ZippyMeetings 1.5 Episode IV

Hi again.  Just going through some of the fixes we did as we were making changes for ZippyMeetings 1.5, and I thought I’d share two more usability updates.

Firstly, as of ZippyMeetings 1.4, we streamlined the Actions panel when creating a new one – see ‘(Slightly) Better Actions’ from the v1.4 preview.  As part of the streamlining, new actions did not have the Show Action Tasks button.   This made sense, especially for recurring meetings.

But it was not much good for a one-off meeting where you wanted to track the action’s progress – as the action was always new.  It was also a little bit confusing.  So we’ve streamlined some more, and made the button visible, while still preserving the screen real estate.

tasks-button-new-action-1

The second thing is hard to show, but it’s a marginal improvement.  We know that the normal Control-Z/Control-Y keys for undo/redo do not work in ZippyMeetings.  Unfortunately Outlook has plans for those and we couldn’t do anything about that.  So we got a little bit creative and we have made it possible to undo/redo anything you type into the text boxes (such as agenda topic notes, or action progress), but instead of using the Control key, you need to use the Alt key – ie use Alt-Z to undo, and Alt-Y to redo.  It’s not the most elegant solution in the world, but handy if you’ve accidentally deleted a whole bunch of stuff.

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ZippyMeetings 1.5 preview instalment three

Hi everyone – it’s been a while since the last update, but we’re now very close to the release of ZippyMeetings 1.5 – in fact, just under 2 weeks.

So I want to follow up the previous post, and talk about the other notable feature update – minutes contents.

We’ve had feedback that while the minutes templates are nice, adopting the ‘everything has to go in it’ approach is not necessarily ideal for everyone.  Therefore we’ve made the meeting minutes configurable, to allow you to select whether or not certain sections are included.

How does this work?

In ZippyMeetings Options, on the new ‘Minutes’ tab, you select which of the sections you want included in your minutes – as per the image:

minutes-contents-1

As you can see, you can decide whether your minutes include the attendance block, decisions, closed actions, parking bay items, or references/attachments.

You cannot select to exclude open actions (they are always present) nor the title block or  agenda item notes.  And please note that these selections apply to all meeting minutes templates.

What’s on the ‘General’ tab?

While previously we fit all of ZippyMeetings options on just one page, the addition of this Minutes Contents feature, in combination with the Attachments and Links (References feature) and another one, meant that we needed to split it into two tabs for ease of use.  What’s this other feature, well let’s just say it’s a major enhancement that goes across all aspects of the application, and we’ll announce it next week.

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ZippyMeetings 1.5 Preview #2

Hi – Happy New Year!

In my last post, I described some basic functionality that is being implemented in ZippyMeetings 1.5.  There are also two more substantial bits of  functionality that we are putting into this release, and here I’d like to talk about one of them:

References

Or attachments.  This is functionality to allow you to add reference material to your agenda – either when setting the agenda or during the meeting – and have it recorded in the meeting minutes.  We have implemented this feature to allow for both local files and URLs (ie web links) to be able to be attached to the meeting.

Use Cases

We have implemented this feature because we have heard the requests, and also we do believe in the two main use cases:

  1. Meeting Preparation.  You want meeting attendees to be familiar with the requisite information for the meeting, so you want to attach a document (or link).  So while you are crafting your agenda, you add the documents/links into it to give everyone an opportunity to be up to speed.
  2. Status update. The output of an action needs to be reviewed by the meeting team, so you can attach the document that the action owner has provided into the meeting record.

How does it work:

1. First you click on that paper clip icon and select Add File (or Add Link)

step12. You select the file you want with a standard Windows dialogue box

3. You can see that the file now appears in the list (clicking on it opens it up).

step2

How does it look like in the minutes?

We treat links and attachments as references to the meeting material.  Here’s an example section in the Compact minutes format that give a quick view of the feature in action.  When you send the minutes email, the reference file can be attached (as a configurable option) to the email

step3

This feature works the same whether you are adding documents and links on the fly during a meeting, or in agenda preparation.

Let us know what you think.

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A first preview of ZippyMeetings 1.5

It’s that time again to give you a brief glimpse into the next release of ZippyMeetings.

With version 1.5 we’ve primarily focussed on improving some little annoyances, but also a couple of features that we think are neat.

The annoyances:

  1. Hiding closed actions – we’ve heard you, and we agree – it’s nice to be able to review previously closed actions in the meeting manager, but gee it would be nice to be able to hide them again!  Consider it done – because it is.
  2. What’s with the fonts!?!  We have realised that our previous favourite font doesn’t display so well on Office 2010 computers (looks great under Office 2007!) so we’re reverting to a safe font that works everywhere.
  3. Auto-update.  The technology we use for Auto-Update is not designed with Outlook plugins in mind, and as a result provides a patchy experience for some customers and a lot of work for us when we deploy.  Considering the main benefit is in download size, and a couple of MB is not really an issue for most customers, we have opted to disable auto-update.  We are looking into alternative technologies, including Microsoft’s Click-once which may give a similar level of capability.
  4. French-language minutes fixes and additional languages (notably Swedish).
  5. Some minor spelling/grammatial errors are fixed up.

 

The new features will be announced in the next preview.  Till then, Merry Christmas.

 

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Quick Start Guide released

We’re busy working on ZippyMeetings 1.5, but at the same time we’ve heard you and we’ve made a ZippyMeetings Quick Start Guide.
Download the Quick Start Guide.

 

This will replace the old user guide for new downloaders – of course the user guide is integrated into ZippyMeetings so there is no need for a separate user guide download.

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Some light reading

Some of our customers and evaluators have asked for a short overview of the capabilities of ZippyMeetings.  So that they can share the love with friends, colleagues or ‘the management’.

Here’s one we prepared for this occasion.

pdficon_largeZippyMeetings Overview (PDF)

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Who uses ZippyMeetings?

While we believe that ZippyMeetings is right for pretty much anyone who needs to facilitate structured meetings, we thought we’d have a look at the sort of organisations and roles that have employed our software to great success.  You can read some selected quotes from our valued customers on the Testimonials Page.

Organisations:

  • Construction
  • Manufacturing
  • Telecommunications/IT/Software
  • Consulting
  • Research and Education
  • Non profit

Roles within those organisations vary, but include:

  • Project Manager
  • Operation Manager
  • Board Member (non profit)
  • Engineering and IT staff
  • Consultants

The ability to work within Microsoft Outlook, create an agenda, keep track of actions across recurring meeting, and the one-click generation of meeting minutes all come together to allow our customer to manage long-running projects and activities, and just get their job done.

If you would like to see what ZippyMeetings can do for you, why not download the 30-day free trial today, and if you have any questions, we’re always ready to help – just send us an email at support@zippymeetings.com.

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How to track actions in recurring meetings

Project Managers are masters of keeping track of project status (amongst other things) – after all, they are accountable for the project delivery.

However, all of us are project managers at varying degrees of complexity:

  • you have to define a marketing strategy for your product, with input from various stakeholders
  • you are the test lead for the latest version upgrade
  • you need to plan your overseas trip to cover-off as many partners in the shortest time (the Travelling Salesman problem)
  • you are the process writer on 5 projects of varying priority
  • you’re the coach of the soccer team, and need to improve your players’ skills

All of these things need a plan.  But also, you need to keep track of your progress to that plan. ZippyMeetings can help.

Let’s take the process writer example as a case in point, and focus on just one process area in one project that you are working on – the sales processes.

You need to describe how:

  1. Customers discover your product
  2. Customers contact your sales people
  3. Sales people record opportunities
  4. Sales people create orders

For each of these deliverables, you need to engage with subject matter experts (SMEs) to describe how things work, and who (in your organisation) is responsible, what systems they use and what information they need to deal with.  You bring these SMEs together into a working group, and start working through the details. In the course of your work, you’ll need information from various parties, and maybe you need some work carried out at their end, so you need to assign actions (for want of a better word).

This is where ZippyMeetings can help you with keeping track of all these tasks, spread across various owners.  We would recommend you create a recurring status meeting that you can use to progress the delivery of your items.  Using the above example, you could set up an agenda of 4 topics:

  1. Customer Discovery
  2. Lead generation
  3. Opportunity management
  4. Order creation

process-status-agenda

 With your virtual team of SMEs, you can then go through these process areas in your meeting, and assign actions related to specific activities that need to be undertaken.  You can manage this through ZippyMeetings and keep track of the progress of the actions.  Each meeting, the history of previous meetings is available.  You can quickly review what happened last time round, and whether the activities that were supposed be completed have been.

For example, in the first meeting, the customer discovery process requires that content be loaded on the company’s website (portal), and a contact form is required to capture customer inquiries. The action requires that a quote is obtained for the creation of the web form.

process-status-meeting-1a

When the next meeting comes along, the status from last meeting can be reviewed, and the new progress entered.

process-status-meeting-2

As this broad action (getting the web form created) evolves, you can keep track of progress quickly and easily.  If the responsible party for the action changes, you can simply change that as well as moving the due date if required.  Of course, if this action creates additional actions that need to be taken care of (eg you don’t want to track multiple areas of work in just one action), it’s easy to create a parallel or follow-up action with the click of a single button.

ZippyMeetings not only allows you to keep on top of where things are at; with the 1-click meeting minutes functionality you can keep the project team and other stakeholders informed with automatically generated, professional meeting minutes.

Try ZippyMeetings today, with a 30-day free trial.

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ZippyMeetings 1.4

With ZippyMeetings 1.4 has been released.  What’s new?

We’ve been working on a few areas:

  • Decisions
  • Agenda Notes Date Stamp
  • User Interface update
  • Bug fixes

Decisions

One of the bigger additions for this release is the addition of Decisions into ZippyMeetings as a place for you to record any decisions (with both a summary and optional detail text) of your meetings.  The decision feature is designed to be a quick and easy way to record your decisions – not as a formal vote-casting and result-recording mechanism.  Decisions are reflected in meeting minutes.  Here’s how the feature looks in the meeting manager.

decisions-main

For more information, see this post.

Agenda Notes Date Stamp

We have added a small feature that adds a date stamp to your meeting notes for the agenda item.  You can enable this function through the ZippyMeetings options screen.

agenda-notes-new

Read more.

User Interface Update

There have been a couple of minor updates in the user interface to accommodate the Decision feature.  We now identify and flag Actions and Decisions with their own icons –

action for Action and

decision for Decision.

Bug Fixes

We have made fixes and improvements to:

  • Meeting Manager first load time
  • Font display on Office 2010
  • Recurring meetings owned by another person

We are always looking for ways to improve ZippyMeetings, so contact us if you have any suggestions.

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Meetings for Project Managers

Here’s an interesting article that outlines how meetings should be used by project managers to ensure they keep on top of project risks and issues.

I’d like to look at one part specficially (about half way through):

Managing Issues/Action Items

In spite of your best efforts at risk management, all projects of any size and complexity will have issues arise that need to be dealt with and resolved.  If you haven’t done a good job managing risks, chances are you will have more issues to deal with than you might otherwise have.  Use the following information to manage issues:

1.     Issues/Action Items Matrix or Log is used to help clarify, track, communicate and resolve issues.  Some meeting reports include Issues/Action Items in the form.

2.     Customize an Issues/Action Item Matrix to meet the project’s needs, i.e., include columns for issue priority, type, complexity, source, key contact for resolution, etc.—whatever makes sense

3.     Visit and update the Issues/Action Item Matrix weekly, or at least bi-weekly, but always prior to and during a status meeting

4.     Leverage the Issues/Action Item Matrix for use as a key communication tool—distribute it per the Communication Plan

5.     Work from the Issues/Action Item Matrix to identify critical issues, and get updates from issue owners on these between meetings

6.     Remember, if you assign an issue to more than one person, you will get finger pointing, not resolution

7.     Help facilitate issue resolution as appropriate, which may include motivating, providing logistical support, coordinating and/or facilitating a meeting, developing a plan for escalation, etc.

One of the key design objectives for ZippyMeetings was to make tracking actions easier, especially across recurring meetings.  In fact, the whole idea for ZippyMeetings originated with my annoyance at transcribing meeting notes into a Word minutes template – copy/pasting progress, and sometimes having to revisit the same issues multiple times.

The actions capabilities within ZippyMeetings are designed to make it easier to keep all your information in one place, and track actions through to closure or resolution.  In this respect, ZippyMeetings can be a great way to help execute an action plan in support of your risks and issues log.

In general. we recommend that your status meeting agenda is set up to mirror the key activities in your project (eg as described here), but an equally effective method can be to structure your agenda to reflect you risks/issues log items, thereby allowing you to assign actions and track their progress to mitigate your identified risks or address current issues.

Project Managers love ZippyMeetings – check out some of our happy customers’ testimonials:

I have become a MUCH better Project Manager through utilizing ZippyMeetings to the point that I wouldn’t want to manage Projects (or facilitate meetings) without it!

ZippyMeetings is a fabulous program and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for such a system.

Already, agendas, professional minutes and automatically assigned tasks have helped us to stay organized and actually accomplish the things we gather to discuss.

To try ZippyMeetings free for 30 days, click here.

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