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Updates

Introducing Task Statuses

The end goal of most tasks is the same: completion. But anyone who has ever been assigned or delegated a task knows that it’s not always so simple. Work starts and stops as questions and issues arise, or focus changes. It’s a natural part of project management and something that every team learns to deal with. This is to say that the lifecycle of a task isn’t as straightforward as most project management tools, including Flow, would have you believe. 

Our team has always managed to find ways to negotiate the grey areas. If a task was blocked, we looped in the person who could help unblock it. If a task was no longer needed, we completed or deleted it, so it wouldn’t take up space in the project. But in the last year, as our projects increased in complexity, it became harder to tell the difference between tasks that hadn’t started, ones that were in progress, and those that had stalled. Everything was either incomplete or completed, with no nuance in between. 

So, we started talking about what we could do to make it clearer, at a glance, what state a task was in, and which ones were common to most workflows. We knew that we weren’t alone in this particular struggle and figured there was no better time to address it than now. We’re excited to officially introduce Task Statuses: a way to more accurately reflect what state your task is in from moment to moment.

We started with the “Cancelled” status.  We wanted a simple way to communicate that a task was no longer actionable without having to complete or delete it. Completion, to us, suggested that all the necessary work had been wrapped up, while a deleted task simply wiped that work from the record. A cancelled task, conversely, could show that the work had been intentionally pulled from the project. Now, there’s no more confusing an abandoned task with completed work, or losing access to the useful context that led to cancelling it in the first place. 

Next came “Blocked”. We needed a status to show that a task couldn’t progress for some reason. If you know when a teammate is blocked, you can better support them by either helping to address it, or plan strategically around it. Statuses shouldn’t just function as static designations—they should help communicate where attention is needed. 

Finally, we wanted to be able to easily distinguish between tasks that are actively being worked on and ones that aren’t. Adding an In Progress status was a simple solution to this problem. A visual distinction between To Do and In Progress tasks means fewer manual updates to track when and if work has begun.  This distinction also provides greater insight into how long certain tasks take to complete. You can see how much time has elapsed between when you mark a task In Progress and when you mark it as Completed, and more accurately gauge how long similar tasks will take to complete in the future. 

In the end, we landed on 5 statuses to better define work: To Do, In Progress, Blocked, Cancelled and Completed, which are now available on Flow’s Solo, Plus, and Pro plans. Each state has a different checkbox to make it easy to see exactly what state each task, and each project, is in. It’s also useful to visually remind yourself the status of your own tasks so you can more accurately set your priorities. You can choose which states are important for you to see. If you always want to see To Do, In Progress, and Blocked tasks, but not Cancelled and Completed, you can simply toggle them off in the Show menu. 

This new range of states allow users to communicate more about their tasks in fewer words. It’s a bold new feature and huge step forward for Flow, and we can’t wait for you to put them to use. 

A lot of what we build starts as a simple request from Flow users, so if you have a feature you’d love to see us build next, head over to our feedback board to share it. We’re particularly interested in requests for our Public API these days, so if you currently use it (or want to start) let us know how we can make that experience even better.

See it all in action in Flow X

March 15, 2021

Teamwork

Ways to Enhance Cross-Functional Collaboration

Misalignment. Mistakes. Miscommunications. Those are the 3 misses you never want to make as a cross-functional team when collaborating on projects. The bottom-line as a project manager is that when you’re trying to align goals, communicate about quick-turnaround tasks, and achieve results, there are some major details that need to be addressed to successfully mitigate difficulties.

From creating notes and to-do-lists to designating deadlines and assignees, your team’s cross-functional collaboration begins not just with you as a project manager but with the system you work within to accomplish your projects. Not only must tasks be clearly assigned on an accurate timeline, but communication strategies, project guidelines, and specific directions must also be consistently clarified at every step. Sharing regular updates in situations when a task or project takes a longer timeframe to complete means communicating more effectively across teams.

Because effective teams collaborate in an open environment, properly integrating efforts in a modern workplace means finding creative solutions for enhancing cross-functional collaboration.

Ways to Enhance Cross Functional Collaboration

Successful cross-functional collaboration involves various individuals with different skill sets working together on projects as a unified team. If your team has individuals set in different locations, departments, and timezones, this can require master maneuvering, and being on the same page will matter more than ever. 

Here are some key ways to enhance your collaborative team efforts:

  • Share resources. There are several key tools necessary for effective cross-functional collaboration. You need to use a platform that allows the integration of common tools for task, calendar, and timeline management.
  • Create clear assignments. Ensure tasks are clearly assigned to those responsible and that they include a due date. When cross-functional teams understand their assignments and each others’ roles, projects have a greater chance of success.  
  • Address communication styles. Clarify preferred communication methods, timelines, and include remote project team members on the same project management system.
  • Keep everyone on the same page. Hold regular check-in meetings to make sure everyone is clear on project guidelines and directions.
  • Give regular progress updates and immediately notify your team of any updates. When deadlines are changing or the project direction has shifted, it’s important to have a few communications options for urgent team dissemination including:
    • A way to drag and drop deadlines and assignees
    • A built-in chat program for instantly messaging team members or individuals involved in a project
    • A team or project chat channel created for cohesive communication
    • An easy way to share comments, notes, and documents on a task to communicate across team members
  • Consider project planning from a big picture perspective. When misaligned goals or schedules occur, it’s critical to define quickly what the next steps should be. As a project manager, you need a way to:
    • View team member calendars to determine shifts that need to be made
    • Filter and sort tasks to keep projects and assignees on track
    • Send reminders when project due dates are approaching or deadlines are missed
    • Examine and adjust project timelines so that there’s an equal project balance
  • Reward successes. When working on cross-functional projects, team members need a way to reward successes. A project chat channel where you can celebrate achievements goes a long way for recognizing accomplishments.

Making it clear that you are working toward the same goals should never take away from cross-functional strategy, it should only enhance it. By using the above methods, you will quickly learn the benefits of a goal-focused project management platform. 

Cross-Functional Platform for Strategic Collaboration

A crucial area for enhancing cross-functional collaboration is to ensure that your team’s project goals are aligned seamlessly. The common vision for a project must be communicated as a whole so that joint initiatives are covered and collaborative team goals are accomplished successfully on time.

Here are some tips for bringing together teams from different departments and skill sets to collaborate successfully on one project management platform:

  • Foster a creative collaboration space where you can not only share about team projects but also celebrate client wins, anniversaries, and team achievements.
    • A “Daily Good News Channel” can be set up within a built-in chat messaging system. You can include threads of comments from team members about team achievements, completed challenges, and brilliant discoveries by project members.
    • A “Weekly Celebrations Board” is where team members can celebrate major accomplishments, milestone achievements, and a place open for communicating celebratory news to start or end each week. 
  • Manage team needs by company-specific roles. When you have team members from different roles or departments collaborating on a single platform, it’s helpful to align project members into a common chat group. When you need to tap specific resources like writing, editing, or sales, simply call upon contributors in this channel.
  • Set up collaborative tasks integrating teams so that cross-functional leaders can add assignees and followers from every area of need for a common goal or project. 
  • Increase cross-functional team innovation by bringing unique perspectives to the table through an online project management platform that provides all your team’s favorite tools and apps in one common space. 
  • Improve productivity by using a system that enables you to prioritize tasks and literally create effective to-do lists.
  • Provide a written status update concerning team members’ active, focused, or away state.
  • Optimize your workforce by leveraging diverse talents and experiences from team members with mutual goals. By connecting individuals with a project leader via the same unified platform, it will be easier to accomplish the mission at hand.

Working to achieve a common goal requires the expertise of various members of your team.  And that’s because major projects demand all hands on deck. Bringing together cross-functional teams on an all-in-one dashboard keeps everyone aligned and active in real-time.

Enhancing Your Cross-Functional Collaboration

Misunderstandings happen when team members are unsure of their individual tasks and responsibilities. Visual awareness from a shared task management platform unifies teams in a thoughtful, well-designed way, and a communication platform that integrates your team’s tools for agile project management quickly boosts your collaboration and productivity.

Meaningful cross-functional collaboration that connects stakeholders is a seamless way to bring your teams together. Whatever your deadlines are and no matter the size of your team, a modern task and project management software option like Flow can put everyone on the same page so your projects and teams can shine.

Flow provides a simple, interactive interface that enhances your team’s cross-functional collaboration. Sign up for a free trial today.

March 3, 2021

Productivity

5 Essential Internal Communication Tools for Your Business

We’ve all been there—what begins as a minor miscommunication or a simple human error ends up ballooning into a much larger problem, and you wish there had been a better system in place from the get-go. Communication breakdown is often the cause of failure when it comes to project management. In fact, a recent Project Management Institute (PMI) report revealed that inadequate and poor communication is the primary reason for 29% of project failures.

Finding more efficient tools for facilitating and improving team interaction is a key market driver for reducing project inefficiencies. Four out of five survey respondents in the recent PMI report answered that “soft skills, such as communications, leadership, and negotiation, are more important today than they were just five years ago.” 

That’s why it’s critical to understand essential internal communication tools—such as chat messaging, task management, commenting and email in order to achieve maximum team productivity and success.

5 Essential Internal Communication Tools

When considering the best internal communication tools that are essential for progress, an all-in-one task and project management platform will easily and seamlessly bring everything together.

Accessible tools for in-house and remote teams should be accessible from any location via a laptop, phone, tablet, or desktop computer, combining preferred apps and programs for simple team integration. Here are the 5 tools your team shouldn’t go without.

1. Internal chat messaging 

Individual, team, and project chat built directly into your task management platform allows you to direct message your team and project members without an outside chat program.

Using a chat tool enables you to remain in the loop with project collaborators and followers. You can make use of specific chat channels for subgroups like your writers, editors, or graphic designers who wish to convene at their own “watercooler.” 

2. Video conferencing 

Video is not generally built into a project management system, however, setting up bi-weekly or weekly video calls is helpful for internal communication. The ability to catch up with coworkers face-to-face and screen share when discussing work is invaluable for team collaboration.

3. Task management and commenting

Creating tasks and assigning them to key team members is only a start. You will also need to incorporate notes related to the project, as well as any important files.

Through threaded comments, you can store all relevant details about a project so all team members can review when they are added, and everything will be located in one central place.

4. Email task creation

Email functionality for task creation should be a quick process and should be as simple as emailing details to a specific email address. This is especially helpful for those who prefer using email more frequently and power users who want to maximize efficiency. A task management platform that allows for multiple task-creation options will help your team adapt the software to their unique workstyles, rather than the other way around.

5. Calendar integration

A system that allows you to integrate different calendars will simplify project management, ease team communication and help set clear expectations around roles and responsibilities.

Integrating your team’s tools goes a long way, and below are some tips for using those tools for meaningful collaboration.

How to Use Tools for Effective Communication 

Identify your project and team members and get them involved in the project management and planning in the following ways:

Provide a collaboration app that includes:

  • Multiple ways to view project details including simple lists, kanban boards, and timelines. 
  • Real-time updates with customized notifications for team members to manage projects with ease.
  • Tags and bookmarks to filter your tasks by one or more tags and reduce project disarray.

Make project management interactive and fun for your team. It’s no secret that greater team engagement and workflow experiences lead to better team performance.

You can boost positivity among team members when you:

  • Create themed chat channels that may be outside the scope of your project work but related to specific hobbies or interests of your team members. 
  • Start a company book club related to techniques for project management or another common area of interest. Start by:
  • Appointing a team leader to manage the project and assign a task to that person, followed by including any folks who may want to pitch in.
  • Appointing a team leader to manage the project and assign a task to that person, followed by including any folks who may want to pitch in.
  • Appointing a team leader to manage the project and assign a task to that person, followed by including any folks who may want to pitch in.
  • Set your team goals via video conferencing and project chat channels enabling team members to get to know one another, as well as work on projects more successfully.

These tips will help you improve team communication. A streamlined project management platform will simplify your project collaboration and provide a central space for all of your tools, chat channels, tasks, and calendars to live.

Integrating Tools via a Collaborative Dashboard

Forbes relayed in a recent report that “strategy is defined by the projects that drive the business,” taking into account a look at the creation, strategy, and implementation of projects. 

This study of 163 CEOs, senior strategists, and project management professionals stated that 82% of all project failures can be prevented. So why not determine how to improve your team processes with essential internal communication tools to help prevent project mix-ups?

When a strategy is built around effective team collaboration and emphasizing project productivity through a commonplace for all of your team tools, then you have the right solution for moving forward in complete confidence.


Flow provides a feature-rich, all-in-one productive collaborative tool that helps improve team communication and workflow. Sign up for a free trial today!

February 24, 2021
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