Blog

Project Management Project news Customer support Deskun updates
 
 
19.10.2017   00:32   Project Management
How to manage a remote team: best tools and practices
 

Many small businesses and startups tend to work remotely, because it helps to cut the expenses greatly. Commonly encountered remote workers are among others designers, accountants and customer support agents. To successfully handle such teams you’ll need to master the basic principles of employee management. But to get the best out of your remote team, you’ll have to use the new strategies and recent digital tools. We’d like to share some of the best such tools and practices in this article.

Prioritize consistent communications

To truly succeed with a remote team you need to make your employees feel engaged. It’s quite a daunting task if you don’t see them every day. That’s why you need to make your communications consistent, so that every employee feels they are a part of a unified team.

  1. Everyday briefings will show your employees support from your side and genuine interest in their work.
  2. Weekly feedback is very important, too. Especially if you make it less formal. Schedule an online meeting where you can discuss work results and plans for the next week, share ideas and insights. Don’t forget to thank your employees for the work.
  3. Quarterly meetings contribute to improved team collaboration as well. You can analyze current team performance and outline further development plans.

Choose the best digital tools

It doesn’t matter if you have a huge enterprise or a small startup, you’ll benefit from using modern technologies and tools regardless. For effective work of a remote team you’ll need tools for project management and task tracking, project collaboration and discussion, collaborative document editing, document sharing.

  1. Use messengers like Slack, Telegram or WhatsApp for team collaboration and project discussions.
  2. For document sharing, meeting planning and video calls there are Google Drive, Hangouts, Google Meet.
  3. For task management within a remote team use ourDeskun plugin.
  4. For online meetings and discussions there are tools like Join.me, GoToMeeting.

Invest in personal meetings

When working with remote employees, it’s really important to organize personal meetings. Hold offline events for all employees, and you’ll be able to effectively rally your team. We know that hotel rooms and plane flights are quite expensive, but consider it an investment in your business stability and prosperity.

Clearly define roles and responsibilities

When you clearly state the roles in your team and define the work order, you’ll shuffle off misunderstanding, and your employees will prioritize tasks and plan their time more accurately. Usually remote workers are quite organized and disciplined themselves. However even most confident people might feel anxious when the roles and responsibilities are blurred. When you start a journey with a new remote team member, be sure to clearly state the duties and expectations. Provide the following information:

  1. Clearly defined tasks with deadlines
  2. Contacts of the team members who can help
  3. The place where those tasks are fixed (e.g. task management app), KPIs
  4. Weekly or quarterly plan to fulfill
  5. Internal support contacts for any questions or problems, contacts of a senior manager to appeal to in emergency cases
  6. Information about other company employees: current positions and contacts

Demonstrate their contribution to the company growth

Nowadays employees don’t stay with one company for decades anymore. So it’s really important to motivate them for professional development within a certain company and demonstrate how they contribute to its growth. When people their contribution to the overall company success, their efforts will pay off even after dismissal.

The main tip for remote team management is to treat each employee as an individual because teams with identical people don’t exist. Use the best digital tools to always be in touch, make your expectations and roles clear and don’t forget to guide and encourage your workers. Then your remote team will become a valuable asset.


 
 
18.09.2017   16:10   Project Management
5 tasks every freelancer should automate
 

The ultimate objective of everyone freelancing is to manage their time wisely. The money making process takes a lot of time and energy. You need to finish your tasks on schedule and take care of other important things to keep your freelance business successful. You need to keep looking for clients, discuss work details with them, schedule calls, prepare invoices and much more. You are losing potential profits by spending a lot of time to accomplish these tasks. Luckily, there are many automation tools and resources to help you out.

1. Prospects search

Without new prospects and clients your freelance business will fade. But it doesn’t mean you have to open the Upwork tab and just wait for it. Use automation! There is an amazing tool for you, and it is called “Google Alerts”. Create an alert for “[niche keyword] + hiring now” or something similar. You’ll be notified of new opportunities daily or weekly based on the settings. This way you can always keep up on your prospecting.  

2. Client communication and task management

Most beginner freelancers communicate with their clients via email. It’s not a bad solution when you have a few clients and your inbox isn’t cluttered with other stuff. But let’s admit it: daily emailing routine takes a lot of time. That’s why there are many online tools that help you save time writing emails. As an example, minimalistic Deskun lets you communicate with your customers, discuss task details, share required files and much more. Within the same interface you are able to manage your tasks, create handy checklists, sort tasks by priority and deadline. Try it now!

3. Call scheduling

If you receive lots of calls from prospective employers and clients, or you often discuss project details over the phone, you’ll definitely benefit from automation. To forget about pen and paper call scheduling, try Calendly, CoconutCalendar or Appointy. WIth one of these services you will be able to indicate time periods when you can take a call. Your clients will always know when to reach you, and call scheduling won’t bother you anymore.

4. Bookkeeping

When you start your freelance business, you probably don’t have a bookkeeper at your side. As your clientele grows, you need to issue invoices, make sure they are paid and much more. Those are time consuming and decidedly not-so-fun tasks. Here comes automation! Save your time and sanity by using individual tools like QuickBooks to create invoices. Sometimes pricing is done on an hourly basis.  You can streamline the time tracking process too. Use simple tools like Toggl for high-precision automated time evaluations.

5. Social media management

Social media is a powerful source of new prospects. You need to constantly update and improve your Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter; and that’s a great target for time investment. You can automate your social media management with apps like Hootsuite or Buffer. Schedule quality posts for a week ahead and you’ll be surprised with how much time it saves.

You can also use Deskun to combine all messages from prospective and existing clients alike within your Gmail. This way you’ll be sure no Whatsapp message or tweet is missed, and you’ll get rid of many open tabs and apps.

Finding your prospects, managing tasks, call scheduling, social media management and bookkeeping are important tasks for your freelance business. But if you want to spend more time making money, use all the latest advances in automation.


 
 
14.09.2017   22:19   Project Management
One productivity advice that will make you happier
 

Many of us fall into a mental trap of forgetting how productive we really are. And sometimes the huge amount of tasks we have performed during a day seems insignificant. We regret that we did not do enough and could have done more. The fuller our day is various activities, the harder it is to define, what exactly we have accomplished.

Entrepreneurs and top managers are more likely to fall into this trap. Especially given the anxiety and burden of responsibility that weigh heavily on their shoulders. Ambitious people tend to value themselves accordingly to the progress towards certain goals. They often neglect small but important victories they make every single day.

Everyone has been in this situation: you are doing lots of work, making phone calls, replying to emails and don’t even have time to grab a bite. You get home completely exhausted and wonder: “What the hell have I actually done today?”. To avoid this trap, you have to learn one simple method. It’s called the done list. In fact, it’s the opposite of the todo list.

The method is really simple. You write down every useful thing you accomplish, even if it seems negligible at first. E.g. “Finally replied to client A emails”, “Drafted a post blog”, “Made an important phone call with partner B”. At the end of the day, take a look at this list. You will be amazed by how much you have actually done. It’s much better than going through your daily checklist and regretting the tasks you did not do. The done list will give you pride and relief instead of frustration and devastation.

Find your small wins. Make it your daily habit, and you will realize, how important and valuable it is to mark down the “insignificant” accomplishments. A road to big achievements is full with obstacles, and not everyone is courageous, strong and successful enough to make it to the end. If you if you don’t recognize and celebrate your small achievements, you will lose heart. Don’t sit and wait for major milestones. The amazing little triumphs are happening to you every day. Create the done list, and it will invigorate and strengthen you to accomplish great things.

Based on Businessinsider materials


 
 
24.06.2017   03:49   Project Management
How to supercharge Gmail for free: 4 Deskun features
 

We are going to tell you about four free Deskun features that enhance Gmail standard functionality. These are email tracking, message templates, email scheduling, and snoozing (reminders). These functions automate routine processes. Get great time value for no money!

1. Mailtracking

This is likely the most sought after feature missing in Gmail. With Deskun, mailtracking is enabled for all outgoing messages by default.



To check if an email has been read by the addressee, have a look at the "Sent" folder and find the eye icon next to the email. If the email has been opened, the icon is green. The icon is grey otherwise. The icon can be seen in an open message as well. When hovering over it, you can see the date and time the message was first read.

There are two new tabs in your "Sent" folder: one for read and one for unread messages.



2. Send later

This feature will help people who often work late, but consider it bad manners to send work-related emails after hours. With Deskun, you can compose an email and schedule it to be sent later at a desired time. "Later" is anything from 5 minutes to years (currently you still cannot send letters into the past - but, hey, who knows what comes next?). To use Send later, click the green clock icon on the message toolbar and specify desired time and date. After you click "Send", the email lands in "Drafts". In there you can edit it, change the time of sending or delete it altogether.

 



3. Snooze

The "Snooze" feature will be helpful if you have a large inflow of mail. How does it work? Select any email, attach the snooze timer to it, and following the specified time period it will appear in your inbox as unread. To use this function, click the Deskun icon next to the email, select "Snooze", and set the desired date and time. The email can then be found in the "Deskun: Snooze" folder up until "waking up".

As an example, you need to get back to an important message from your client later, but you don’t want to lose it in a crowded inbox. Put down your pen and your sticky notes. Simply snooze the email; and after the specified time it will remind you of itself. The feature works for outgoing letters too. When composing an email, click the orange "Snooze" icon on the toolbar and choose when you want to be reminded of it.

You can even add optional conditions for un-snoozing the message:

  • If not opened
  • If no reply
  • Always

 

4. Message templates

Message templates will be useful for processing your business and personal correspondence. You can create customer service or business proposal templates. The templates are created in the Deskun Control Panel under the "Message templates" tab.



To quickly access the template, click on the envelope icon on the toolbar and select the desired one from the list. The text will be loaded into the email body. You can customize it as you see fit. Using templates saves time (and energy)!

 



All these features of Deskun are available to you free of charge and without limitations. You can use them either within the larger suite of tools offered by Deskun; or simply on their own; and enjoy greater productivity!


 
 
22.06.2017   21:14   Project Management
Ways to use checklists in Deskun
 

One fundamental of personal and work productivity is setting specific objectives with measurable results. Smaller tasks are naturally more accessible to human comprehension and successful completion.

Experienced managers know about the Work Breakdown Structure and that each big task has to be divided into smaller parts; supplied with specific requirement lists. This process has been dubbed "decomposition". There is a handy "Checklists" feature in Deskun for this purpose.

Experienced managers know about the Work Breakdown Structure and that each big task needs decomposition (dividing into smaller parts) supplied with a list of specific requirements for work. There is a handy "Checklists" feature in Deskun for this purpose.

The correct decomposition principles are as follows:

  • The subtask should logically flow out of the “mother” task. As an example, laying the basement foundations is part of building a house since basement is a part of the final result.
  • The result of each subtask must be measurable and unique in the context of the task.
  • Reporting on the results should be a separate subtask.
  • The optimal time for subtask completion is no longer than 3 days. Therefore, the subtask "Build walls" is not a well-formulated one, since it takes more than 3 days to implement it.

 

Ways to use checklists in Deskun

Checklists in Deskun can be created along with new tickets or attached to already existing tickets.

1. Task management. You can specify one major task by creating a list of subtasks within a ticket or adding a list of work requirements.

Every change to the checklist item is recorded in ticket history. One important advantage of checklists is that successful execution of smaller tasks motivates workers with a sense of accomplishment.



2. Personal productivity. You can create to-do lists with Deskun. This is a great tool for sorting out multiple concurrent tasks. An average human holds 7±2 items in their short-term memory. It always pays off to get to that magic number! With Deskun you can create a "Weekly plan" ticket and add necessary subtasks as checklist items. Such lists can help you handle work and day-to-day tasks alike!

 



3. Get creative: you can note attendance at an event related to a ticket. All you need to do is to attach attendee names as checklist items.


 
 
17.06.2017   08:49   Project Management
5 reasons to use Gmail for business and work
 

When starting a new business, one of the first things to consider is what email service to choose for communication with customers and employees. When we created Deskun for specific internal needs of the company, all our employees used Gmail, so we decided to develop a ticket system based on this mail service.

We’d like to encourage other new businesses and startups to use Gmail as their primary email tool for business and work, and here are a few reasons.

  1. Powerful spam filters. Gmail is made to block and detect most of the suspicious or malicious messages before they even reach your Spam folder, let alone the Primary tab. Less spam in a mailbox means better focus on work and more attention to what is really important. Not to mention that you'll be protected from emails with viruses designed to steal data. For a personal account that might be not so critical, but for a business account such occurrences can cause material losses and undermine reputation.
  2. More than just email. Gmail can contribute greatly to productivity. This is a universal tool for communication on the job: in addition to email, there is instant messaging (IM), voice chat, and video chat. Google Drive enables you to share Spreadsheets and Documents from any device connected to Internet (with no effort). And Google Calendar will help you schedule important meetings and workshops.
  3. Ability to manage multiple mailboxes. You can easily switch between several email addresses with Gmail Labs “Multiple Inboxes” feature. Thus it’s easier to combine work and personal business accounts.
  4. Top-notch email features. Gmail has some great functions for more advanced users. These include: you can use an advanced search feature for emails, documents, and labels. Also, there are built-in canned responses, Undo send feature and the option to work with Gmail offline. Many users are still not satisfied and keep asking for more. For them, there is Deskun. Deskun enables you to use free features like scheduled sending, email tracking, message templates and email reminders (snooze). You can find out more here.
  5. Task management and customer support. More than 70%* of clients and employees still prefer email for business communications. If you use Gmail for business, you can launch customer support system or manage tasks inside a familiar interface using Deskun.

 

Of course, Gmail has its weak points. For example, once there was an issue when 500,000 users lost access to their accounts, and not all of them were recovered. Also, most Gmail applications (Spreadsheets, Docs, Calendar) require online access. Sudden problems with Internet connection might interfere with your regular workflow.

 

Anyway, there are advantages that matter much more, especially when using G Suite. 3 million companies** worldwide already use it for their corporate email. Unlike regular Gmail users, G Suite users are granted access to features such as: grouping email addresses, unlimited aliases (you can save a lot on them), 30 GB of cloud storage, a branded interface, and 24/7 customer support. And here you can find a step-by-step guide to using Gmail for business. 

 

*Adestra: Consumer Usage and Digital Adoption

**Sundar Pichai, Google


 
 
15.06.2017   06:19   Project Management
Managing tasks with Deskun: a step-by-step instruction
 

Deskun is an affordable solution for efficient task management, built inside familiar Gmail interface. This software enables you to:

  • Organize workgroups (called Channels here);
  • Assign tasks to specific employees;
  • Delegate responsibilities;
  • Set deadlines for task completion;
  • Create checklists (subtasks);
  • Rank tasks by priority;
  • Share notes and much more.

If you already have the Google Chrome extension installed, you can proceed with the configuration in the Deskun Control Panel.

 

Step 1. Create a channel for each company department

Let’s assume there are 3 departments in a company:

  • IT
  • Finance
  • Marketing

We will create a separate channel for every department to ensure efficient task distribution. If you have a small project or a startup, you can create a separate channel for each employee.

Click the "Create new project" button. Specify the name and save it. We recommend filling in the following: the name of the project = company name, channel name = department name. 

Add the first channel by clicking the corresponding button, and choose "Task management".

Then invite agents -- department employees -- to the channel. Prior to doing this, enter their Gmail or G Suite addresses. These employees will be able to see new tasks in the current queue and create their own, delegate them to each other, share notes, etc. If necessary, you can provide extended access rights to an employee by assigning administrator rights to them.

To continue creating other channels, click the "Complete" button. Then create the channels for other departments by clicking the "Add channel" button.

When you are all set, you will see a structure like this in your Control Panel:

Now when you open Gmail, your project and channels will appear in a separate Deskun folder.

 

Step 2. Set a task

With Deskun, setting a task is as easy as sending an email. To create a task, click the New ticket button. You’ll see the "compose message" window with advanced options. Email subject is used to formulate the task, and the body to describe it in more detail. Let’s take a closer look at the new features:

You have five new opportunities for setting and concretizing the task.

  1. Choose the channel it is relevant to, i.e. the department.
  2. Indicate the priority of the task. By default, it is set to Common.
  3. If necessary, assign the task to a specific employee.
  4. Set the deadline.
  5. Create a checklist. It can be a list of subtasks or requirements for the task.

 

Step 3. Manage your workflow and monitor task execution

Your employees should also install the Deskun extension, and accept an invitation to the project. It will appear in Gmail interface. Along with a new task, your employee receives a notification. There’s an icon next to each channel showing the number of new tasks.

There’s an option to delegate the task to another employee. For example, you have created a ticket for the IT department chief. He can delegate it to any of his subordinates and decide for himself who will be responsible for task execution.

Task progress is displayed inside the ticket. Any deadline and priority changes, completing checklist items, leaving notes can all be done from within the ticket to ensure full transparency.

 



Managing tasks is even more convenient with Deskun features for Gmail
    1. Mailtracking. You’ve set a task, but there’s no reaction? Open the ticket and see if the employee has read it. If yes, the eye icon under the user picture will be green and gray if not. When you hover over the eye icon, you will see the date and time of reading. If the task was set for the entire department, Deskun will notify you every time the ticket is opened by anyone. Mailtracking for tickets in enabled by default.
    2. Message templates. This function will be useful when creating similar tasks, composing standard emails and answering typical customer requests. Templates are created in the Control Panel. Simply select the template when setting a new task, and complete it with the particulars.
    3. Send later. You can set any time to dispatch an email. This feature is convenient for sending reports among other things.
    4. The Snooze feature is made to remind yourself of important tasks when you can’t react to them right away. Attach a timer to any ticket, and after the set period later it will appear in the list marked as "new".

You can find out more about working with tickets in Deskun here.