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Indicators you may need Arne Huse Consulting
  • It takes up to ten or more emails to schedule a meeting
  • You have forgotten more than one meeting in the last two months
  • You have employees that manually enter information from a your sales program into Excel, so you can get a report
  • You have over 500 emails in your inbox
  • You spend over ten minutes per day looking through past emails
  • You don't use some form of time and task management
  • Your employees don't have written goals
  • You don't know how much employee overtime has been worked this pay period
  • You don't have regular one-on-one meetings scheduled with direct reports
  • You don't know the status of every critical business project you have going on
  • You don't have an employee handbook
  • You don't have emergency contact information for all employees
  • You do have job descriptions for all employees
  • Staff are not sure who they report to
  • Your sales staff are not planning their time well enough
  • Your not sure if your incentive plans are working to your benefit
  • You are contemplating a major IT purchase 


Great tools that really work 

I have been fortunate to work on some very interesting and challenging client projects in the last three years.

  • Developing and publishing an employee handbook
  • Several large construction projects
  • Regulatory and funding projects
  • New product development and launches
  • Patent and confidentiality work
  • Mechanical automation, design, and the moving of an industrial site in the dead of winter
  • Working with individual employees on time management and organization
  • Conducting and organizing research projects
  • Expense reporting and management
  • Safety and security audits
  • Organizing and facilitating regular brainstorming and strategic planning sessions
  • Developing internal and external communications systems
  • Cost analysis of mobile devices and the switching of vendors
  • Creating vendor evaluation systems
  • ERP systems and vendor analysis (Future planning)
  • Discovering and implementing an employee time-clock software system

 Let me share some fantastic tools I discovered to address some of the many challenges I faced working with clients.

Challenge #1 - Email overload
  • How many emails can you handle each day?
  • How much time do you spend searching for past emails?
  • How many tasks sent via email get missed in your world?
  • How many "Let's meet Thursday at 2:00" emails result in a forgotten meeting?
  • How many times do you end up endlessly and needlessly cc'd on email conversations?
  • What if your boss works weekends, sending you twenty "important" emails that greet you Monday morning?
Let me say that I know everything there is to know about Outlook. I know every trick and tool; setting up folders, email rules, customizing views, categories, drag-and-drop emails to task and calendar buttons, the works. I have done programming, customizations, and training. You may think as I did that with so many ways to handle basic functions and look at information, Outlook should work great for every user regardless of technical expertise provided there was proper training and "one sheet" guides. Perhaps in your environment your employees have mastered Outlook, if this is the case I applaud you.

If, on the other hand, like me you discovered valuable, frustrated employees that lived in fear of Outlook because of sheer volumes of emails and wrongly-formatted information, here are some tools that worked well for certain employees. As always, a warning that users will usually say that every new tool will help them, but explore key functions to discover the true intention to use before purchasing these add-ons. Fortunately, most come with extended trial periods of full versions. I do not resell or receive compensation for any of the applications mentioned in any post I make, nor am I affiliated with, or shareholder of any company mentioned. I pay rack rate for all applications.

Clear Context Pro http://www.clearcontext.com/
Integrated Outlook Add-On
30 day trial - $90 to buy

Despite it's steep price tag, this is one application that I use every single day and have been for the past few years. A major new release came out a few months ago and I happily paid the upgrade cost for it.

Two main application features I and others use
  1. Project (Folder) creation and assignment - Which provides #2
  2. Project (Folder) Dashboard
The biggest benefit of this program to me is also its main pitfall for some. I call it "the nag". Every time I send or receive an email that has not been assigned to a Project folder, a list of current Projects pops up to select from or type in a new one. Once selected or created, subsequent reply or conversation emails and attachments are automatically or selectively added to that Project folder. Appointments and tasks can also be assigned to these Projects and it all comes together in the Clear Context Dashboard that saves me many hours each week.

Unfortunately, if you tick the "Don't ask me again to assign a Project" box at the bottom of "The nag" dialog, you lose what I see as the main benefits of the program. Once you get used to assigning projects, this program becomes an application you will never want to be without.

Email and contact scoring are Clear Context features I do not use although the inbox cleaning features can help you go from over 1500 unfiled emails (you know who you are) to zero in about an hour. I have worked through this process several times with users and it really is impressive.

Again the caution here, in my opinion, if a user prefers to turn off "The nag" function, this program is not worth the investment, despite the other noteworthy features.

Pocketday Personal (Or Pro) for Blackberryhttp://www.pocketday.com/products_pdersonal.html

PD is one of the least expensive PIM programs that works as advertised. Their web site and update systems suck and I keep expecting Cross River to disappear, but there are a few gems in this program. I honestly tried to use and appreciate the (seemingly) more advanced (and more expensive) E-Mobile Today Pro, but PD remains far superior for user customization.
  • Send an email to calendar or task - Most PIM programs have the ability to add the contents of an email read on your Blackberry to an appointment or task. This is a great feature because it helps avoid missed items read on the fly
  • Dashboard View - Pocketday has one of the most customizable dashboards and I appreciate being able to set it up the way I like
  • If you can get past the lousy web site, this program can help you stay organized while also being mobile and the price is right.
MS OneNote
Included with certain MS Office versions - $65 stand alone

While I personally do not use OneNote much, I have found for certain overwhelmed employees it can be just what they need. Designed primarily as a program for students, I have found it also works extremely well for employees that spend a lot of time pouring through online research and receiving many emails on the topics they are researching. OneNote provides yet another way of looking at accumulated information that suits the needs of some employees and executives in electronic binder format.

Independence and Integrity

Arne Huse Consulting does not seek or accept remuneration from any software developers or distributors for purchases or decisions made by clients. AHC does not develop or sell software systems and all recommendations are made for the exclusive benefit of clients. All software used by Arne Huse Consulting has been legitimately purchased at retail pricing.