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SharedStatus.com - easy team management

Since starting this blog over a year ago I've been sharing my adventures about switching from Windows to Mac and thrown in a couple of stories about starting up a business. When I left the company I founded in late 2007 (after selling it in 2006) my intention was to take a little time off and then plunge into my next business venture, this blog quickly becoming a way for me to escape working 16 hours a day. Now that the new business is ready to go I would like to tell you about SharedStatus.

First Some Background
In virtually every company I have worked in I have had to conduct or contribute to status meetings. The problem with status meetings is that they can be very inefficient. Since most people manage their personal task lists in their own way they often wait until the last minute before the status meeting to quickly slam together what they have been working on.

In setting out to address this problem I discovered that there were other corollary problems that people experienced. Tasks that were assigned to people in some of those very status meetings were sometimes not being done because the person assigned didn’t realize it was being assigned to them. Other times a critical issue would be revealed in a status meeting that could have been more easily addressed earlier but the issue got lost in a tidal wave of e-mails. Collaboration between team members depended on a long thread of e-mails that sometimes didn’t include the very people that needed to be working on the issue.

The more I dug in to business process issues the more I saw that people tried addressing these challenges but that the tools were often not designed to solve such simple challenges. Project Management systems were plentiful but often were far to complex for basic needs. Other systems—like Lotus Notes and Sharepoint—went far down the path to helping solve these problems but required a large IT commitment and huge expense to make it all work.

I felt strongly that there was an opportunity to create a solution that was incredibly easy to use and focused on the core issue: tracking tasks, collaborating with others about those tasks and quickly generating status reports. I wanted to produce a product that was priced in such a way that small businesses could easily afford it and that as it scaled up within a company the costs didn’t get outrageous. Finally, I wanted to handle this as a web-based SaaS product, so it wouldn’t require a big IT involvement in order to get it up and running and anyone with a web browser would be able to use it.


The solution I came up with is called SharedStatus. The primary focus of this tool is to give managers, project leads and team members a simple, lightweight framework for capturing tasks that need to get done, collaborating with others on performing those tasks and quickly generating status reports for team and project meetings.

In SharedStatus most everything revolves around the concept of a task. You can create a task for yourself, view it in your dashboard or in a status report and mark it as complete when you are done. With multiple people in your account you can begin to see the advantage of SharedStatus because you can take any task you create and assign it to another member of your account. That person can either accept or decline the task; once accepted you can view and comment on the task—much like people can view and comment on a blog post—adding information or details that both people (task owner and assignee) can see.

A task can also be associated with a project, which opens other collaboration capabilities. Every member of a project can see all of the tasks that are associated with that project and make comments on them, providing an easy way for project members to help one another with tasks and eliminate the huge threads of e-mail that tend to get generated during the course of a project.

Finally, SharedStatus can optionally support the concept of a supervisor, allowing a manager to quickly see each of their direct reports and the tasks they have assigned to them. Their Dashboard is updated to show each of their direct reports and any critical tasks that they may be working on.

At the heart of SharedStatus is a notification system which each user can customize. They can be notified by e-mail or SMS message when a task they own is changed, accepted, commented on, etc. Users don’t have to keep SharedStatus up and running in a browser all day to have it help them.

Status reports are also a central theme to SharedStatus and can be accessed quickly from a user’s Dashboard, generating a list of the tasks that have been recently completed and a list of tasks that are due in the next time frame.

That in a nutshell is SharedStatus.

If you work in an environment where you need to manage a team of people and would like a simple, light-weight solution for keeping your team on the same page and quickly generating status reports I would appreciate you checking out SharedStatus or letting others in your network know about it. I have priced SharedStatus to be extremely affordable; it is only $2 / month per user ($20 / month minimum) and includes a 2 month unlimited user free trial.

You can get started with SharedStatus right now by going to www.sharedstatus.com.

23 comments:

Chris Bulow said...

Hey! Do regular and loyal readers get a discount? :)

David Alison said...

@Chris: $2 / month is too much? ;-)

What I tell people is that I'll be happy to continue extending their free trial if they really need it.

That said, thanks for being a regular and loyal reader!

Godfrey said...

"When I left the company I founded in late 2007 (after selling it in 2006)..."
This is a very confusing sentence ;)

Nice work though!

David Alison said...

@Godfrey: When I sold WebSurveyor in 2006 I was asked to stay on as the CTO for the newly merged company, which I did until October of 2007. I learned that it's a challenge to be an employee of a company that you used to be the chairman and majority owner of.

Chris Bulow said...

I thought I'd replied but seems to have disappeared into the ether - I was kissing of course David :) We're taking a look at it shortly as it could well help on a couple of new projects we're starting.

Chris Bulow said...

s/kidding/kissing/

Doug Smart said...

Any chance that there's an option to create a task via e-mail? I run a small IT dept and would love to route our support requests through something like this.

David Alison said...

@Chris: Great to hear you were just kidding (and highly amused at the typo) and that it may be a good solution for you. If you have any questions don't hesitate to let me know.

@Doug: That has been the single most requested feature. It's currently in development and I expect it to make it into our production version within the next two weeks. The way it will work is fairly straightforward: you can send an e-mail to (username)@sharedstatus.net and if you have added the sender to an approved list it will auto-create a task for you. If there are specific aspects of this feature you would like to see just drop me a note: dalison at sharedstatus.com.

Doug Smart said...

That would be perfect! I could just create an alias in my active directory that would send the e-mail to that address. I'm definitely going to sign up for the free trial now!

Fred said...

All the best for this new project
Hope you will still have time for your so interesting blog

Keleko said...

I know this isn't on topic with the recent blog, but do you have any thoughts on Safari 4 beta yet? I installed it last night, and I am very impressed with the performance so far. I'm going to use it as the default browser instead of Firefox for a while. I feel "safe" enough doing this because I rarely used Safari 3 because it was so slow rendering pages compared to Firefox.

David Alison said...

@Fred: Thanks and no worries - I'll keep blogging if people keep reading this stuff. My hope is to add some more Startup 101 posts in the future, though the bulk of this blog will likely continue to be my personal technology findings.

@Keleko: Safari beta is on my short list for review. I still use Firefox as my primary browser (because of the extensions/add-ons) but use Safari as my testing browser.

Tony said...

Kind of wish there wasn't a $20/month minimum. Makes it harder for me to convince The Boss to pay for it when we only have 4 people...

David Alison said...

@Tony: I understand. Pricing is such a huge challenge for high-tech businesses. When you factor in hosting costs and individual transactions it means you really need to charge a minimum and $20 was the low threshold I decided on. Hopefully you'll give it a try and you and your boss will see that it's a bargain at $20 / month. Since there's a 2 month free trial in there it's worth checking out.

Luca said...

Hi David,
I'm another regular reader of your great site. Being an almost-ex Lotus Notes developer, this new SharedStatus.com project caught my eyes, as well as being a Mac lover with a passion for development.
A quick question... Looking at the presentation movie , I believe sharedstatus.com has been built with Ruby on Rails... am I right or not?
Great work indeed. My sincere compliments.

David Alison said...

@Luca: Thanks - I appreciate the nice comments on the blog. The application was indeed developed using the Ruby on Rails development stack. Though I started working on this product using .NET on Windows I've found that RoR is a fantastic platform for building this type of application. That plus I get to spend all of my development time using great Mac based applications like TextMate.

Luca said...

Thanks David.
I started studying RoR following your path indications (Agile Web Development 3rd edition) and I'm currently using XCode to manage my dev efforts. Though I'm not at all able to do 10% of what you've done. Impressive.
Do you think you saved time and money switching from .Net to RoR? Not wanting to start any platform war here, just a quick info if possible.

David Alison said...

@Luca: That's a tough question: "Do you think you saved time and money switching from .Net to RoR?"

Money first: since RoR is open source my costs for it have been ridiculously low; most of my development expenses have been buying books or in some cases PDF files for libraries. Since many of the folks that contribute a great deal to the RoR community do so freely I tend to buy the books they publish.

As for time it all depends on how well you master the system. Visual Studio/.NET is completely different from doing RoR development. I could easily write several rather long blog posts on which platform is "better" but each has strengths and weaknesses.

What I love about RoR: a highly readable language, the ActiveRecord model abstracts away most DB issues, the speed with which I can test out a new idea or feature by throwing up some scaffolding and seeing the functionality come to life quickly. I've learned to really like the MVC architecture and RESTful interfaces, though I am hardly a master at it.

What I MISS about VS/.NET: the debugging in VS, the way function finishing works in the VS editor, having a strongly typed language that is compiled, the flat out performance of a .NET application.

These are just "off the top of my head" but may give you a sense of what I find most intriguing about RoR; once reasonably proficient in it you can very quickly build up a solution and do it iteratively. I've found that nearly everything I want to do in a web application has a place in RoR.

I think for me moving to RoR was helped dramatically by the fact that I've become quite infatuated with Macs and wanted to spend my time using native tools, not running Windows in a VM. Though it's a bit of a step back, using a programmers editor (TextMate) and a liberal dose of the shell has been a lot of fun.

I hope this helps Luca; I'm personally really glad I jumped into RoR as a development platform. It just takes time and motivation to get up to speed.

Luca said...

David,
thanks a lot for sharing your insights. I don't believe a word when you say you're hardly a master ;-) but everything you said made a lot of sense to me.
I'm trying every way to skip the .Net path right now, though it seems that every employer nowadays is looking for that only skill. RoR got my attention for the same reasons you shared.
I only wish I could have 5% of your skills nowadays, though I'm hardly at work studying (and my newborn just flat eats my spare time out :-)

David Alison said...

@Luca: Like nearly everything in life, success comes from chipping away at the problem, whether it's learning .NET or RoR. Just try to make even a little progress every day, which IS tough when you have a newborn demanding attention. There are definitely more .NET opportunities out there so if you're looking for gainful employment that will likely yield you better results. Good luck!

Michael Z said...

I myself don't have a problem being just a .NET developer. The fact that so many people are needed in that field would be another reason why I would want to do .NET over Ruby on Rails.
I know that being a .NET developer doesn't have the GEEK factor that being a Ruby on Rails developer might have.
I am just saying do not rule out .NET just because of WEB forums and other people opinions. So far I have only had to do .NET development and MS SQL in my jobs, but with tons of new SharePoint jobs coming in now I don't see .NET as a bad way to go.

David Alison said...

@Michael Z: I didn't rule out .NET because of the opinions of others, rather I jumped into RoR because I liked what I saw. .NET is an excellent web development platform and if you already have it mastered and are not interested in playing with other technology I'd never tell you to switch to it.

The reason I did jump into the Ruby on Rails development model is because it really is a pleasure to work with. There are of course some things that can be frustrating with it but overall my joy in writing code has gone up dramatically since building applications with it.

Michael Z said...

@David
I guess I should have addressed that I was actually replying to Luca's comments. I fully understand and agree with why your using it.

I was just trying to say to him that maybe their is a reason why so many companies are in need of .NET developers.