage multiple accounts at once, post Tweets, attach pictures, etc…
  2. Word Press – allows me to manage multiple blogs at once, update posts, attach pictures, read comments, etc…
  3. Facebook – (social media) keeps me informed of new messages and information as needed, allows me to update, add friends, etc…
  4. Conquest – a mobile version of Risk that allows me to spend my down time conquering the world.

My favorite features;

  1. Access to the Internet virtually anywhere! – even without an app, I can access e-mail and websites any where that I can get a cell phone signal, priceless especially for a virtual assistant!
  2. Calendar – I live by a schedule and having an easy-to use calendar at my finger tips is essential!
  3. Maps – this is almost as good as my GPS and it’s free.
  4. Cut, Copy, Paste – this is such a time saver. I can copy a name or an address and then paste it to a contact or calendar item
  5. Screenshots – by pushing the ‘home’ and ‘power’ button at the same time, you can take a picture of your screen, very helpful.
  6. World clock – with friends and family all over the world, I can now know exactly what time it is and avoid call them at 3am.
  7. Being able to look up a business on the Internet and then just touch their phone number to call them.

My wish list;

  1. Spell check – while there is a sort of predictive text feature, I am a terrible speller, and a built in spell check would be amazing.
  2. Record phone calls – there is a record feature and many downloadable apps, but none of them seem to work while you are on a call. I would find this useful during a business call, because I wouldn’t have to take as many notes.
  3. Camera flash – while this is trivial and not standard on most phones, there have been occasions of dim lighting that were photo worthy.

Overall, this is an amazing piece of technology and I continue to find more ways to utilize it. And as a virtual assistant it has been invaluable as a business tool, saving me time and making me money.

If you have thoughts on the iPhone or additional features to add, I would love to hear them!



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Don’t Waste Time on Social Media

Social Media Time Management

We’ve all been hearing about social media for a while now, and most of us agree that we should be using it in some way. After all, it’s FREE Marketing and Public Relations, right?
Well, almost… if time is money, then it certainly has a cost.

What are some of the ways to reduce the amount of time spent on social media?

  1. Spend less time.
  2. Become more efficient.
  3. Outsource.

Spend less time.
Yes, this sounds obvious and very simplified, but it’s true. For those that are already well versed and actively using social media, it may be a simple matter of limiting the amount of time spent per day/week. A great way to achieve this is to set a timer, or only allow yourself to access social media sites on certain days of the week.

Become more efficient.
Work smarter, not harder. This is my favorite answer.
There are many platforms available that allow you to integrate multiple social media sites. Platforms such as TweetDeck or HootSuite, allow you to view and update multiple social media sites at the same time. An RSS Feed on your Facebook page would allow Blog and Twitter updates to be viewed without any extra work by you. This and many other tools would obviously save you time.

Here are some great websites to help you learn more about using and improving social media efficiency;

Mashable
The Social Media Guide
Business Week
Wikipedia

Outsource.
This is not the answer for everyone, but if you’re not well versed in current media trends and technology (or you just don’t want to be), you can hire someone who is. This does require trust and communication by both parties, and when done correctly it has some great benefits.

Feel free to share some ways that you are currently saving time with Social Media? Or if you are having trouble with Social Media, feel free to post a question.

And for those still not convinced to use Social Media, may I recommend a video from David Meerman Scott at the 2009 Business Marketing Association National Conference.