Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Will Healthcare Be Our Demise?


I'm normally a pretty optimistic fellow. I have a healthy and happy family. My company is starting to really click. It's even sunny and clear outside as I write this. But I was under a dark cloud yesterday, and still am today.

The company healthcare is going up 30% from last year. And last year it went up 30%. Absurdly enough, the year before that it went up 30%. That's right, the company health care costs HAVE DOUBLED IN THREE YEARS.

Why isn't healthcare a greater priority? Why isn't big business railing against these rising costs? Unless big business is either offloading the costs or cutting special deals, I don't understand the silence. I'm shouting right now, but we are tiny next to the Microsofts, Boeings and StarBucks of our region. Maybe I'm already an anachranism believing a company should provide medical coverage for its employees. These people are working hard and doing right by us; I will do right by them.

I'm told again and again we have the greatest healthcare in the world. I have to believe we also have the costliest healthcare in the world. What happens when the greatest meets the costliest? It becomes the most USELESS because it won't cover enough people.


Sunday, October 29, 2006

MS Project, MindJet, SharePoint and Groove Interconnected

Doesn't seem possible, does it? How can four very different applications work together?

With one unique application.

TeamDirection Project 2007 has the robustness of an athlete, the wherewithal of a concierge and the communication skills of a diplomat. But perhaps most importantly it brings project management to a more human level.

We realize there are people involved in projects. This is why we integrated Instant Messaging right into the project view. We made it behave very similarly to SharePoint integration with MS Office apps so SharePoint (and Groove) users will be right at home.

But the real benefits are for team members who don't need a project management tool. Rather, they just need their browsers to point to SharePoint workspaces. Or if they have the newest MS Office family member, Groove 2007, then join Groove workspaces that take advantage of forms. The important thing is these team members need no additional software to participate in the project and complete their tasks.

We also aim to make the project manager's life a little better too. It's now very easy to move data from MS Project into TeamDirection, and from TeamDirection back to MS Project. Not import/export, but full synchronization. And not necessarily the entire project.

For example, while a project manager may be perfectly at home in a 1000 task project, sometimes its easier for a team to work on smaller pieces. TeamDirection Project lets the project manager identify a summary task as the piece of the project to share. Once in the TeamDirection system, we maintain a link to the summary task's origin and allow it to be published to either SharePoint Task Lists or Groove Task Lists. TeamDirection Project will then gather task data as people update their assigned tasks and synchronize that data with original summary task (and its children) in MS Project. It may sound difficult, but we've got it down to two clicks.

The result is any summary task can become a shared task list.

And not just MS Project summary tasks, but also topics and subtopics. The observant readers may have recognized the simple diagram above as a MindMap. We've found MindJet's MindManager is not only a great way to conceptualize a project but a powerful way to communicate it to a broad audience. TeamDirection Project takes it one step further-- it gives you a simple way to connect projects and tasks to individual team members, through SharePoint and Groove, so you can now execute and track them too.

Finally, we've made a few project management enhancements we're proud of. Things like an improved, interactive Gantt chart and a better Task grid. Useful features like multi-level undo, multi-project views with filtering, a very handy project organizer to group projects and 'smart folders' to quickly identify late ones.

Our philosophy at TeamDirection is 'The Right Tool for the Job.' We could spend years trying to make a project management solution do everything anybody ever wanted. But then it would end up looking something like this.

We believe in the right tool for the job. One of our jobs is making project management easy, accessible and useful. But our other job is to make sure the task data you need is in the application you want. MS Project, MindJet, SharePoint and Groove are a few such applications, but there are many more out there. Most of the world's projects are started with Excel. More and more task lists are executed with next generation web applications like BaseCamp and @Task. TeamDirection helps you make sure your projects are completed with the right tool for the right audience.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Great PMI Show

The booth is in the car, the staff is back at work, the show is over. It went better than I expected. We've been at the last three PMI Global Congress shows (Baltimore, Anaheim and Seattle) and this was definitely our best. Probably because now we have our best product. Just about every demo I gave went really well. However, I did notice three things:

1) People who see or read about TeamDirection Project see our integration with SharePoint, but make the assumption that we only store project files on the SharePoint server and share those. While we do store a project file on the SharePoint site, we also synchronize information with the standard SharePoint Task List that team members can update with their browsers-- including Safari for Mac users.

Invariably, once I show this feature people's eyes light up and they respond 'so you're just like Project Server!' As far as interacting with SharePoint task lists, yes. But to compare TeamDirection Project to Project Server is like comparing a hybrid car to an 18 wheeler. Yes they both have wheels, but we focus more on executing the tasks at hand whereas Project Server is the entire enterprise solution.

Still, the basics are the same: distributing and updating tasks with a web browser.

2) We think one of our coolest features is the integrated Instant Messaging window showing each team members presence. This lets you instant message a team member whose task might have fallen behind and ask what's going on. Or its a good way to notify your team of any changes to the plan. When I point this out, people agree its very useful. But I think we might be able to do more to show how the instant member list can be the same as your team member list. Maybe a presence ball right next to the assignment info? It's definitely a valuable feature to help project managers stay in touch with their team.

I think a couple of simple flash demos on our site will help convey these features. Time to put the director hat back on for a bit.

3) What is up with Microsoft and Groove? I was very surprised at how few people knew about Groove. Microsoft bought Groove back in March 2005. It's rolling Groove into the next version of Office. Ray Ozzie is now the Chief Architect at Microsoft. I thought Groove awareness would have doubled or tripled by now. It's a very powerful solution and, surprising as it may sound, Microsoft seems to be underselling it right now. Perhaps things will change once Office 2007 ships.

Thanks to everyone who visited our booth and made the show such a success for us. A special thanks to everyone who told their friends and colleagues we deserve a visit. The last day of the show was actually our busiest, which I chalk up to the word getting around.

See you at the next show!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Getting Ready for PMI Congress in Seattle

It's nice its in Seattle this year. It gives us an opportunity to do a few things we couldn't normally do. For instance, I just got back from BigInk, a local company, that does out-of-the-ordinary printing. I asked them to print an 8 foot by 10 foot banner of text and graphics and they did an awesome job.

I'm about to hop in the car, set up the booth, hang the banner and get our systems all running. If you're there, I hope you notice it.

We've got half the company helping out with the show, most notably our developers. There is NOTHING like first-hand customer feedback, and this is our opportunity to educate our developers as much as our customers.

So if you're at the show and you come buy our booth (#1220), you might just meet one of our developers. Feel free to pepper him with requests about what you'd like to see. Let him know what works and what doesn't. Educate him that writing software is more than writing code, its making it work for the end user as well. Stand up and be heard!

And then watch as your suggestions come to life.

Friday, October 20, 2006

TeamDirection Project 2007 Released to BETA


A big Thank You to everyone at TeamDirection for the next generation. Good Work Everybody!

Have you ever written software and released a BETA? It's alot of hard work. And these days you have to worry about web sites, marketing and partner communications too. Remember the old days where you put your code on a floppy or two, take out a classified ad and wait?

I don't either; I'm not that old. But that's what they tell me.

I like today better. In the old days you had to worry about packaging too, but I think that's been replaced by web sites, more or less. I suppose the big vendors (Microsoft, Adobe and such) still need to worry about it. But you can download our software, with a fast connection, in 30 seconds or so. And if you like it, you can buy it in 60.

I think the software industry might actually be improving!

I know our product is improving. I can't wait to tell you why its so great, but I'll have too. I'm still tired after a lot of hard work.

Some things never change.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Whither Adobe

Google bought YouTube. Good for them.

But did you know Adobe Systems made YouTube possible? Their flash player has excellent compression and does the best job of being cross-platform. Will some of that $1.6 billion rub off on Adobe?

(Full Disclaimer: I'm a former employee and my kids college fund has Adobe stock-- but you should still buy as much as possible)

Go read Ryan Stewarts blog for more reasons why Adobe might be the best software company you've never heard of.

On another note, we've kicked around the idea of having a project viewer using Flash. Maybe we should revisit that...

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Marriage of Social And Business Applications

Richard MacManus posted a lengthy article of mine over at his site. It's a variation of a theme I've mentioned before, but I like how it turned out (and how it was editied). I'll certainly take this opportunity to show how our Project Management product is a nifty marriage of Social and Business apps, but I thought I'd touch on a couple other 'stalwart' applications as well and see how they could benefit from a similiar entanglement.

The topic will only grow in importance as Office 2007 comes out, Google releases it's online productivity offerrings and Ray Ozzie pushes the 'Live' rejoinders out of Microsoft.

I know Richard thought 2007 would be the year of RSS, but I'm thinking its the year social and business go hand in hand.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

International Project Management Day

No Kidding.

I was doing a search for Social Project Management and came up with this.

I wonder how it is to be celebrated. It says here:

Suggested events: internal company meetings, presentations about the value of project management, recognition breakfasts, lunches or receptions honoring project teams, local government recognition or proclamation, coordinated Project Management professional association events (PMI, IPMA, AIPM, etc.)or recognition at a previously scheduled project management event.


So no roses?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

I just saw the latest from Google in the form of Google Docs & Spreadsheets. It definitely looks interesting. And I like that you can upload (max of 500k) MS Word and MS Excel files.

I think the single biggest feature could be multiple people working on a document online at the same time. I know this was a huge feature with Groove 3.x (sorry to see it go). It's nice to see Google picking it up. That 'Collaborate' tab on the top right definitely has me intrigued.

And you can export as a Word document again, or other types. Cool.

But (can I write this on blogger, owned by Google?) some missing features come to mind (or maybe I just missed them... its been known to happen):

How are you supposed to work on documents offline?

Since its from Google, is everything searchable? Are everyone's drafts and revisions searchable? If so, it may not be the best idea.

And as as a software developer, I'd love to plug some of these holes-- and think of new stuff. When will the API be published?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nice Article on Groove and SharePoint at LSU

Microsoft has published an informative article on Groove and SharePoint helping build an emergency operations center on the Gulf Coast.

It's a nice summary of not only what each individual product can bring, but also how they can work together and complement each other.

Read it here.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Use MS Project Online, Use SharePoint Offline

Have you ever wanted to publish an MS Project summary task to a SharePoint task list? What about pulling your SharePoint tasks onto your local machine and unplugging from the network? Our next version of TeamDirection Project will bring these and other very useful features to a marketplace waiting to see what Office 2007 has to offer.

As I've written before, there is a new type of application emerging to handle the current dichotomy of desktop and online environments. It has to be socially adept so as to gain acceptance on the desktop, it has to be able to enhance communication in order to be effective and it has to integrate with current business systems in order to pass the muster with IT. I've taken to calling these kinds of applications 'Social Business Applications.'

What exactly is a social application? As Ebrahim Ezzy observes, one that allows groups of people to coordinate certain kinds of interaction. Like EMail, for example.

And a business application? Microsoft states: business applications are any application important to running your business. Like EMail, for example.

Wait a second. Could EMail be the first social business application?

Yes it could. And it also happens to be the most successful application of all time. The reason is simple: because it shares aspects of both social and business computing, it can be everywhere. Desktops or webtops, phones or blackberries. And because it shares aspects of both, it can be used by corporate CEOs or PTA moms-- anyone who requires coordinating group interaction.

That sounds like the definition for social business applications: software that coordinates group interaction important to running your business.

We at TeamDirection think one of the segments to benefit from the convergence of social and business application development is Project Management. Richard MacManus of ReadWriteWeb agrees with this assessment as well.

What does this mean for you?

How about integrating Instant Messaging right into the project so that you can see when the people you've assigned tasks to are online. What would you rather do, send an email regarding a late task and wait for a response, or see their real-time presence and talk to them immediately?.

How about pulling a summary task and its children from MS Project and publishing it to a SharePoint or Groove task list in a workspace for everyone to report their progress AND pushing that updated information back into MS Project.

We think its the best of both worlds: online/offline, rich desktop apps and browser-based, simple web apps.

The sum really can be greater than the parts!

Monday, October 02, 2006

How did I Miss BaseCamp's API?

A couple of posts ago I took a look at BaseCamp from 37Signals and gave it a reasonable review. Although, in all honesty, what I really want is for people to buy our product and choose the best presentation for their constituents. Sometimes a project managemer may want to share their task list with SharePoint, sometimes with Groove and I'll wager a few times with BaseCamp as well.

If only they had an API...

Oh my golly, look at this.

OK, right about now my wife will tell you how I couldn't find a baby bottle if it was in my mouth, but once I do find something, lookout-- I latch onto it like a baby with a bottle!

I'll be taking a look at the BaseCamp API in the days ahead. It fits with our philosophy: we think project data is your data and you should decide where and how to use it.

It would be really cool to add BaseCamp alongside SharePoint and Groove. Maybe I should give 37Signals a call?