Sunday, July 27, 2014

Intranet check list

So you are planning to launch a company intranet or want to replace your fossilized SharePoint portal. There are more than 30 intranet vendors to choose fr om and you are lost. After all, intranets aren't cheap and you don't want to make a mistake. Don’t worry, this intranet evaluation checklist will help narrow down your intranet choices to only the best solutions: 
1. Cloud AND self-hosted. 

You ONLY want solution that gives you these two choices and most vendors do. Cloud-based intranet services are usually very inexpensive and require no involvement fr om intranet developers who charge a pretty penny. That’s a plus. However, cloud intranets have few customization options and some, like Yammer, are known to have regular and prolonged outages. You want to have an option to migrate to cloud (if your intranet budget is slashed) or go from cloud to server (if you need customization or for compliance in your industry) any time you want to. Stay away from vendors wh ere you have only one choice. 

2. Classic AND social. 

Classic intranets are boring. True. Social intranets are hip, and younger workers love them. This is true, as is the fact that in many companies, social intranets devolve into an internal Facebook with mindless chatter. This is what a classic intranet looks like. This is EXACTLY the same intranet with a social interface. Let your workers chose which one they prefer. Again, stay away from vendors who force you to pick sides. 

3. Email inside the intranet 

Perhaps not a requirement but a GREAT idea and here is why: people use email daily. They probably use other communication tools as well – telephone, group chat, mobile messaging, and videoconferencing. When you add communication tools inside intranets, you kill two birds with one stone. First, you draw people into daily intranet use, solving the ‘zombie intranet’ issue that plagues so many companies. Second, you keep all conversations in one place, making them very easy to find. 

4. Employee self-service 

Employee self-service is probably the easiest way to boost intranet deployment ROI. A self-service portal can greatly reducethe load on your HR and IT departments, eliminating hours and hours of repetitive and low-value work. Things like vacation time approvals, business trip requests, meeting room booking, and IT service requests can be handled optimally by utilizing employee self-service (ESS) features in your intranet. 

5. e-Learning and knowledge management 

Intranets are perfect for accumulating knowledge, both formal and informal. Wikis, knowledge base, idea management, skill tags, employee workbooks, sales manuals, online testing - these can be easily integrated into your intranet and there are intranets that already come with these included ‘out of the box’. 

6. Project and planning 

You’ve probably noticed that companies that don’t have intranets rely on project management solutions to coordinate work. Many project management vendors add features like activity stream, file sharing and shared calendars to their solutions, making them very intranet-like. That’s because intranets and project management are made for each other. 

7. Search 

Intranet search is one of the most overlooked, but incredibly important features. Intranet search must be fast, thorough and smart. The first one is obvious. Thorough means ability to search EVERYWHERE, including inside documents, calendars, wikis and so on. Smart search means structured and permission-based search. For example, when you enter an employee name, you should get different categories – employee profile page, messages created by this employee, his or her blog post and, lastly, mentions of the person. The search box should also have filters (date range, categories) that narrow down the search results. 

We hope that this checklist will help you make you a smart choice. Obviously, we’ll be delighted if you pick Bitrix24, which comes not only with all of these, but 35+ other tools that practically guarantee success. Even if you don’t, we’d at least advise that you make some intranet consultants sweat and stutter as they try to explain why their expensive solution doesn’t have half the features that the free edition of Bitrix24 comes with.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Free Slack Alternative

Slack is all the rage these days. Twitter is full of excited slackers. VentureBeat says Slack will change the workplace. TechCrunch praises Slack. So does pretty much every other media outlet. HipChat and Flowdock must be losing customers left and right, I imagine. Is there anything out there, that’s better than Slack? 
I think so. To me, the best Slack alternative is Bitrix24. Not because it’s free for small teams and has affordable unlimited user plans, but because it offers tools that Slack should be offering. These are:
1.     Solo and group videocalls
Chat is fine and dandy, but sometimes you want to talk to a person. WebRTC makes video and audio calls from/to PCs and smartphones fairly easy to integrate into your collaboration platform and this is exactly what Bitrix24 did but Slack did not (yet). 

2.     True file management
File sharing is fine. But I expect Dropbox-like file sharing. I want files to be available in the cloud, on my PC and mobile devices. I want them to sync and update automatically when someone from my team edited shared file. I want to be able to edit documents directly inside the discussion. Again, not that hard to do and something that Bitrix24 makes available even in the free plan. Strike two, Slack (and HipChat, and Flowdock, and Campfire).

3.     Group tasks and projects
I can write a message “Mike, can you please do …” and get a reply “Sure”, but chances are, everyone will forget, myself included. Project management needs instant messaging (I am looking at you, Asana) and team chat absolutely needs tasks and todos. And shared calendars for easy coordination.

4.     Self-hosted version
I love cloud, you love cloud, everyone loves cloud. It’s cheap and requires no setup. But then paranoia creeps onto you. What if Slack goes bankrupt? What if NSA is reading all my messages with funny gifs? If only I could can my hands on the source code and put the damn thing on my server, it would do everything I want. Another major Bitrix24 advantage in my view.

5.     Extranet
Collaboration is addictive. Team chats are for teams, but very soon you’ll want to use it for talking to clients, freelancers and others who are not employees at your company. This poses serious challenge. You DO want to collaborate with these people, but you DON’T want them to have access to sensitive data and have the same access rights as employees. The solutions? Extranet.

Do you know of other good Slack alternatives? Let me know.

Other freebies:

Free CRM with telephony and phone calls

Free team task manager

Free shared calendars

Free lead management

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What is best free online project management software?

1.     Bitrix24
This is my favorite free online project management software at the moment, way ahead of the competition. The best way to describe Bitrix24 is this. Imagine if Basecamp bought Dropbox, Skype, Salesforce and SharePoint – that’s Bitrix24. Ability to have team chat, videoconferencing, shared calendars and group document management inside your project management platform is brilliant. Gantt charts are a big plus. Also, I like the fact that you have two options with Bitrix24 - cloud based or self hosted project management software that you can host on your server. If you choose the latter option, you can source code to play with as well. The free version gets you 12 users, unlimited projects/tasks/subtasks and 5GB worth of cloud document storage. 
2.     Freedcamp
As the name suggests, Freedcamp is a free Basecamp alternative. I am not a big Basecamp fan, I think that their approach to online project management is outdated, and you see this immediately in Freedcamp’s design. If you do, however, like Basecamp, do give Freedcamp a close look. Do take note of the fact that backups in Freedcamp are paid.
3.     Asana
Asana’s popularity has exploded recently and deservedly so. It’s a slick, no frills alternative to Basecamp that sticks to tasks only (no group chat, no video, no proper document management as in Bitrix24).  The original free Asana plan included 30 free users, but it was cut in half shortly (i.e. 15 users). Each extra 15 users will set you back $50/mo. One thing that I don’t like about Asana is that they do not offer a self-hosted version of their project management software and explicitly stated that they don’t ever plan to, so you become their cloud hostage for life. Not that I think Asana is going bankrupt any time soon, given their Facebook heritage. 
4.     Trello
Trello is a good choice if you use Kanban for managing tasks and projects. Trello is very simple, which is its strongest point and its weakest one. On the plus side, people pick up Trello very fast and it spreads like wild fire. However, as soon as you start working on a project with even minimal level of complexity where you need Gantt charts, resource management, Trello becomes immediately inadequate.
5.     GanttProject
GanttProject is project management software from the 90s. That may sound bad, but there are people who are used to PC only software (which is what GanttProject is) and aren’t comfortable with cloud, smartphones and the entire consumerization trend. It features Gantt, PERT and Resource load charts. The latest news are from 2012, so it may no longer be developed/supported.

Did I miss any good tools? Send me your favorite FREE project management software.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

HR Tools - Social Document Collaboration

#5 - Social Document Collaboration

Document collaboration tools are among the most widely used in the modern social HR software arsenal. Gone are the days when the only choice you had was ugly (and expensive) SharePoint. Most modern document collaboration solutions work in a cloud, are as easy to use as Dropbox and are free or very inexpensive. The following document collaboration features are available in Bitrix24

Multiuser online document editing
Online editor in Bitrix24

Online multiuser document editing is one of the popular ways to collaborate in real time. Not only all changes are instantly visible to all participants of the process, you don’t have to have pricey MS Office installed on your PC in order to work with documents online.

Group file sharing and synchronization

Bitrix24 lets you share files with people inside and outside your company in Dropbox-like manner, including password-protected and time-restricted file sharing. Bitrix24.Drive allows managing and synchronization of workgroup and company files between the local PC and Bitrix24 cloud account, meaning as soon as you add a new file or edit an existing one, it becomes available both in cloud and on PC of every group member who has Bitrix24.Drive enabled and is authorized to access the document. iOS and Android mobile devices are supported as well.

Document approval workflows
Visual document workflow designer

Getting documents approved or revised or rejected is part of most collaboration routines. Bitrix24 allows creating custom document approval workflows including but not limited to simple approval, majority vote, expert opinion, two or multi stage approval, mandatory reading and mandatory mutual approval.

Free document collaboration is available in Bitrix24 for groups of up to 12 people. The free account includes 5 GB worth of online storage.

Social HR Explained - Social Intranet
Social HR Explained - Employee Self Service
Social HR Explained - United Communications
Social HR Explained - Mobile HRMS
Social HR Explained - Social Task Management
Social HR Explained - Social Document Collaboration

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Why Treehouse rewards slackers

Tip of the day - Need company name? Try crowdsourcing
At one of his first jobs after college, Ryan Carson was a software developer who was asked to stay overnight to finish a project.

"We ended up working 48 straight hours. I remember catching a few minutes' sleep on the floor," he said.
That experience, all too common at startups, gave him a different idea: What if companies could prevent burnout (and reward their employees) by limiting the number of hours they worked?

So in 2010, he gave it a shot. Treehouse, located in Portland, Ore., develops online courses in website-building, code writing and mobile apps. The firm, which Carson cofounded, has a second office in Orlando, Fla., and about half of its 75 employees work remotely.

While purposefully avoiding San Francisco, Treehouse offers plenty of Silicon-Valley-style perks. The biggest: Every weekend starts on Thursday night.

And that doesn't mean Monday through Thursday are 10-hour days. Carson says they still maintain a normal schedule throughout the week.

It's proven to be a powerful recruiting tool.

"At first, we didn't tell candidates about the four-day week [right away] because we really wanted people who were passionate about our mission of low-cost online education," Carson recalled. "But we started mentioning the short week up front when we realized what an advantage it is in attracting top talent."

One Treehouse developer regularly gets job offers from Facebook and Google, Carson said, but "so far, his answer has always been, 'You guys working a four-day week yet?'"

There are plenty of advantages to the schedule, but it also presents some obvious challenges, which Carson has had to navigate.

"I'm very selective about the projects I take on," he said. "The key is to focus on what you want to get done. Carve out blocks of time where you can concentrate on one thing at a time, and cut out distractions like unnecessary meetings."

Email is another time suck Carson avoids. Instead, Treehouse staffers use a free service called Hipchat that allows businesses to set up chat rooms. Rather than emailing colleagues or interrupting them mid-project, employees post questions and comments that others respond to "when they get around to it," Carson said.

Treehouse also designed an online tool called Flow, where people post daily updates on specific projects.
If a four-day week were easy, everyone would be doing it, and Carson conceded that it does have drawbacks.

"The biggest one is that it's pretty hectic," he said. "There's no downtime. With a four-day week, every hour counts. It can be stressful."

And as a business owner, Carson said, "I get frustrated sometimes, thinking we could do more and grow faster if we had that fifth day."

Even so, he's committed to keeping the four-day week and, financially, Treehouse has done fine without Fridays. Carson said the company was profitable almost immediately, and revenues have tripled to about $10 million in the past three years.

Venture capitalists, including big names like Kevin Rose and Reid Hoffman, don't seem at all put off by Treehouse's abbreviated schedule. So far, they've invested $11.5 million.

[Via - CNNMoney]

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