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You know the pain: You're on a team, likely in a support role covering the phones on shift work taking calls from clients. Or, perhaps you're on a project team, covering some critical piece of the puzzle, or waiting on a colleague to close out their piece so you can move forward... And your inboxes are bulging at the seams with both critical information as well as those "nice to know" status updates.
In so many cases, we all find ourselves under this barrage of status update emails, FYIs, and other important, yet immediately unnecessary and irrelevant messages. Do we need to know that you'll be off the phones for the next hour or two? Do we need to know you're working from home for half the day? Yes, we likely do. Do we need to know that information right now? No, we only "need to know" when we need to know, and likely will only care or even remember if the information gets to us right at the moment we need to know. Is an e-mail the best, most effective and efficient way to let people know? Likely not.
But what IS the better way? That answer, dear readers, all depends on your team. There is no single best practice or use case to follow here. Each team has differing needs and demands based on location, shift, task, or even management preferences. While I can't do anything for the last, perhaps there are some solutions to address the others which will in turn help convince management of better ways if that is a concern:
Instant messaging statuses: Judicious use of custom status settings here can do wonders to let your team know if you are available or not, on their time, when they need to know. Going off the phones for an hour? A simple Instant Messaging status noting "Off the phones to work a problem" will cover that info for those who need to know, and will be even more appreciated once you're back on the phones and your status has changed again. E-mails aren't the best for quickly changing statuses like these.
Lotus Connections Profile statuses: Working on a project and need help? Want to promote your work? Or out of the office for the day? Updating your Lotus Connections profile status can be a simple and easy way to let people know. This is a little heavier than an IM status, but still light enough and flexible enough to allow for quick updates for often changing statuses.
Intranet wiki page:
Don't have Lotus Connections to provide robust profiles? Have no fear, there are surely wiki solutions already in place in your company, and if not, there are numerous open source solutions to host collaborative wiki pages. I'd recommend these for longer term status updates from daily to weekly as they relate to projects or other work. A table on a wiki page can be easily updated by the entire team depending on how work shifts, and updates can generate auto notifications to let you know when changes have been made... of course you'll probably want to follow those via RSS rather than e-mail
Shared Team Calendars: This one should be rather obvious, and easily implemented if you haven't already. If you're using Lotus Notes or Microsoft Outlook, you have team calendar functionality and should be using it. This, of course, is for more robust statuses, like days off for holiday or even illness, but shouldn't be overlooked for smaller time frames like meetings and and other time blockers. Smart use of calendaring for your team can not only provide quick views of current availability, but also provide higher level views into team dynamics and show ways to remove blockers as well.
And lets get even more provocative here... internal microblogging:
Assuming you don't want to use external Twitter or Wordpress.com microblogging themes, there ARE internal solutions to microblogging which can be used for team updates. I know the fine folks over at Automattic.com (the crew who develop the WordPress blogging engine) use an internally hosted installation of Wordpress with a robust microblogging theme for their team updates with quite a bit of success! In IBM we even have our own microblogging platform which is available company wide and mimics Twitter in the following/follower and 140 character limit paradigms, perfect for quick status updates.
Of course, implementing a Lotus Connections installation in your corporate topology will allow for nearly all of these alternatives above to be implemented in fashions appropriate for your needs. Yes, I am a bit of a fan-boy convert to the Connections Communities after having used them for the past 4 years with varying degrees of success both as a community owner as well as simple user. I really can't recommend it more, and that's not because I'm an IBMer, I really do believe in the tool!
The real key to success for any of these 'alternatives' to e-mailing statuses, is simple agreement and definition of expectations. If the whole team agrees and expect statuses to be posted to a particular solution, and then of course follows up with actually DOING that, then a successful transition away from e-mail for these use cases will be successful, and provide immediate results.
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Recycle, reuse! Presented here are the top reused docs for February, 2012 for three products: Rational Change, Rational Focal Point, and Rational Quality Manager. These are the docs which were used most often to helped solve your reported cases (PMRs) over the month for these three products. We figure if our TSEs are using these docs to help you, then it stands to reason that more of you who aren't calling in can also use these to help solve your issues as well!
IBM Rational Change:
Diagnosing IBM Rational Change Errors
Adding a Field for a New Attribute to Task Dialogs
Stay connected to IBM Rational Client Support
New web types introduced with IBM Rational Change 5.2
Only seeing 'Text value has changed' in the IBM Rational Change log file
Rational Quality Manager and Rational Change Integration
When running ccmsrv commands in Rational Synergy you get error: ccm_platform: unrecognized host architecture
Log in to Rational Change 5.2 configured in HTTPS mode fails with "URL failed to run APIs with connection failed" error
IBM Rational Focal Point:
Create and Manage Your Enhancement Requests in the Rational RFE Community
Global Administrator unable to view all workspaces when logged into Focal Point.
Where do i find the Focal Point logs in version 6.1?
Users receive an error when they login, "The FEATURE name FOCALPOINT_STAKEHOLDER with version 'YYYY.MMDD' cannot be found License server system does not support this feature..."
Known and Fixed issues in Telelogic Focal Point 6.3
Users are listed on the online users page even after the session time out limit
Log in to Rational Focal Point client results in Error "404"
Export or import of modules with elements containing formatted text does to Excel does not retain the formatting
Searching a published site results in "The application's digital signature has an error"
http://404 error after restarting IBM Rational Focal Point
Error "Unable to find ibmratl_lic/rcl_telelogic, file not found in java.library.path" during login to IBM Rational Focal Point
Expression queue latency on Oracle 10g and Oracle 11g
Security certificate expiration messages generated from Rational Focal Point applets
How to run the Ping commands in Rational Focal Point
Rational Focal Point 6.4.1 Detailed System Requirements
Fix list for Rational Focal Point 6.5
IBM Rational Quality Manager:
Error 404: No target servlet configured for uri: /jazz/web/console/QM
Running IBM Rational Quality Manager 2.0 server as a Windows Service
How to rename a user id that does not exist in the LDAP registry
IBM Support Assistant Lite for Rational Team Concert v3.0
Using the Rational Quality Manager Command Line Adapter
Creating Data Warehouse for JTS using Oracle database results in “java.sql.SQLException: ORA-01031: insufficient privileges” error
Running the 'Requirements' data collection job results in 'Failed' status with 'HTTP/1.1 401 Unauthorized' error
Exposing API Content for a Single Resource using Poster
Clicking a RequisitePro Link in an RQM Report Brings up an XML Page