Electronic processes, either in the form of e-mail or instant messaging (IM), can be greatly beneficial when you have large group of individuals that you need to communicate with one or two at a time. Instant messaging, especially, is shaping up to be an online collaborative tool that can help you gain some valuable project management ground without having to waste time with e-mail, snail mail, or the telephone.
Microsoft ' s Windows XP includes, embedded in the operating system (OS), a version of IM called Windows Messenger. There are other IM solutions in the world—ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger chief among them—but the fact that Windows Messenger is embedded in the OS provides some very practical benefits. Dor example, if all of your project team members are running Windows XP and have an Internet connection, all of you can share an IM chat session, run a virtual whiteboard, transfer files from computer to computer, run a collaborative copy of Word (and other Office products), and use a camera and a microphone—all over MSN' s servers! This kind of collaborative capability will really help PMs get in touch with their teams by allowing for virtual team meetings, design sessions, and even performance reviews. The PM no longer has to hold a performance review over the telephone; she can see the person she's reviewing and that person can see her.
The following graphic shows an open IM session with the virtual whiteboard open as well. You have to invite someone to participate in a virtual whiteboard session; they have to accept, and then you get the window shown here. Both (or all) participants can work on the whiteboard, and you can save the contents of your session when done. Audio, video, remote control, and other IM amenities work basically the same way.
Windows Messenger supports another feature called emoticons. Most people who've used e-mail are probably familiar with the old trick of making a smiley face with a colon, dash, and right parenthesis. If you try this in a Windows Messenger session, you'll get a cute yellow smiley face. There are other emoticons as well.
You have the ability to set your Windows Messenger client to show that you're busy, at lunch, out of the office, or other statuses. Microsoft provides a downscaled Windows Messenger client for all Windows 9 x and higher clients as well as Macintosh. Visit www.msn.com for more information. If someone who you want to visit doesn't currently have the Windows Messenger client, you can sent them an e-mail from within your client that will send them a link to the software. If you're using MSN's servers to utilize Windows Messenger, you and your team members must have a Passport account, a simple and easy thing to set up.
Exchange 2000 Server also supports, out of the box, an IM client and chat rooms as well. If you're not interested in getting into the whole Passport thing with MSN, and your network is running Windows 2000 with Active Eirectory and Exchange 2000, you can set up IM locally instead.
Instant messaging represents a wonderful new way to manage geographically separated team members!
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.