In the era of lists and tables, there is a simple trick to increase your productivity: Use a board! These 4 tips on how to track progress of a project on a board will help you make the most of it:
#1: See the overall progress of the project
With the board, it’s very easy to see the overall status of the project.
The rules are simple:
- Every task has its card.
- Every status has its column.
- Every card is placed in a column depending on its status.
Column status should correspond to the workflow. If you haven’t defined your workflow yet, you should definitely do it – custom workflows increase efficiency.
#2: Spot the bottlenecks
If there are too many tasks waiting for review to be finished, you may not spot it easily in a spreadsheet.
With the board, you see it immediately: There are so many cards in that column! No bottleneck will ever escape your attention.
#3: Introduce work-in-progress limits
Too much work in progress requires your (and your colleagues’) attention to be split among too many things. That is certainly not good for productivity.
The solution is to introduce work-in-progress (WIP) limits and restrict the amount of unfinished work.
Too many cards in the Under Review column (as in the previous picture) definitely signal too much work in progress. But not all cards are created equal, and tasks on some of the cards may require more work than others. Therefore, counting the cards is sometimes not enough.
The complexity of the task can be measured by various metrics (e.g. time estimates or story points). By looking at how much work, not how many tasks, is in progress, you get more accurate information about the workload.
By committing to keep work in progress limited, you increase your focus and productivity.
#4: Don’t lose track of dates
No one likes missed deadlines.
If the end of the project is near and every day you are in a hurry to finish the work for the day, you certainly don’t want to miss anything.
Or even if you are progressing steadily and happily, you want to make sure that no task gets forgotten.
A simple visual cue (like a red ribbon) will direct your attention towards what’s important now, so that you always pick up the most relevant work for the day.
Which board to use?
You can always start with post-its and a physical board with lines dividing it into columns.
However, it will require everyday manual effort to update work-in-progress values and mark the cards that are due soon.
|Summation values||no||only issue count||no||yes|
|Easy to set up||yes||no||yes||yes|
In Lumeer, just a few clicks are needed to create a board from a table:
Then you set the summation value to your metric of work complexity like time estimate:
And in the end, you display a visual cue for tasks that are due today or tomorrow (the animation was recorded on January 18th, 2020):
And that’s it! Your board is now set up and ready to use.
A board is a simple tool to track progress of a project which increases your productivity in multiple ways. You can use either a software tool or a physical whiteboard to achieve better results, but only some of the software tools will provide you with all the benefits.
Lots of entrepreneurs admit that when they started their business, they only used email client for storing customer email addresses, phone for storing the numbers and spreadsheet for tracking all the deals and opportunities. This way, they were virtually emulating a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. It seems easy at first but turns into chaos quickly as you deal with more and more customers and your team grows bigger.
The next step is to use Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to store, track and share all the information in one place. Using CRM benefits you and your business in multiple ways:
- Productivity – you don’t spend hours a month searching email and multiple documents to find one piece of information. Instead, you have it in a couple of seconds.
- Security – no customer and no deal is accidentally lost or forgotten.
- Visibility – you see all the data in one place and aggregate them in reports to gain more insights.
- Employee utilisation – you know who is working on what and can distribute work accordingly.
Now when you are considering using a CRM, you may be afraid of having to buy another software tool. You don’t have to buy specialized CRM software! Lumeer has got you covered with the new CRM template.
The template consists of five tables with the following structure:
Did you know that 37% of people don’t backup their phones? Keeping customer contacts not only in your phone but also in Lumeer will protect your valuable customer data against theft or loss (Lumeer backs up your data every hour). Plus you can easily share them with your coworkers.
Need to contact a company you haven’t been in touch with for a while? And what is the name of the person you spoke to last time? This question is easy to answer if you look at table Companies connected with Contacts.
Transforming opportunities into deals is the core part of every business. If you don’t want to miss any one of them, you should rather track them in one place. Colour codes signal their priorities at first sight and board columns show the status.
Although board might be ideal for operational perspective, reports provide you with a different one. With this chart showing value of closed opportunities by quarter, you immediately see that there is a lot to do until the end of the year!
How to get from a contact to a closed deal? Every entrepreneur knows that there are no shortcuts and the work towards that may require multiple activities to be done.
It’s important for each activity to be owned by someone. That way it is always clear who is responsible for it and you can be sure that it won’t stay in a vacuum with no one to take the action.
In a calendar, you can see the schedule and base your future decisions based on how busy it is.
Pivot table provides detailed insights on employee utilisation. Conditions in the search box filter out completed activities and closed opportunities, so that you only see data about ongoing activities and opportunities.
Make it yours
Every activity is associated with an opportunity. Let’s create and save a new view that will display them!
We start with Opportunities table. We don’t need all the columns in our view, so we hide them by right-clicking on column name:
Then, we display linked records from Activities table and save the view :
Do you want to take your customer relationship management to the next level? Start using our CRM template today!
Every organization, small or big, has to make sure that everybody is on the same track in order to reach their goals. Vision needs to be mapped to strategy and strategy to concrete goals which everybody inside the organization is aware of. OKRs is one of the frameworks that helps organizations to achieve that and there is a number of large companies (Google amongst them) that are successfully using it to navigate their growth.
OKRs stands for Objectives and key results. The main idea is that you set a goal (or objective) that you want to achieve and then set a list of key results which are necessary to consider the goal achieved. Lumeer’s OKRs template will help you with that.
There is one important thing about the key results: they have to be measurable.
“Increase the number of customers” is not a good example, as it is hard to tell if the key result was achieved – is it enough to get one more customer? Then your key result is “Increase the number of customers by one”.
Do you want to increase the number by 10%? Then your key result is “Increase the number of customers by 10%”.
Key results are results that need to be achieved, but we are still missing one important thing here. We need actionable items to be performed and assigned to concrete people. In the template, we call them Initiatives:
There is another view in the template that shows you how Initiatives are assigned to Employees. Notice how colour coding shows the progress at the first sight:
Key results are to be achieved over a mid-term period, but Initiatives have a much shorter timespan. Timeline is an ideal perspective for data that represent event that has duration.
Now let’s get to actual tracking of the progress. Everything that should be automated can automated in Lumeer!
First, key result’s Progress is calculated from Start, Target and State values by a function (denoted by a small “f(x)” symbol):
Then, objective’s Progress is calculated by a function from its key results (also denoted by “f(x)”):
That means that you don’t have to watch and manually update progress values: by updating State of the key result, both Progress values are updated automatically!
You can then view Objectives in a chart to see their progress immediately:
The template also contains a view for displaying progress of key results by quarter. We have to admit that sum of progress values (which is set up in the template) maybe isn’t the best metric. No worries – we easily change it from sum to average and save the new configuration:
After you set those OKRs, well, there is nothing less to do than to work on them (which only you have the knowledge and expertise to do) and track them to see if you are going in the right direction!
It is relatively easy to track work progress if you work alone or in a very small team. However, as your team starts to grow, it becomes more and more difficult. Without setting up a proper processes and workflows, scaling up is impossible.
Confused about the terms?
A business process is a sequence of activities or tasks. Once completed, they will accomplish a goal. The process shloud have clearly specified inputs and outputs. A single task can itself be specified by a sub-process.
A workflow consists of predictable and repeatable flow of activities. Workflows are automated or define a set of known states. In workflows, data or materials are passed between humans/machines/computers between individual activities.
A workflow is typically a larger unit of work. Every single transition between workflow states can span multiple processes. The transition can also happen automatically. Some sources operate with these terms as synonyms, which is not very fortunate.
How to define a workflow?
Before you begin to put your workflow into life, there needs to be an exercise involving the whole team.
Time needed: 1 day and 6 hours.
How to define a workflow?
- Create realistic workflow diagram (4 hrs)
Involve all the people doing the actual work. Brainstorm to figure out all the steps, analyse them and organise them in a workflow.
- Get the team buy-in (2 hrs)
Get buy-in from the whole team. Delegate responsibility to have them commit to the project success.
- Configure a tool to track workflows (1 day)
Define the workflow steps in a digital tool. Onboard all workflow participants. Train the team. Create dashboards to provide organisation insights.
How can we represent such a workflow?
Well, one way of doing it is to look at the workflow as a series of transitions from one state to another (e.g. “To Do”, “In Progress”, “Done”).
Lumeer gives you complete freedom in setting up task statuses. Therefore, you can set up any workflows your company has, without any limitations.
Task statuses increase workflows’ productivity
There are multiple reasons why tracking task statuses improves your productivity:
- Effectiveness – if you set the status to “In Progress” once you start working on the task, you immediately see what you are currently working on and find it easily.
- Transparency – teammates and colleagues see what you are working on.
- Clarity – you see what tasks are waiting for you, how much work is left, what needs your attention.
- Prioritisation – you see what’s in progress and should be worked on and finished first – ideal if you want to follow Kanban’s “Stop starting and start finishing“.
- Better processes – no task can get to an “unknown” stuck state, where nobody knows what to do with it and nobody is responsible for it.
- Automation – you can completely get rid of manual steps like entering when the work on the task started or how long it took. Everything can be set up in rules triggered by state change.
Set up and track the workflow
Let’s use the table Tasks from Lumeer’s Project tracker template. We add a new attribute (column) called Status and set its type to Selection. There are four options which represent different state of the workflow: To Do, In Progress, Closed and Won’t Do.
We then set the status for all tasks…
… and switch the perspective to Board. In configuration, we tell Lumeer which attribute contains values that are to be used as board columns – in our case, it is of course Status.
Our tasks flow from To Do to In Progress to Closed status, or can go to Won’t Do status at any time. We want to preserve that in the board, therefore we drag and drop columns and switch their order.
Board perspective can also notify you on tasks which are due soon or even past due, if you configure which attribute represents due date.
Also, you can mark some statuses as “done” statuses. That means that if the task is in one of done statuses, it is finished and its due date is not highlighted, eliminating distraction.
Are you ready to set up workflows in your organization? Sign into Lumeer and do it today!
In the introduction to attribute types, we mentioned an example with the duration of the event, and that it can’t be captured in spreadsheets:
“If the first task takes you 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete and the second task takes 1 hour and 40 minutes, you will say that together it took 3 hours and 10 minutes instead of 2 hours and 70 minutes, won’t you?”
From our experience and conversations with many business owners and entrepreneurs, we know that there is often need to store such data. Therefore we introduced Duration attribute type to Lumeer and in this post, we are going to have a closer look at it.
In Work tracker template, employees can track their work on multiple projects and log the time in a human-friendly format.
All you need to do is to set attribute type to Duration and choose the time scope – either Work (8 hours a day, 5 days a week), Normal (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) or Custom.
The time records that employees create are much more useful when they are aggregated. In pivot table, we can see in one comprehensible table, how much time was spent by who on which project:
Next time, we will look at Address and Coordinates attribute types.
This is the third post in the series about Attribute types in Lumeer. In the first post, we introduced the concept of Attribute types, and in the second post, we focused on Number and Percentage types. Now we are going to look closer at another type: Date.
Let’s start with an example: Consider this table which we use to store information about tasks. It contains a summary of the task, start date and due date. We add the first row – you can of course enter dates without attribute type set and Lumeer will treat them as a text.
Then more people start to collaborate on the table and add new records. If they are guest users, they don’t even see other records (and their date formats) and this can easily result in a situation similar to this:
Obviously, such a situation is not desired and we want to prevent it from happening. Date attribute type does exactly that – you can set the format and also set minimum or maximum value if you wish. There is a list of pre-defined formats and you can even create your own ones (see the list of supported formulas).
Invalid values in the third row are now underlined – that way you or your colleagues will easily spot them…
… and fix them. What’s more, after clicking into the cell, a datepicker will appear. When you select a date, it is automatically saved in the correct format.
So far, we have been looking at the data only through table perspective. However, there are visually more comprehensible perspectives that will make working with time and dates more effective. Let’s look at them!
First, we extend this table with more records. Actually, we will use table Tasks from Lumeer’s Project tracker template:
Switching the perspective to Timeline gives you a much clearer view of the tasks, and, what’s more, you can set and display task dependencies there.
Timeline is ideal for getting an overview of data which have both start and end date and took longer time. But it is not suitable for following data from Candidates coordination template, because:
- Interviews have exact times.
- Interviews don’t have end dates.
- We are usually interested in a shorter timespan when viewing them – e.g. next day, week or month.
Well, if you imagined times before computers, probably nobody would take notes of events (such as interviews) in the form of timeline. Instead, they would use a calendar. And that’s exactly what you can do also in Lumeer! Just switch the perspective to Calendar:
To reschedule an event, you don’t have to go back to Table perspective – drag’n’drop will do that:
Next time, we will look at Duration attribute type.
This is the second post in the series about Attribute types in Lumeer. In the first post, we introduced the concept of Attribute types. Now we are going to look closer at two of them: Number and Percentage.
You can of course enter numerical values into the column even if the type is not set at all (equal to set to None) or Text. Also, you will be able to perform calculations on those values – similarly to how you would do in a spreadsheet. However, the number attribute gives you more power over the integrity of the values.
Let’s demonstrate this on an example: We have this table containing data about projects:
Remaining portion is calculated as following: (Budget – Spent)/Budget
If we have budget 1500 and spent 300, the remaining portion will of course be 0.8:
But what happens if we enter 1000 and “abc”? Well, the result cannot be calculated and “NaN” (not a number) is displayed.
“abc” is an invalid value. We don’t want invalid values in our data, but mistakes can happen, especially if multiple people work with the same table. Setting the attribute type to Number solves the problem – if somebody tries to enter an invalid value, they just cannot proceed. If the value was entered before the type was set, it is highlighted (red underline) as invalid so you can easily spot and fix such an irregularity.
The next thing you can enforce with the Number type is that the values are from a certain range. Just set the minimum and/or maximum. The behaviour for invalid values is the same – old ones are highlighted, new ones cannot be saved.
The Percentage type works in the same way as the Number type (the value actually is a number), the only difference is that Lumeer treats the values as fractions and displays them as percents. As a result, instead of the following table
you would see:
It’s just a visual change, but if you look at a list of projects, there is a high chance that you will be able to process the information faster if you see percentage instead of a decimal number.
And what can you do with numbers and percentages?
First, as we already mentioned, they can act as a function input (see manual on functions for more detail).
Second, you can display their values in a chart perspective. We first add a couple more values to the table:
And then configure the chart:
Thirdly, you can aggregate values across the rows in a pivot table. This complex pivot table comparing stock vs. demand of items across multiple depots is from Lumeer’s Supply chain management template:
Last but not least, you can use the percentage value to display tasks progress in timeline view. If we switch this table from Project tracker template
to a timeline view and configure it, you see tasks’ progress in each row (it is displayed in darker green):
In the next article, we will look at the Date and Duration attribute types.
When we think and process data from outside world in our brains, we automatically use different processes depending on what the data represents.
Consider following examples:
- If you see “data + processing”, you will join those two words into phrase “data processing”. But if you see “2 + 3”, you will perform mathematical addition and get “5”, rather than “23”, won’t you?
- If somebody asks you “What is your favourite color?”, your response will be “blue” or “red” or other color name instead of “table”, won’t it?
- If the first task takes you 1 hour and 30 minutes to complete and the second task takes 1 hour and 40 minutes, you will say that together it took 3 hours and 10 minutes instead of 2 hours and 70 minutes, won’t you?
These answers probably seem completely obvious and logical to you and you wouldn’t even consider that table is a color or say that something took 2 hours and 70 minutes. But computers and therefore software tools don’t naturally possess the ability to think this way. Try calculating sum of “1h30m” and “1h40m” in a spreadsheet and you won’t even get “2h70m”, but a zero:
The spreadsheet knows nothing about what this sequence of numbers and letters means. Therefore it is very difficult, even impossible, to sufficiently capture your company’s processes in most of the available software tools (including widely used spreadsheets).
To work with your data effectively and automate your processes, Lumeer lets you enter anything and tell him what it is. Sometimes he even figures it out himself and gives you a suggestion.
Once Lumeer is sure about what do you intend to store in your tables, he provides you the best treatment for your information.
So how to tell Lumeer what does the data mean? To do that, we introduced Attribute types. That means that you can set the type not just for one value, but for the whole column at once!
Our knowledge base contains the list of supported attribute types, instructions on how to set a type and available options for each type. However, in our blog, we will cover attribute types more extensively in terms of how you can take advantage of them in different perspectives. The series contains following articles:
- number + percentage
- address + coordinates (coming soon)
- selection + checkbox + color (coming soon)
- text + file + user (coming soon)
The job market is a very dynamic environment and statistics show that the time people spend at one job is decreasing. Companies open way more new positions than ever before which introduces an additional overhead to HR departments who take care of the whole process: post new positions, review applications, communicate with candidates, conduct interviews and so on. Delivering an excellent first experience to candidates has the top priority and it should not be obscured by navigating a complex recruitment software. Lumeer’s Candidates coordination template helps you streamline the hiring process and focus on delivering the best experience to the candidates and the best results to the company.
The two main parts of the process are management of positions and management of candidates, and we will focus exactly on that.
Managing the positions
If you work in an HR department or in a recruiting agency, chances are that there are a lot of positions to process and you need a clear overview at any moment. Depending on the workflow, position can be in multiple states.
One of the typical workflows may be:
- pending approval – the manager has to approve opening of the position,
- open – the position is open and advertised (posting on job portal, screening and contacting potential candidates),
- on hold – if for whatever reason the process has been paused, the position is put on hold,
- closed – the hiring process has been finished.
Board perspective groups positions in columns by state and allows you to easily switch positions from one state to another:
Time aspect is important too – what if you need to see which positions are going to be closed in the near future? Timeline perspective shows you exactly that:
Managing the candidates
When your goal is to find the best people for the positions, then, naturally, candidates are the most valuable asset that you work with, therefore you want to make sure that the communication and the whole hiring experience is as smooth, effective and engaging as possible.
One of the activities recruiting certainly contains is interviewing the candidates. Then, of course, you want to have a calendar which shows you upcoming interviews:
After a candidate applies for a position, we need to record this and set up an interview. One person can apply to multiple positions and have multiple interviews. It is especially useful to know this to further optimize your processes and avoid multiple company introductions for example:
And of course, a particular person has to be responsible for the interview and this also needs to be recorded. In another view, we can assign interviews to recruiters:
Did you find the right person for the position? Then congratulations! But what about the candidates that were not hired? What if there were more brilliant people that could be a valuable asset to your company, but you could hire only one for the position? That means they could fit a different position.
Distance from home is one of the aspects people consider when choosing their job. Therefore we could approach unsuccessful candidates with job offers close to their home. Map shows us which offices are the nearest to the candidate’s home and we can determine which other positions could be relevant based on the offices location:
Make it yours
Lumeer provides you with templates to save your time, not to restrict your work. You can always customize tables, views and perspectives to your needs.
Maybe the information you store about candidates is not sufficient and you need to store their CV as well. How? Go to Applicants table and add a column with file attachment:
Double click on the cell, upload the file and it’s there!
Do you manage HR department? Try Candidates coordination template and see how it can help you to focus on your work!
With globalization and expansion of industry all around the world, supply chain is something that most companies cannot avoid and need to employ efficient tools for its management.
Lumeer offers you a template created just for that purpose. Template is a pre-defined set of tables and views – you can start using it immediately or customize it to your specific needs.
We use a model with SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) that flow between vendors (external suppliers to order SKUs from), depots (distribution points that store larger amounts of SKUs) and stores (where SKUs are actually sold to customers). The stores order from the depots, and if a depot runs out of stock, the depot orders from a vendor.
We can see all three parts of the chain in a map (notice that different colours represent different entities from the search field):
In one place, we can track which SKU is supplied by which Vendor, so when something is low in stock in a depot, we know where should we order from. On the left side, there are SKUs, and on the right side there are linked Vendors which supply that SKU:
Breakdown of SKUs by categories is easy to understand from the chart:
We can also track orders of SKUs without duplicating any data – SKUs are linked to records with orders. The connection between SKUs and Orders has its own parameters – Number (No) of units and Cost, and what’s more, Cost is automatically calculated from No of units and SKU’s Cost per unit. The Total amount of each order is automatically calculated too:
To easily track stock levels in stores, we use pivot table. Rows represent stores, columns represent SKUs and values in the table represent stock levels (empty means that there is no stock present):
Pivot table also has advanced features for displaying content from multiple tables and links and aggregate it with different functions. We use them for tracking stock vs. demand on all depots. Demand is calculated from all orders that have not been completed yet. Sum of Stock level represents how many SKU units are in the depot, and Sum of No of units represents how many units are currently requested from the depot in open orders.