If you're new to either Zoho or project management software, you might not be familiar with Zoho's popular project management tool, Zoho Projects. Zoho Projects is a cloud-based application that enables you to assign and manage tasks for multiple projects in thorough detail. It is primarily designed for small and mid-sized businesses, and it keeps all of your projects conveniently in one, user-friendly place. In a review from PC Mag, Zoho Projects was labeled an outstanding choice for both small businesses and mid-sized businesses.
For Beckmann Collaborative, one of the most convenient features of Zoho Projects is time tracking and reporting. We use time tracking for EVERYTHING. It helps us continually learn and improve our marketing operations.
First, we can export comprehensive and well-organized timesheets which makes invoicing a breeze. Alternatively, timesheet data can be sent to other applications such as Zoho Books and Zoho Analytics. When tracking time, we can identify whether the time is "Billable" (an activity that can be directly billed to the client) or "Non Billable" (internal tasks and operations). This allows us to manage time spent per project and keep us within the scope we promise to clients. It also gives us a high-level overview of how much time we have spent working IN the business compared to ON the business.
Example of projected work hours
Example of Time Tracker with Billable and Non Billable options
This time tracker identifies time spent on any given task down to the second. There is also an area where you can allot how much time should be spent on each task. This creates a report that compares our estimated time versus actual time spent on tasks.
Aside from time tracking, one of the features that we depend on most often is collaboration within tasks in Zoho Projects. There are multiple ways to communicate within the platform itself. The most obvious are the "Feed" and the "Comments" section on each task.
The "Feed" works just like a social media newsfeed such as Facebook or Twitter. It gives you real-time updates of what everyone is doing. You can also comment on any activity in the "Feed" and it will notify the other person. Here is an example of some activities in our "Feed":
We don't often use this newsfeed because we prefer some of the other communication tools. One of those tools is the "Comments" section present in each individual task. When someone comments on a task and tags another Zoho user (by typing @ and the person's name) Zoho Projects automatically sends an email to that user with information on the task and the comment made. You can turn this email notification off, but I find it useful.
Comments section within each individual task
Automatic Email for Comments made on a task that was assigned to me
For daily communication, we use Zoho's messenger application, Cliq, which is very similar to Slack. Cliq integrates beautifully with Zoho Projects through a small "Chats" button at the bottom left corner of the screen.
Cliq integration in bottom left hand corner of Zoho Projects interface
While Zoho Cliq is it's own unique application, you have the ability to view a miniaturized version of your Cliq conversations within the Zoho Projects interface. This keeps important conversations easily accessible without having to open a separate window or tab within the browser.
Cliq interface within Zoho Projects makes it easier to communicate while navigating
We have covered time tracking and communication but another huge piece of the puzzle for any business is document management. When working with any team, especially remote teams, ensuring that documents are up to date and accurate is tough. Luckily, the days of sending 20 copies of the same Excel file back and forth with minimal updates to each version (so confusing!) are nearly a thing of the past. Cloud-based document management, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, and now Zoho Workdrive are easily accessible and keep everyone updated in real-time.
Aside from Zoho having their own cloud-based document management application, it also integrates with Zoho Project so that you can attach relevant documents to any project or task. If you are a current Dropbox user, one of the frustrations is the inability to edit a document simultaneously as another user. Zoho Workdrive allows for this and easily integrates into other Zoho applications. We understand that it can be overwhelming to switch over to something new like Zoho Workdrive, so it's nice that you can also sync your Dropbox account to each project.
We use the documents feature within Zoho Projects to keep all of our spreadsheets, reference files, and images easily accessible. Under each project, the left side of the screen has a list of options, one of which is "Documents". This is our hub for all client documents that are associated with the project. In fact, I am writing this blog post from within the Zoho Projects document manager!
Zoho Projects allows you to access important documents within each project
When a document is associated with an individual project or task, anyone who has access to that project or task can automatically see the documents associated with it. We don't have to worry about making sure that all of the right people have access to each file because their access is determined at the project level.
Gantt charts, or harmonograms, are often used in project management in order to keep track of when tasks are due, illustrating the project schedule in a visual format. Zoho Projects automatically creates a Gantt chart when you create different projects and tasks. While I don't necessarily subscribe to the Gantt chart format of project management, it is pretty satisfying to see a bunch of tasks crossed off my list.
Example of Gantt chart that is automatically created in Zoho Projects
Zoho's suite of applications is extensive and the Zoho Projects application has many features that make project management less tedious and more productive. Keep an eye out for more blog posts that will guide you through using Zoho Projects and all of the capabilities. If you'd like to test drive it, you can sign-up for a free trial of Zoho Projects.