Project Management 2.0 – What’s Wrong With 1.0?

Let me quickly state that I don’t really know what the consensus definition of PM 2.0 is, but I do have a feeling based on my very 1.0-style experience.

In the 90’s I worked on a number of fairly large scale SAP Projects in a variety of roles, including Project Manager, and supervisor of several other projects.  The standard tool was Microsoft Project.  It was used for:

  • Planning a Project (initial Scoping)
  • Selling it
  • Periodic reporting to Steering Committee during the actual projects

What’s missing from the above?   Well, how about using it to help the actual daily work of project team members?

Project  team members did not even have access to MS Project, it only existed in a few copies on the PM and Team Lead’s computers.  Information-flow was one-way: feed the beast to be able to occasionally print charts that look impressive (scary) enough that Steering Committee members won’t question it.

Ok, I am admittedly sarcastic, but the point is:  PM 1.0 was all about planning, reporting and it served Management but did not help actual Project Execution.

My expectation of PM 2.0 would be that it helps all team members involved who can share information, collaborate on it and actually get clues from the system on where they are, where they should be, what their next step is, instead of just feeding the beast.

Is this the real promise of Project Management 2.0?   I hope to find out from an excellent set of panelists that I have the honor of moderating at the Office 2.0 Conference next week:

  • Andrew Filev (Wrike)
  • Bruce Henry (LiquidPlanner)
  • Mark Mader (
  • Guy Shani (Clarizen)
  • Dean Carlson (Viewpath)

Of course this is just one of many exciting sessions – if you haven’t registered yet, you can grab a $100 discount by registering here.   Oh, and don’t forget to visit us at the Zoho Party – the address is #1 Cloud Avenue. smile_regular

(This article is cross-posted at the Office 2.0 Conference Blog)

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Office 2.0, a Most Irregular Conference – Get Your Discount Here

Nothing about the Office 2.0 Conference is even remotely ordinary.

Start with the organizer, Ismael Ghalimi, CEO of a VC-funded startup, Intalio.  That’s normally a full-time job – not when it comes to Ismael: he is also a scuba-diving instructor, a pilot, launched Monolab|Workspace, (is that Incubator 2.0?), launched the Extreme Productivity Seminar series, oh, and have I mentioned the annual Office 2.0 Conference?  ( I actually know his secret, he has two body doubles, I just haven’t been able to prove it yetsmile_wink)

Pressed for time he is turning a necessity into a virtue: year by year the Conference is a showcase of creating a successful event out of nothing in only two months. I remember the first event in 2006, when a couple of us Enterprise Irregulars were helping him plan the sessions only weeks away from the start.  A few days and a few blog posts later Ismael got flooded with request for sponsor and speaking slots.  This year history repeats itself: just a month ago the conference site was a placeholder and one could only wonder if … then a new site was born overnight, based on Jive Software’s excellent ClearSpace platform, and now it’s alive with user participation, sponsors, registration..etc.

What’s a Web-focused Conference without wi-fi?   It’s a joke that in 2008 conferences, including brands like Web 2.0, Gnomedex …etc.  still fail to provide sufficient connection.  Ismael’s solution includes laser beams to the top of the building, another one down to a terrace, then inside – making it happen with Swisscom was quite a project in itself.  Office 2.0 set the standard once and for all, anything less at major conferences is a failure.

Then there’s the issue of The Gadget.  I believe the iPod at the first conference was just more-then-generous swag.  The iPhones handed out at the second conference had an integral part at the event: several applications released specifically for Office 2.0 allowed participants to interact with each other, navigate the schedule and find sessions.  This time all paid participants will receive a the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.

Yes, the conference swag is not pens, stickers or t-shirts: it’s a mini-computer, which cost about half the registration fee.  It will clearly raise eyebrows, and many would prefer to skip the gadget and pay reduced fees.  I think handing out such an expensive gadget will have an interesting effect on the conference demographic: we’ll likely see an increase of corporate employees, who can expense the entire conference and are less price-sensitive than startups and freelancers – the original Office 2.0 crowd.

But that may very well be what the conference needs.   There’s a reason why this year’s theme is Enterprise Adoption.  The Office 2.0 movement wouldn’t go very far with only the early pioneers, evangelists talking to themselves, dissmissing enterprise requirements.  For the principles to become practice in business, we need a more balanced mix, and in a twisted way the gadget may just help achieve that.

Those who can’t afford the full registration are not entirely locked out: Socialtext CEO and top evangelist Ross Mayfield will facilitate Un-Conference 2.0 the day before the official conference, at a cost of $50.

Finally, startups have a chance to present the attending VCs, media, bloggers at  LaunchPad – Ismael announced this event over the weekend, and already has 10 particpants – get in there while you can.  Note to my (numerous) VC readers: I hope you will be there, too.

If you’re still hesitating, check out the Agenda, the list of SpeakersMedia representatives,  and if you haven’t done so, register now.

I’ve saved the best for last: don’t use the standard registration, save $100 by registering here.

Update: while I was typing here, fellow Enterprise Irregular Dennis Howlett explained why this is an Irregular (pun intended) Conference in more than one way.  Update to the update: see Susan’s excellent summary.

(cross-posted on the Conference Blog)


Zoho – the “Safer Office”

It’s somewhat ironic that in the very days I’ve just written about Duet, the joint SAP-Microsoft product, I am seriously thinking of escaping from Microsoft-prison, and switching to the most promising WebOffice (Office 2.0) suite. Perhaps I am part of the trend that prompted Vinnie to consider Duet a “nice-to-have” only, but generally too little, too late. (I actually disagree with him, Microsoft’s lock on corporate users is far heavier than on individuals or small businesses.. but that’s another discussion). Update: I’ve had this post half-written for a while, and now we’re getting warned left and right: “use Word in safe mode“, “don’t open Word attachments from Outlook” – the fix from Microsoft is not expected until mid-June. WTF? That’s three weeks away! I am sick of it, just as much as I am sick of Outlook forgetting where the address book is again, freezing on me frequently, and I am especially sick of MS crippling my computer via the automatic Windows updates. While I can’t get rid of Windows (just yet), I can certainly get rid of buggy unsafe Office. Office 2.0, here I come!

But what’s Office 2.0? First of all, terminology: some call it Office 2.0, others Web Office: the point is to have web-based applications that are accessible via a browser, without any download, that will store the data files on the web, too (sorry AjaxWrite, you are out), thus making all my stuff accessible from any computer, any time (as long as I have Internet access).

I’ve been using Writely for a while, so when I first found Zoho Writer, it was a non-event: both editors are equally good, convenience wins, no need to switch. Are any of these Microsoft Word killers? Scoble would laugh it off, they would not stand a feature-by-feature comparison. So what? I am part of the 90% crowd that barely uses 10% of Word’s functionality anyway. Then I found Thumbstack, a web-based “mini-powerpoint”, that allows me to share and collaborate on presentations easily. It does not do a lot of fancy things, amongst them the animated transitions – great, so now I can focus on substance in my presentations, rather than disruptive entertainment. What about a spreadsheet? Zoho Sheet is easy to use, and is aesthetically pleasing – a point so often missed. Is it as poweful as Excel? Of course not. But my Excel knowledge is probably on the level of Lotus 1-2-3 anyway, so for me, Zoho is the Excel-killer. I also have Stikipad, Calcoolate, … and a few others – all in my Firefox “Office 2.0” bookmark.

The only problem is, when I am not on my own PC, sometimes I forget what’s where… and of course my data files reside with the various service providers, and I am not completely at ease with my digital life being so fragmented. See where I am heading? This move to the Web is liberating, but the plethora of different services causes a bit of chaos. There are two basic concepts to deal with the chaos:

  • Some of the Web storage companies, like, Omnipage, Openomny ..etc .. offer their open API’s to application providers, or make one-to-one tight integration and propose that we store all our data centrally, no matter which application accesses them. This is definitely a step forward, in terms of data management, but I am still dealing with point applications, without any integration between them..
  • The second concept obviously is one-stop-shopping: is there one service that offers ALL the MS Office capabilities (with the common simplification we just discussed)? The answer is increasingly yes: Zoho is releasing new applications at an impressive speed, and they come with 1G of storage. While I would not have left Writely for the sake of Zoho writer only, the abililty to have everyting under one hood is just too damn tempting. I can have Writer, Sheet, Presenter (due out in the very near feature) all from the same source, my data is stored at the same place, and although currently these applications require individual registrations, in the near future they will be available with a single sign-on.

The Zoho guys also promise integration between these applications, and I have reason to believe they will be able to pull it off – after all, they already have the Zoho Virtual Office, which incorporates several of these offices in an integrated fashion. AdvantNet, a 500-person company (of which about a 100 work on Zoho) runs entirely on Zoho Virtual Office. Currently Virtual Office is a downloadable server-side product accessible via the Web, but Zoho will offer a Web-hosted version in the future. Without integration an Office 2.0 is not really Office 2.0, just a collection of online applications. (For those who may not remember, it took Microsoft long years to achieve some level of integration in their Office; for several years and throughout several releases “integration” was copy/paste, and quite painful as such.)

Zoho leverages a good deal between the different product offerings: some parts of Virtual Office make it into the individual applications, and vice versa, some of the standalone products become part of Virtual Office. For example 1G storage is now an implicit part of using the applications, but Zoho Drive will soon be available as a standalone service, too. Ah, and let’s not forget about Zoho Creator, which is exactly what the name suggests: an easy web-application creator. They even go beyond traditional Office functionality, into the transactional world buy providing Zoho CRM, a web based, or downloadable full-featured CRM system. Fully featured means supporting the full sales-related workflow, including vendors and purchase orders all the way to sales orders and invoicing… definitely more then just a “glorified contact manager” as the other guy is often referred to.

Listening and responding to customers is an area a lot of companies fail nowadays – Zoho seems to excel here, too. As part of research for this post I looked at earlier reviews, and several features reported “missing” from Writer are already included in the current product. There is a direct feedback link from the applications, and the longest response time I experienced was a few hours – sometimes it’s just minutes. In comparison, a question I posted on the Writely forum over two weeks ago is still unanswered – I guess those guys are busy finding their place in Google.

Summing it up: Zoho pumps out new applications at an amazing rate (check the site for a few more I haven’t even mentioned). While one by one most of their applications are comparable to at least another web-based application, I am not aware of any other company offering such a complete suite, with that level of support and the realistic prospect of integrating the applications soon. For me the choice is obvious: Zoho is my Office 2.0 Suite.

I’d like to touch on another issue, namely the value of being first, “original” vs. doing something better the second time – but for the sake of readability I’ll break it out to another post – soon.

Update (5/27): Assaf, who made blog conversations really trackable by bringing us co.mment read my post and gave the Zoho Virtual Office a try. His overall impression is positvie, but he also includes some criticism – just as he should. One thing I learned is that Zoho listens and moves fast. Another obeservation (of mine) is that they seem to move in iterations:

  • The downloadable Zoho Virtual Office has been around for a while (they run a 500-person company on it)
  • Now they are focusing on individual “Office” components making them available on the Web
  • Finally they will relase their own hosted version of Virtual Office probably incorporating may improvements they’ve made in the standalone products.

Update (6/6 -yes, the famous 666!): Google Spreadsheet is out, the blogosphere is abuzz, and I won’t have the time to write today, but at least I wanted to point to Ismael’s article, since he arrives to the same conclusions I did…