Earlier today I was preparing a project for handover to a colleague. Although we have a documented process we follow for the work, it is in the form of a Word document and can be difficult to track which steps you’ve completed and which are still to be done. So that my colleague and his manager can work through the steps to be performed in a set order I went about using one of my favourite applications within IBM Connections – Activities.
Activities is like a simple to-do list manager which can expand into a multi-user, multi-community project management and documentation solution. It brings SOCIAL PROJECT MANAGEMENT to any department and avoids the situation where only the project manager might know the true status of a project.
Activities’ tasks are aggregated and joined together so that you, as a user, can see all the work you’ve to do, across all your activities, sorted by date order. This makes for a tremendous productivity gain as I don’t need to go hunting in each Activity to see what’s coming next.
In Project Management parlance, Activities provides a multi-level task facility and management of several Activities essentially acts as program management, or portfolio management.
In my case I wanted simply to get the procedure we have, which is how to install an IBM Sametime Standard Server, into the order in which I believe my colleague should carry out the steps. Rather than going through the standard procedure, which lays out all of the tasks in a linear order, I realised that it would be more convenient for him to have it broken down into a number of telephone calls/remote sessions he will conduct with the customer.
When you create an Activity in Connections it opens what I can only describe as a project home page. Here you can structure your activity into sections, add comments and other content and all the tasks that you or your colleagues need to perform:
In the example above I have created nine sections, each designed to group the tasks that my colleague has to perform into the calls or sessions he will have with the customer.
In each section I have placed all the tasks I believe he needs to perform:
As you can see from the structure, IBM Connections lets you create a multi-level to-do list for all the tasks to be performed. These can be many layers deep as you need for your project. Note that there is already one comment posted next to the “Obtain Sametime software from Passport Advantage”. The social aspect of Activities allows any participant to start a discussion on a single tasks and spawn additional tasks off from these.
My colleague’s manager is an author in this particular activity. He has chosen to Follow the Activity (see first screenshot). Rather than ask questions about whether or not a particular task has been done, by following the Activity he gets updates in his Activity Stream in IBM Connections each time something changes. This also avoids him being bombarded by emails with status updates.
In the depths of each task in my Activity I can provide as much or as little supporting information as is appropriate. In the screenshot below you can see one of these tasks opened out for more detail.
- The field “To Do” is the title of the task itself.
- Tags let me assign system-wide to this particular task. This is really useful in the future if I do a search for a particular technology or skill in Connections. I can then find actions one of my colleages carried out on a particular project and if necessary get in touch with him to get some help. Tagging makes it really easy to find information or people who can help you.
- Assigned To is obvious enough – who is going to do this particular task.
- Due Date is when it’s needed to be done for.
- Attach File lets me attach multiple files for this task, such as a very detailed sequence of commands, or a file which needs to be supplied for the software.
- Add Bookmark would let me provide links to wiki articles, blog posts or in fact anything that has a URL which might be pertinent to this task.
- Custom Fields lets me put extra placeholders in. One of the most common custom fields we add is the “Expected Time to Complete” field which describes how long the task would normally take.
- The Description field is where you can provide as much information as you see fit about the tasks which need to be carried out. It uses the Connections Rich Text editor so there are lots of options for formatting and producing bullet-points etc.
- If this is a task that I want to make visible only to me – such as a review of the overall Activity, I can flag it as being private. This means that although the whole Activity will appear for those who are members of it, this particular task will be hidden only for me.
- Lastly, although Connections normally sends an email message to the Assignee of the task, you can also choose to notify others of this particular task.
These tasks can be made into a very sophisticated hierarchy of tasks and sub-tasks to suit the needs of your project.
I hope this brief introduction to Activities sheds some light on the power of the tool at your disposal as a Connections customer. Look out for another blog post on using Activities Entries with your IBM Notes Activities sidebar as a way of capturing email and other information alongside your tasks.