1. Central task repository: how to move from emails to task management

    Article: AN0002384Updated: 28.12.2018

    Maybe you have also notice that follow up of tasks submitted by email, which is a daily practice of most of us, is far from being perfect.

    Starting point

    You are going to a meeting regarding project XY. Project manager goes step by step through tasks that were agreed some time ago and people that should have worked on them report how they progress. Some tasks were completed, some have an issue that has to be addressed and new tasks are defined. After the meeting project manager sends minutes with new tasks.

    What`s wrong with that? Regular meetings and minutes are best practice after all.

    That`s true. The problem is that many from us participate in several similar meetings every day and then they receive several minutes by email at the best. If this is everyday practice, how can we be sure that we keep a good overview of all the tasks that we have received?
    Maybe you say now that you have a good view of your tasks but do you think this the case for eveybody? Another issue is that the project managers frequently lead more projects at once and should know about all the tasks that project team members work on. Thay cannot have such a view today. Project managers only learn about progress of many tasks just in the weekly meeting.
    Unfortunately, that`s not all. As a manager you should have a visibility to tasks that your people work on, including projects. Actually, the higher you sit the more you may will feel that you do not know exactly what your teams do and at the same time you would like to have an opportunity too take a look how high level projects break down - projects that you know just roughly, mainly by name. You may not also like that your teams are asked to work on tasks that were not dicussed with you.

    Then we have many tasks that may or may not belong to a project. They have in common that you are interested in their fulfilling. The solver of these tasks is somebody else but your are the customer here. Do you have a good visibility on such tasks?

    If we are sending minutes by emails we just fool ourselves that we keep a good track. After few days we lose overview about particular tasks.

    New way of working

    The solution is to move from sending tasks via email to a system for task management. We do not reprobate the email. It is still a great tool for informing about a new task or its progress. However, instead of responding to the email we will click on link in the email and write our response directly to the task management system. In terms of effort, number of clicks etc. it is overall same. The difference is:

    • You will know exactly history of the task.
    • If you display dashboard with tasks, you will know immediately, what zou should work on, with which priority and with which deadline.
    • You will be able to see all the tasks that you created and see their progress.
    • Managers can see what their people work on. Project managers can see work progress on projects.

    You can watch, how such a system can work, in the EasyTask video.

    We will focus on how to implement such a way of working.

    Management approval for pilot

    Like with any other important change you have to get management approval. Even if your boss may be sceptical about the change inform him or her about your proposal, explain why you are convinced this will help your organization and try to get support for a pilot run. The thing is that trying the new way of working in a smaller scale with a smaller group of people has many advantages:

    • Management should approve your initiative that shall lead to process improvement, efficiency and effectiveness increase, labour productivity, risk mitigation etc. At the same time there is no extensive change across organization, so you do not get pushback that each change raises.
    • You can choose well your colleagues that will support you and with whom you can start the pilot.
    • During the pilot you will demonstrate the benefits and weaken pushback from those that would rather stay with old order.
    • You will get lessons learned that you will utilize during rollout to the whole company. At that time you will have many supporters that participated in the pilot and that will help you promote the change.

    How to start

    You got management support, spoke to colleagues that agree with a pilot and this means we can start. There are many systems for task management. ObjectGears provides a simple solution EasyTask and more complex process of managing project portfolio including possibility to report time spent on the task, connection to Change and Release management etc. EasyTask represents an ideal choice as the first step in the migration from emails EasyTask. However, below points are independent on the tool that you will select.

    1. Make a list of all the tasks in the EayTasku. All of them, no matter if it is task from a project, repeated task of your job or one-off task from your boss. Ask the same also from your pilot colleagues. There may be tasks with unclear solver. That`s not a big deal. Important is to have a complete list of tasks. Make an agreement with your colleagues that every time when a new task is defined, it will be recorded here in EasyTask. You have made the first step and have all the tasks in a single place now.
    2. Prioritize the tasks and try to define a deadline for them. Some tasks represent task from projects where you have probably already committed to some deadlines. Now you  can verify whether these deadlines are realistic in the context of other tasks. If not inform project managers about it in due time. It is common that only when you write down all the tasks, you realize that you cannot realistically manage everything in a short time. Now you can determine priority and planned target date. Priorities have to be discussed within teams, projects etc.
    3. Make a record of progress of your work to the tasks. Once you will be asked how far you are with a certain task, you will be in picture. When you will be handing over the task to a new colleague to follow up with the solution it will be clear what you did on the task and what he or she should do. Whenever the task is updated, task history is recorded. So you can see retrospectively who and when received the task, when he or she started to work on it etc.
    4. Tasks should be structured into higher categories, integrated to projects, marked for goals that they pursue, which project outputs (deliverables) they relate to etc. The appropriate level of structure depends on each organization and EasyTask can be easily adapted by adding necessary columns referring to projects, deliverables, targets etc. You can then easily go through the tasks because in the project meeting you will filter just the tasks related to the given project. When meeting your boss you will filter tasks assigned within his or her meeting etc. You can share EasyTask screens in order eveybody can see and write down what was agreed for particular tasks directly in the meeting. You will create new tasks, change the solver, priority or deadline or close the tasks that were confirmed as completed in the similar way. After saving the task the solver gets an email notification and the task will be also always displayed in his or her dashboard.
    5. Pay attention that the tasks do not fade out. If colleague to whom the task was assigned have come across an issue, he or she has to report it. They will also mark this in the task and after agreement they may hand over to another solver, change the planned steps and target date etc. All the important information related to the task will be then in a single place (in the task itself) and not scattered in emails.
    6. Ensure substitutability. EasyTask will help you with this topic a lot since all the information about the task, sofar work of the original solver etc. is recorded directly in the task. The new solver will get fast on board and understand the topic and can effectively continue in job that was not finished by the previous/not present colleague. You can improve substitutability also by Knowledge base.