Best-Loved Gmail Features for Our Virtual Teams

by Jamil Evans Feb 14th, 2012 Business Commentary

It’s not necessarily uncommon for our team to discuss technologies that make our lives easier, but it is rather uncommon for us all to love any particular tool as much as we love our Gmail! Our team members work primarily on different sites, so our team functions online most of the time. We love a good tool that makes it easier for us to work together across physical boundaries. Our hands-down favorite features run the gamut of convenient add-ons to “Cool, I didn’t know that!” all-star elements. Whether its managing mail messages, bookmarks and passwords, or collaborating with the team, we get it all done with these cool Gmail features:

1. Boomerang: This Gmail plugin allows you to schedule messages to be sent at a later date and time, keep track of responses, and also helps you to remember to follow up within a certain period of time by prioritizing the message if the recipient doesn’t respond. Get it here.

2. Advanced Search: Google’s superior search methodology makes it easy and intuitive to search for messages by sender, keyword, and location. Using only a few keystrokes, I can quickly locate a message that I sent to my boss about an upcoming deadline: “from:me to:Jamil in:sent deadline.” This is right from my inbox – no looking for a separate advanced search page.

3. Services Integration: Like most teams, we have a lot of online tools for accomplishing different tasks, which means we have a lot of bookmarks and passwords to remember. So, we love the Google Apps Marketplace, where we can search for the tools we use most often and integrate them with Gmail. Once integrated, our tools are available right from our Gmail inbox and we’re already signed in. There’s tons of tools to choose from – think CRM tools, expense reporting, contacts managers, project management, and more – all available in the Google Apps Marketplace.

4. Google Docs: As a tech company with different folks on different work sites, our team often works online to complete internal projects and tasks. Our favored methodology for programming is Agile, which normally would require us to meet on a daily basis to share information with the team. The Google Documents feature actually allows us to work virtually to create a document that we can all read and edit at the same time, updated in real time. Google Documents carry the same features as documents created in Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and others. You’re already familiar with the tools, and converting documents between the two is a snap. And since it’s all happening in real time, we can use Docs to share scrum information, even when we can’t all be available to meet.

5. Google Voice: When collaborating on one document isn’t enough, we can instant message and even call each other. Right from our inboxes, we can place phone calls using Google Voice. The call is alarmingly clear, allowing us to free our hands for other tasks without the far-away tone of most speakerphones. We can even customize Google Voice with our own local phone numbers, direct calls to ring our mobile phones, send and receive texts, and save our voicemails online.

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Information Sharing Needs Good Marketing

by Jamil Evans Jul 9th, 2011 Business Commentary

Deeplocal Process Sketch

Corporate marketing professionals face challenges that parallel those of information sharing promoters in the US national defense community. A great product won’t sell without a strong marketing strategy. In the same way, information sharing initiatives can’t succeed unless the participants (customers) buy-in.

Deeplocal, an award-winning marketing firm servicing Fortune 500 companies, knows a little bit about sharing information with potential customers. As described on their web site, Deeplocal “builds interactive experiences that bridge the physical and digital worlds, generating emotional connections with consumers, earned media, and increased revenue.” The better a brand is able to connect with media and consumers on both the digital and physical planes, the more revenue the brand can expect to generate.

Information sharing benefits are well understood by many: reduction in redundant efforts such as monitoring and data analysis, faster innovation, improvements in the efficiency and effectiveness of intelligence agents and analysts. The benefits are clear and the technology is here, yet we’re not seeing the results that we’d expect. Perhaps it’s failing because there’s no buy-in. Information sharing promoters can learn a lot from marketing firms like Deeplocal.

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War on Terrorism: Losing Battles

by Jamil Evans Jun 10th, 2010 Commentary

Last month, Dennis Blair announced his intention to step down as Director of National Intelligence. As a government vendor providing information sharing solutions to the intelligence community, this announcement prompted us to wonder whether the announcement was related to the intelligence lapses that occurred on Mr. Blair’s watch. Due to the detrimental results of these and other systematic failures, we believe there is no room for error in agencies’ ability to proactively share relevant information with others.

First up on our radar: the Fort Hood shooting on November 5th, 2009, in which a U.S. Army major is accused of killing 13 people and wounding 30 others. After the incident, investigators found e-mails between the shooter and Anwar al-Awlaki, an Islamic lecturer who purportedly inspires terrorists. On Christmas Day, December 25, 2009, the “underwear bomber,” a member of al-Qaeda tried to set off a plastic explosive that had been sewn into his underwear. Later, it was revealed that information about the suspect had failed to cross agency lines. In fact, an investigation into the lapses revealed a total of 14 failures. The next incident occurred just five days later, in the Afghan city of Khost, at the Forward Operating Base Chapman. A Jordanian doctor and double agent loyal to Islamist Extremists was on a suicide mission that ended in the deaths of seven CIA operatives and the wounding of six others. Despite his history of contributing to online extremist forums and a prior arrest by Jordanian intelligence, he was invited to the CIA base to brief operatives on some information. Inexplicably, he was not subjected to the usual security measures upon entering the base. Fast forward to May 1, 2010, when Faisal Shahzad attempted to detonate a car bomb in busy Times Square. Fortunately, the bomb was “amateurish,” and did not go off. Despite the fact that his name was added to the no-fly list, he was able to purchase airline tickets, pass through security, and board a plane bound for Pakistan before officials arrested him just before take-off.

While there has been substantial improvement since September 11, 2001, it is our hope that the new leadership will continue to improve upon the information software, systems, and processes that contribute to Homeland security.

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A Bailout Plan for your Career

by Jamil Evans Sep 28th, 2008 Business Commentary

Gas prices, home foreclosures, bank failures, 700M bailout plan, what’s next?  In uncertain times like these our emotions tell us to get out of the game.  Buy high, sell low?  On the contrary, finance expert Suze Orman is urging us to contribute more to our retirement plans and 401k’s (provided you’re not within a few years of retirement) because lower stock prices mean we can buy stock for less.  Real estate mogul Donald Trump is emploring us to invest in real estate for the first time in 10 years!  Buy low, sell high.

So, how does this relate to your career?

A recent blog by Seth Godin suggests that these uncertain times make for less competition for jobs and business opportunities.  I agree.  This is an opportunity to take your career to the next level.  If you’ve been contemplating a jump from programmer to project manager, now might be a good time.  You’ll probably face less competition.  Why not help out with proposal and marketing efforts?  Your efforts will be appreciated now more than ever because your company’s chances of winning the work is higher.

Join an exciting small business where you can capitalize on this rare opportunity to catapult your career.