If you work in a small business, or a unit in a larger organization, sometimes being good at what you do is not enough. You have to wear so many hats. One of them is project manager, even though it is not what you trained for.
Bad time management is costing your business
Bad project and time management costs businesses in many ways. It is all the time you waste on Facebook or browsing the internet. Maybe, like me, you have a ton of emails everyday to answer, and you spend too much time on them, or do it at the wrong time. One day, I decided to keep track of how much time I spent browsing the web and answering emails. I then used my regular billable hourly rate and applied it to this wasted time. It was scary. In one year, you are talking thousands and thousands of dollars in lost productivity.
It is even more critical when it comes to opportunity costs. Bad time management is also about spending time on low return activities. When you waste too much time on trivial stuff, you are not using this time on strategic thinking, growing your business, or moving important projects, etc.
Small and medium businesses using project management tools are almost twice as likely to see an increase in productivity, as this study shows. They are also 30% less likely to see a decrease in productivity over time versus those without project management processes.
Time management and project management are not easy. There is no doubt you have some sort of system, otherwise you could not do your job. If you still have some difficulties, especially when managing multiple projects, or projects lasting more than a day, there is probably a better way for you.
There is a software bringing a different take to project management and these challenges.
SAM9000 APM, or simply “Sam”, brings artificial intelligence (AI) to project management. And the way it does it, is very interesting.
APM is different in two very important ways:
Artificial Intelligence: your Personal Assistant Project Manager
The AI is never obvious, though. This is because Sam’s creators wanted to model the software like a Personal Assistant. The idea is, instead of artificial intelligence replacing people, AI in Sam is always and only there to assist. It never replaces you or your decisions. A “personal assistant”, is someone behind the scene always making sure you know what to work on next, who knows who is working in your team, etc. It is also someone who can remind you of important dates or actions in time.
Crucially, Sam’s AI is also responsible for the entire scheduling. Sam manipulates your backlog (daily log) based on current priorities. This is like your assistant telling you in the morning: “this is what is important today”.
Again, Sam is assisting, not your boss. It is always possible to overrule the App.
There is another way Sam is particularly useful as an AI.
SAM9000 includes several important features beside project and task management. For example, the tool comes with Email Management. It makes it possible to file and share any email you receive, with the entire team. You simply attach the email you received to the right project. In many industries and businesses, emails are still very important. You may have to file dozens of them or more each week. Sam’s AI is pretty good at guessing where an email should go in the stack of projects. It gives you a prediction, and you simply have to approve or overrule – there again, the assistant theme is clear.
The way the AI is the most powerful is the one almost invisible.
The software, because of everything it does and how critical it is to your business, is arguably complex. It is not complicated, but it is complex. There are many fields, buttons etc. to deal with.
There again, Sam’s AI is always active. It can manipulate those buttons and adjusts many things in the background. Sometimes you can see it, on screen, sometimes you do not, because it is on your colleague’s screen after you did something.
The AI makes this complex software very easy to use, or at least a lot easier than without its intelligence and assistance. You can do more, while saving your focus for your job, instead of focusing on managing the tool.
The takeaway: Sam uses Artificial Intelligence, not as a gimmick, but as a powerful system to constantly assist you to succeed. Other typical tools do not have this.
APM stands for Agile Productivity Management
Sam is an Agile Lean project management tool, hence its name SAM9000 APM. Being Agile is pretty common nowadays, at least on paper. Most project management Apps are Agile or at least support an Agile methodology like Scrum.
Except, Sam is not based on Scrum, arguably the most used Agile methodology. This is a deliberate choice. Implementing Agile, and especially Scrum, is very difficult. There are countless horror stories about companies trying to be “Agile”, forcing Scrum on their teams and ending in disaster.
“Scrum is Agile, but Agile is not Scrum.”
Sam takes a completely different approach. It uses a methodology specifically designed for Professional Services businesses – Scrum was designed for Software Businesses. Instead, Sam implements Agile Productivity Management (APM).
APM is based on Kanban. However, the methodology looks at your entire operation has a Kanban board with each card being another Kanban board. In addition, each team member, working on projects, has her/his own Kanban made of only their tasks.
So, APM is a Kanban of Kanbans, and this is how it is easy to understand, manipulate in an Agile way. You can easily prioritize projects, tasks, and follow progress, at all levels.
The top level in the picture is the Kanban of all projects. Each card represents a single project. There is a small icon on each one; clicking on it will open the Kanban In the middle. This second Kanban represents a single project.
At the bottom, the third Kanban is a little different. It is the personal dashboard of a single team member. On it, each card is a task coming from, possibly, multiple projects at a higher level.
With APM, you manipulate each Kanban separately, but the software keeps everything in sync and reschedules everyone's dashboard constantly, using Artificial Intelligence.
There is no sprint in APM, at all. So there is no Scrum master, sprint review etc.. or unique global backlog. Each project has its own list of tasks, independent of the other projects. APM focuses on feeding everyone’s personal backlog (team member's tasks to do), constantly, all the time. This stream is dictated by priorities between projects, as well as within projects (the order of tasks is sometimes important, inside a project).
The takeaway: Sam delivers real Agile, without a lot of the typical pain, while handling complex situations with multiple projects.
Task, Document and Email Management in one App.
Sam really takes seriously what you need to complete projects as much as your actual tasks. This is why it integrates Emails, Files, Tasks and Project Priorities, in one seamless package. Sam even includes a Memo, or knowledge base system to let you capture notes that will help you across projects. Although you use Memos less often, it can be a life savior.
Of course, you could use several Apps and tools to achieve the same result. But you would always have to chase for important information for any particular project, every time.
The emphasis is on a light touch app, always active, on your screen or smartphone. Using Sam feels like using a powerful mobile App on your desktop. In fact, the App is completely hardware agnostic. You can use it on your laptop, smartphone, tablet, all at the same time. This way, if you work remotely or you are on the move, it is very easy to update projects, take notes, and get notifications from clients or other team members. All functions are available on all devices, all the time and in real time.
APM transforms Project Management into Operations Management, daily. It means APM is trying to keep everyone busy, working on multiple projects, in small blocks. Each team member should ideally work on different activities for different projects, in order to make everything move forward.
This idea makes it possible to juggle between many projects in parallel. It also allows changing priorities easily. There is some GTD in it, and definitely the idea of backlog generalized to every team member (your dashboard's Kanban). Although GTD is more known, Agile Productivity is really using Eisenhower matrix for tasks classification. Then, everything is organized in Kanban boards of course, because they make it easy to see progress and communicate with each other.
One of the key feature you will not see in others often, is Email Management, including attachments.
Emails, in Sam, are first class documents. You have an inbox inside Sam, and this is where you file them in the right project.
As mentioned earlier, when you receive an email and you click the button to assign it to a project, Sam will suggest the project it thinks it belongs to. It makes filing many emails daily very fast.
You can attach tasks to emails, and all attachments are automatically filed in the project as well.
You can easily refer to them later, and if you are working in a team, everyone can see the history of relevant emails, even though they did not receive it originally.
Task and Project Management
The most important focus in Sam are Tasks though. You create projects in folders, and tasks in projects. It is very easy. You can create everything in Sam from the desktop App, or on a tablet or on your smartphone.
You can assign task to yourself, by default, or delegate them to someone else in your team. Then, when the task is done, you will get a notification to approve or not.
There is a full workflow there, and it is very intuitive too. But what is the most remarkable with tasks is how Sam deals with priorities.
Of course you can look at tasks individually, and select when to do them, delay etc. But you should use the Stack to change priorities. The Projects Stack is a system to organize project by priority. It is so simple and so powerful at the same time.
Since all tasks are within, strictly, a parent project, when you change the priority of any project, Sam will reschedule all backlogs (daily logs) for all team members.
If your workload is project based and very fluid, you will not be able to live without this functionality.
File Sharing and Client Uploads
There is so much more, like File sharing. You can easily share documents with your team, internally. This is very handy with remote workers, or if you do not have a local file server.
You can also share files with clients. You could use Dropbox for this. But with Sam, you can see the history of shared documents, versions, you can easily deactivate sharing, etc.. More importantly, shares use simple links, no need for your clients to sign up for a public file sharing services just to get a download, as it happens sometimes.
Also, you can send a link to clients to upload a file. Yes, this is very useful for big files they cannot send by email. Of course, they could also use Dropbox or others.
But in Sam, when you give them an upload link there are two advantages. First, they do not need to sign up, at all. And they do not need to use their own service (dropbox, others). Second, the upload, goes directly in the right project you selected. You and your team have direct access to it, in the right place, automatically. This makes it so much easier than chasing client files from many different services, sign in, etc..
There are other features like Memos I mentioned, and Time-sheets, but let us say, Sam does a lot with a very simple and powerful interface anyone can use in minutes. No complex setup or configuration, even for email integration.
Pricing is very simple, $29 per month, for up to 10 users included and 100GB of storage. You can add users and storage if you need to. You can use Sam9000 Solo, or in a Team.
There is a free trial with full functionality for 30 days. This is the best way to see if the software is right for you, and compare it to others.
SAM9000 is like a assistant project manager. It helps you focus on your job, and it makes it possible to track multiple tasks in multiple projects easily. This is why it is easier than Asana and other heavy project management tools, and more powerful than simple ones like Trello, as this comparison shows.
Sam is designed for lean project management teams, freelancers, and professional services. It comes with built-in document management, including large file sharing and receiving, and uniquely, with built-in email management. This makes it easy to track discussions, and requests, per project. It can scale, so you can include remote workers, outsource tasks and track them too.
If you are not using a dedicated tool yet, you should definitely give it a try. And if you have a tool now, but you are still struggling with your projects, it is worth checking out, for sure.