Staying in touch without being smothering.

I recently came across a website/service on a start-up forum that I thought  people might find interesting.  The service is targeted towards project managers, as a tool for staying in touch with a team and opening up team communication.  What the service does is allow you to set up arranged update times, say every week or every day, and then automatically sends out an email reminder requesting the update to each member of the team.  Once each person replies to the update, the statue updates are gathered into a single email and sent out to all the team members in a single email covering everyone’s updates.

As a person who absolutely loathes the rampant spread of the needless reply all use, this seems like an ideal way to be kept informed on a project without having to delete every single person’s update one at a time.  Aside from the streamlined update email, the ability to schedule them across the project lifetime in advance and then set the expectation for response across the team seems like an added benefit.

No one in the work world likes to feel like they’re being micro-managed and constant requests for updates would start to feel like that quickly for many people.  By setting the expectation of scheduled update communication emails, you are able to frame the  situation as a means for keeping everyone involved and informed as well as offering up a means for progress tracking.  The involvement of all team members would also offer and added incentive to keep on track.

The single status update email could also be beneficial for people only loosely tied to a project.  If a person was informed of what steps would have to happen before they were needed, the status updates would allow that person to plan their time more effectively as opposed to suddenly finding their contribution needed without warning.  Management would also benefit from the updates in that they would receive a single snapshot of the project on regular intervals so decisions on allocating additional resources or adjusting timetables can be made fluidly.

For project managers out there, do you think you would use this service?  As it stands right now, it appears to be free, would a price tag change your decision?  How useful would you have found a single condensed weekly update from all team members in the past?

7 thoughts on “Staying in touch without being smothering.

  1. I completely agree that this type of a functionality would be a huge help when it comes to the incessant project minutiae that can go hand in hand with a project rollout. I do get that everyone needs to provide a status update, and that I may need to be aware of a current update. However the last thing I need is to be aware of every single detail and every reason for delay or timeline change. That being said, like with anything else, a price tag would influence my decision. I would probably be less likely to utilize any functionality if the price tag were too high.

    Additionally, I do think that quite a bit of this issue can be resolved up front with defined communication levels and responsibilities, regardless of the system used. I have found that if I give team members a defined status / progress form to complete weekly, as well as my expectations of those team members, then the responsibility to organize data / KD’s / excess becomes significantly less.

  2. I think it sounds like an intersting idea, but the concept could be improved upon. I don’t like the idea that everyone has to submit their updates before the e-mail goes out, especially because different updates have a different priority and may be needed at a different time. To me the service sounds like it might be more useful for a long-term, low priority project where updates aren’t needed urgently or often. I think it’s less useful in a highly priority, time-crunched project where updates and coordination are at a premium. The service being free I think it is definitely something I would look into using, but depending on the pricing I might view it as an unecessary expense.

    What I would like to see is more of a project dashboard, where updates are posted live and progress is tracked visually. I think it would also be good to be able to customize each users due date for their updates (i.e one person may need to update twice a day where as someone else may need to update once a week). S

  3. It’s definitely a good idea in theory. Would be interesting to see it in execution — I didn’t see a demo on the site. I know with my team, they loathe me sending yet another website out to track username and passwords, so I like how it’s all email based.

    Lately I’ve literally had to walk around the office and remind people about our project team meeting (and skipped a few myself) so something like this would be great to really respect people’s time.

    Some projects would obviously be better suited for this than others as Owen mentioned.

  4. This is an interesting website especially being a recent start-up. Thank you for posting. The teams I’ve managed are all within the same office, so I find project updates and status reports in person a much better option if feasible. For teams with remote members though, whether it be for work or the classroom, this website could be very effective.

    I agree that a single email snapshot from all team members can be very beneficial as well as having a regular status update cadence. All of the team members would know the status of everyone else and if timed correctly, it could assist in driving team progress. The one warning I would offer to a project manager using this tool though is to not use it as your sole project team communication method. I would still recommend the use of email, chat or phone to make sure goals and action items are clear, to provide feedback, and to keep an open dialogue for questions. You don’t want a team member waiting for the next schedule update to ask a question.

    One thought would be for the project manager to provide a communication plan at the beginning of the project so that all members know the best methods to communicate to the rest of the team. With these checks in place, ‘’ could be a nice addition to a project manager’s toolbox.

  5. I, like the others here, like the idea as a concept, but I question how useful it would be for the project manager in practice. As an updating tool for the group or for those loosely tied to the project, as you say, because they are going to get a concise, one email summary. I think that is great for them. However, as a project manager, I’ve set deadlines for responses, but that doesn’t mean they are truly going to respond right on time. Does this really prevent a manager from having to track down responses? And let’s say an executive is wondering why this week’s summary hasn’t come out, yet, then the project manager would need to track down answers and explain to the executive why their team isn’t providing the answers as needed in a timely basis.
    Realistically, there could be a team member that wouldn’t even use the software and would email the project manager with the update anyways. Then does the project manager just submit that themselves or take time to force compliance? Again, I agree it cuts down on the emails, which is great, but I only see a benefit to the project manager in terms of reaching out for answers if the project team actually buys in fully to the software and timelines given.

  6. It is obviously an extremely good idea and useful tool. If I were in a role as a project manager, I would definitely make use of this. And I don’t see a cost for using this service detering too many people either. Like we have discussed before, when you include the costs of everyone’s salary in the multiple daily meetings it really adds up. I would imagine the cost for use would really be a fraction of this. And, I can easily see a hybrid use of this feature. While some organizations might drasitcally cut down on meetings, I imagine others would use this tool as a means of establishing a strict agenda for each meeting and maybe cutting the meeting time in half instead.

    Either way this feature would be very helpful and useful in fast paced industries where time is extremely limited, as well as organizations where a large portion of the work is done remotely. I imagine this feature will just be the beginning of an even larger trend.

  7. I believe that we will see more and more websites like this. Project managers will be offered more options and eventually decide what tools work best for them and their projects. Another example is a website called teamgantt formed in 2010. It allows anyone to put together a Gantt chart schedule for their projects, share with team members, and link with standard software packages such as iCal, Outlook and Google.

    Working from home or starting your own business is getting easier every day.

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