Archive for the ‘Project Management’ Category

Many of you have enjoyed the rich document management functionality included in our service. As a result we’ve been looking for new ways to enhance these capabilities to make it even more simple, safe and secure.  Our answer – document based security permissions.


How it works
When adding documents you can now set your documents to have “Workspace” or “Specific” permissions. As the names implies, documents set with “Workspace” permissions are accessible to everyone that is assigned to a folder. As seen the file “dataport.jpg” has been assigned the default permissions of “Workspace”.



To change permissions just select the appropriate link under “Permissions / Details” and then choose “Update File Permissions”. The new security window allows you to grant permissions to everyone in your workspace, just yourself or a select group of workspace participants.


One of the nice things about the last option is the ability to grant file permissions by entering a series of email addresses.   Joint Contact will validate each email address, ensuring each account has permissions to the assigned folder before updating the record.



People who are file owners have the ability to set/edit file based permissions. File owners include anyone who uploads a new file. Account administrators have access to all document management capabilities and can set permissions on any uploaded file.


Why it works
File based permissions allow you to extend the traditional “Workspace” security model, allowing for greater control and flexibility – almost like file management on the desktop. For example, a graphic designer can create a single workspace entitled “Project Documents”, assign all their customers to a single workspace, then limit which documents each customer can see through the use of file based permissions. The result being each customer will see different files using the same project folder.


File based permissions are also convenient for managing document drafts. Files can be uploaded to a selected workspace and permissions restricted to a few people. Once the document is complete one can update the permissions for access to an entire group.


We hope that you enjoy this advanced functionality and use it to discover new and interesting ways to manage your files!


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Getting overwhelmed trying to manage projects using email and spreadsheets? As part of the Web 2.0 movement the emerging trend called project collaboration is allowing people to connect with others to share, manage and coordinate on small and big projects alike.


What is project collaboration? Consider the difference between a Gantt chart and email. A Gantt chart is typically used as a planning tool for upcoming projects. Gantt charts are also useful as a tracking mechanism to ensure that active projects stay on time and on budget. On the other hand, email acts as an important communication tool that is used throughout the course of a project. For example, email may be used to used to distribute important messages, status reports, documents or tasks.


Web based collaboration tools allow you to extend your own project management toolset, allowing you to manage and organize the communication aspects of your active projects. At Joint Contact we call this “working on the present”.


What’s wrong with using email?
Easy and convenient, most of us have become accustom to using email for all types of communication. Now that we’ve entered into a Web 2.0 era most of our business communication is done through email which can often lead to challenges such as:


  • Attempting to track a group of messages for a specific project
  • Trying to locate the most recent version of a document
  • Bounced messages due to large file attachments
  • Attempting to share a contact list


Another challenge is “email bankruptcy”. Coined by Lawrence Lessig in 2004, email bankruptcy occurs when the amount of messages you receive per day outweigh the number of messages you can view or respond to. As a result you’re always behind in your work which causes you to throw up your hands in frustration and declare “bankruptcy”.


How project collaboration can help
At Joint Contact people use our service for everything including timekeeping, employee getting started documentation, team announcements, feature tracking, document management, managing images and contact management. For many folks items that were getting “lost” in e-mail are now organized in a separate online tool, easily accessible to team members and partners.


Since we specialize in project collaboration we often talk with others who are overwhelmed at the sheer number of other tools available on the market. “Collaboration” is a popular Web 2.0 buzzword, so how do you know which tool is right for your group? Since we’ve covered some of the basics, here are our suggested guidelines for choosing the right service.


Make sure it’s easy to get started
Make sure you are comfortable with the tool before making your decision. As manager or group leader you should also envision how your group members will use the tool. A good rule of thumb is if you think you’ll have to train other people on how to use the tool (for more than 30 minutes), there’s probably an easier service out there.


A good strategy for beginning is to start using the tool for your yourself, mastering a single area of the application (like documents) before exploring other modules. As part of your development envision how your team members will also use the tool. If you can see how it will work for both yourself and your group you’ve probably found the right service.


Make sure the tool works on Mac OS as well as Windows
A colleague recently told me that Apple’s Mac OS X operating system now has 7% of the overall PC market.


Even though 7% seem like a small percentage, this translates to roughly 6.3M desktops based on recent global statistics. As a result, chances are at some point you’ll need to access the website using an Apple computer using Safari or Mozilla Firefox as a web browser. Make sure that your investment adopts leading standards and provides flexibility that you may need in the future.


Make sure the tool can handle a lot of big files
Your project collaboration solution should also allow you to share and manage large files, (or a large quantity of small files) with your group. Some vendors do a good job of mentioning this information upfront before you purchase, while others bury this information in the hopes you won’t find it.


The pitfall we often see are people that get excited to use a free tool, only to discover that the tool doesn’t support large fie sizes (e.g anything over 500K), won’t allow you to upload certain file types, or doesn’t support multiple document uploads. These lack of features may be a minor inconvenience for a student, but could halt business for a graphic designer, accountant, business consultant or lawyer.


Make sure the vendor will support you
Most collaboration services are measured by their features and overall usability. However, in the event that you have a pre-sales question or need customer support, ensure someone will be able to answer your questions in a timely fashion. If you’re not sure, explore the vendor’s site to ensure you can find a support number. You may not need to use it, but the fact that the vendor is confident enough to publish their number shows they are willing to support you when needed.


Will a Wiki work for me?
Wiki’s (the Hawaiian word for “fast”) have also gained in popularity in recent years, with the obvious successful example being Wikipedia. If you’re working on a large internal documentation project a Wiki could be good fit, as group members could dynamically create and edit web pages. Examples of documentation projects include creating help documentation, or keeping track of feature requirements on a new product or service.


One drawback of wiki’s is time. Most wiki’s are designed as a set of tools that are left up to the end users to set up and configure to their liking. These often go beyond the level of technical expertise of most business professionals, as users are left to decide how to design and publish the pages used within the wiki system. If you have a technical person on board that can help implement a wiki – great. Otherwise you’ll probably be better served using a more conventional tool.

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We’ve taken our service one step further by giving you a richer experience when using Joint Contact! Here are some highlights:


Rich Text for Conversations and QuickMail
No more plain text for your Conversations or QuickMail! The most notable new enhancement is the implementation new HTML / Rich Edit controls for the Conversations and QuickMail windows. Create HTML automatically as you type, or edit HTML tags directly using the source editor. Edit windows are also equipped with wizards to create lists, links, tables, different colors, fonts and styling. You can even write HTML to reference images and content from other blogs or websites.



With this new functionality you can use Joint Contact as a robust note manager – great for helping you to track meeting minutes, blog postings, classroom notes, etc. By linking your notes to Documents, Images or Tasks, you have a great documentation tool for any project.


Upload multiple Images at once
The multiple-upload feature was originally for documents, but is now available for images! Now you can upload a entire directory of images in a single click – a great feature for graphic designers and marketing folks.


HTML signatures when sending QuickMail
As part of our Rich Edit implementation, administrators can now save an HTML email signature as part of their settings (why can’t Gmail can do this?). Once setup, the corresponding signature will be appended to all outgoing QuickMail messages.


Redesigned Contacts interface
The Contacts interface has been redesigned for greater ease-of-use. Based on user feedback we’ve also provided the ability for you to convert a Contact into an Account with a single click! (For those who don’t know “Accounts” can log in to share documents and other content their group; “Contacts” don’t have this ability.) You can also now e-mail your Contacts directly using QuickMail.



We are very excited about this release and look forward to hearing your feedback. Log in to your Joint Contact account today and let us know what you think about the richer experience. Feel free to post your feedback at our new Customer Forum site located at support.jointcontact.com.

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Coined by Tim O’Reilly and O’Reilly Media in 2003, “Web 2.0” speaks to how the collective minds of people bring value to everyone through the use of the Internet. At Joint Contact we like to think of this as the “Power of Us“. Although exciting, the Web 2.0 movement has ushered in a host of new business trends and technologies that can leave one feeling dizzy and often confused. This article attempts to unravel the mystery of this growing technology trend.


What happened to Web 1.0?
In trying to define Web 2.0 many of us still don’t grasp the concept of “Web 1.0” and how things have evolved in the past few years. Although we haven’t heard of any organizations or think tanks that have come up with an official definition, our group defines Web 1.0 as the “Power of Me“. If we go back to the late 90’s, businesses began to harness the power of the Internet in order to extend brick and mortar businesses to reach customers in places they never thought possible.


Soon it became clear that the Web could not only allow companies to increase sales, but could help reduce costs by providing self-service tools and processes. Now banks, grocery stores, investment firms, travel agents, department stores and airline companies all use web based tools to help them reduce organizational costs by promoting online customer self-service. Companies like Dell Computer were also quick to see its advantages and were able to shrink their supply chain by selling computers direct to consumers, bypassing the need for storefronts and product resellers.


Current Trends
Now that most of us have adapted to the first version of web, “Web 2.0” is allowing us to extend the 1.0 model by connecting with others. At Joint Contact we see Web 2.0 as a combination of sub categories. These include “connecting with people we don’t know” and “connecting with people that we do know”.


Connecting with people that we don’t know
Examples of this trend are seen with “Social Networking” sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Linked-In. Chances are that if you’re reading this article, you understand the basics of this model, and probably use one of these sites on a periodic basis.


Lately we’ve been hearing the phrase “Social Media”. Our assumption is that the idea of connecting with people that you don’t know extends not only through web pages and blogs, but through other types of media including audio and video. Podcasting (audio or video) through iTunes and YouTube are great examples of services that increase in value based on the collective participation of its contributors.


Creating value with those you don’t know isn’t limited to business or personal networking. Ongoing projects such as Wikipedia, Linux and the Mozilla Foundation (e.g. FireFox) are initiatives based on the participation of people working together to build online encyclopedias, desktop operating systems and software.


Connecting with people that we do know
On the other side of Web 2.0 are services and technologies that allow us to connect with people that we do know. This is a nice bonus of the Web 2.0 movement, as people are now discovering they can also use the web to collaborate and share information across vast distances for relatively little cost.


Before Web 2.0, sharing computer data within groups to was limited to establishing a local or wide area network and setting up the appropriate software to connect each computer. Information retrieved was also limited to the desktop which meant you couldn’t easily share your list of contacts or files with your colleagues that used Mac OS or Linux (yes we are assuming you run Windows).


Under Web 2.0, the goal is to share information without any limitation in technology or infrastructure. This popular trend has created a foundation for open standards such as HTML, XML, RSS, OPML and iCalendar formats that are used to connect people with information – regardless of platform or device type. Building on these standards many companies (including Joint Contact) have built web based solutions that transcend the need for a LAN by providing these applications as a software “service”.


Similar to their social media counterparts, SaaS (Software as a Service) applications are designed to enhance communication for groups that need to share information. Examples of SaaS based applications include Document Management and Collaboration (e.g Joint Contact), Customer Relationship Management, Timekeeping, Wiki’s, Calendar Management, Task Management, Defect Tracking Systems and Project Management.


Where do blogs fit it in?
Because blogs are easy to setup and update, blogging is one of the fastest growing areas of the Web 2.0 movement. Joint Contact considers blogs to be hybrid of Web 2.0 categories as they can be implemented to meet different needs. For example, a blog can keep customers informed of product announcements (like ours), provide help documentation, or can voice opinions on news, politics or technology. One trend that we see emerging are small groups coming together in a “co-op” fashion to blog on a number of closely related topics. Successful examples of this can be seen at sites like Slate, SimpleTalk, Digg, ReadWriteWeb and WebWorkerDaily.


Blogs are also unique Web 2.0 solutions as they incorporate technologies like RSS that are traditionally used in SaaS based offerings (Click here to learn more about RSS and XML).


Beware of Buzzword Bingo
Now that you understand the basics of Web 2.0 one item you should be aware of is “Buzzword Bingo”. Buzzword Bingo occurs when people use cool technology phrases like “Web 2.0” to describe anything technical, and is usually unrelated and nonsensical. Why do people do this? As with anything in business, people like to show off and demonstrate how they are more in touch with the latest trends than the next person. Here’s a great example from IBM of Buzzword Bingo in action:

If you hear your colleagues talking about “value added, disruptive, AJAX based, SEO applications” as being a part of Web 2.0 movement, take what they say with a grain of salt.


We’ve covered a lot of ground in this overview but hopefully things are starting to make sense. This tutorial is continued with an overview of RSS and XML technologies.

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A popular request we’ve been getting is for an area where users can share and manage images. As a result, we’ve created a new module in Joint Contact called “Images”.

You might be asking, “Doesn’t Joint Contact already support the upload of images?”. This is correct, we do currently support the upload of images in the Documents section. What’s different in the new Images area is the ability to easily view all of your images on one page. The browser window displays all images in a 100×100 thumbnail. Under each image is a description of the image including captions.

Images are organized by projects so users can easily manage their images. From the thumbnail browser you will also be able to filter based on project or Workspace.


When you click on an image thumbnail, you will enter the image detail window. This window allows users to view and edit details about the image. There is also an option to download the image. You can also notify the project participants of new changes to the image through this window.

Image Detail

Log on today and check out this new feature. We’re very interested in your comments so do send us your feedbacks. It is much appreciated.

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Although Joint Contact has a lot of capabilities we know that sometimes groups just need to do just to a few things. For example, your group may be looking for a solution that only does Document Management. Additional tools like QuickMail and Conversations may be great, but your team may wish to introduce various aspects of the solution based on your own schedule and timeframe.


Now administrators can control which modules are displayed for their users through the new settings window.


Joint Contact - Settings


With the settings window, admin’s can set which modules are visible to their users, as well as which window they will be directed to after they log in. Once configured, settings are immediately activated for all pre-existing and future accounts.

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Creating Project Sub-Tasks through Conversations

As many of our readers know, Joint Contact has the ability to manage group discussions through the use of “Conversations”. When starting a Conversation, people have option of organizing their discussions by project, can invite their group members to post responses as well link documents to ongoing threads (see the blog posting “How to Coordinate a Document” for details).


With our redesign of our Tasks Module we often get asked if Joint Contact also supports “Sub-Tasks”. As a result we’ve added the ability for users to create sub-tasks by linking their tasks to “Conversations”. Here’s an example of this new feature in action.


Joint Contact - Subtasks 1


If you’ve created a task in Joint Contact you will see a link on the right hand side that says “Start a Conversation”. (This option will only be available for existing tasks and won’t be available if creating a new record). It’s completely optional if you decide to link a Conversation to a Task.


Joint Contact - SubTasks 2


Clicking on this takes you window to create a new Conversation. From here you can fill in the information for your new discussion. Once complete you will be taken back to the Task Detail window and will see a new option for “Join Conversation – 0 responses”. Click “Save Record” to return to the main Task window.


What Happened?

What you’ve done is linked a new Conversation with a Task. Now your group can track any additional ideas, documents or URL’s that relate to the Task through the Conversation. In addition, you can find you find the related Task by clicking the “View Related Task” button.


Joint Contact - Subtasks 3


People viewing Tasks can find linked Conversations by clicking on the “Join Conversation” option from the Task Detail window.

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