This post explains how to manage the company tasks in Airtable and it’s the second one of the series “How to build your company Operating System on Airtable”. If you want you can start by reading our first article on how to set up a CRM on Airtable although that is not necessary.
Also, the Airtable base shared in this post builds on the previous one, and it includes also the CRM functionality already presented. We will highlight the new additions and features specific to the tasks’ management, but we also want you to see how Airtable can be your “operating system”. Such system can, incrementally, cover many of your organization’s processes and simplify its day to day operations.
What is my team working on?
Entrepreneurs often don’t know what their team is working on. This “flying blind” has many repercussions in the company effectiveness and efficiency in managing the projects.
In fact, not having a centralized task database often results in:
- Endless meeting to decide what to do, prioritize activities and update each of the persons involved or affected.
- Complex team collaboration and fragmented data information across different systems used at the team or personal level.
- Challenging KPI measurement the data, which is scattered or needs to be collected from scratch, adding more work to the team.
Why should our company have a centralized task management system?
Tasks management and, more generally, project management is a critical activity in basically every company but too often not a priority.
This is a shame because proper task and project management is fundamental to achieve the company objectives (you defined them right?). Being able to show your colleagues what are you working on and also see what the others are working on is necessary to:
- Execute projects efficiently and effectively.
- Coordinate employees in a team or across multiple teams without recurring to frequent, endless and crowded meeting.
- Measure performance and giving you a big picture of what the company is focusing on, where issues are, etc.
How can I get my team to use and benefit from our task management system?
Complexity is the number one killer of centralized task systems
There are hundreds of very valid task and project managers in the market, so the problem is not technical. We have found that companies in general don’t have, or use, a single task management platform for these reasons:
- Complexity: The software has too many features, configuration options and fields to fill in order to do anything. The average team member gets frustrated after a few tries and goes back to his/her personal Trello board, post-its or paper notebooks.
- Duplication: The data needs to be inputted in this and also other systems like: projects review, company KPI dashboards or time tracking logs. In order to save time the person will stop using whatever system the company does not actively enforce.
- Inconsistency: The data is in the system but people never now if it’s the “truth”. Are the priorities reliable? Are the deadlines updated? If the person realizes that the information in the system is garbage, he or she will soon stop using it.
Any successful implementation of a task manager for the company activities and project will thus need to address these points above and be: SIMPLE, NON-REDUNDANT and RELIABLE.
Don’t be blinded by the latest super-powerful system with hundreds of shiny buttons and automations. There is a reason for which people still rely so much on their paper notebooks and post-its for keeping in mind what really matters. Having a digital and centralized post-it board would go a long way for most companies.
What are the key features of a task manager?
Clearly, every company will have vastly different priorities depending on the actual industry and work to do. For instance, a software development company will have much more advanced needs for their task and project manager compared to an e-commerce retailer. However, there are several features that we consider “fundamental” and that we have seen consistently requested and used across all of our clients.
These basic features are:
- Having “projects” or “macro-tasks” where a team collaborate to achieve a higher level objective
- Assigning tasks to one or more team members along with a set deadline
- Track the progress of a task, and of the related project, through their status
- Being able to easily visualize tasks by team, person, status and type
- Automatically notify the people responsible for a task when a deadline is approaching or when a task is going overtime
- Track the time and resources invested on a specific task and project (this will be covered in a future post)
Why should I use Airtable to manage my company tasks?
If you are a small/medium organization without any preference for a specific tool, Airtable is a great starting point to get your team tracking and sharing their tasks.
Moreover Airtable can become your company backbone (what we call “Operating System”) and support your daily operations through a single, simple, tailored platform.
Finally, Airtable is a “forgiving” system; if you misjudge the features and data structure that you need, you can easily tweak your tables to accommodate them. Good luck doing that with a standard, closed commercial system. For these reasons Airtable is a great starting point and it is also helpful to define the requirements for when your company will outgrow it (which will happen much later than you think).
How can manage tasks on Airtable?
That is quite simple, and we will do it step by step below. We will start by developing a table for each of the fundamental concepts that we described in the key features’ section above:
- Employees – Including the basic employee information like: First Name, Last Name, Department, Role, Email, Birthday (fundamental!), Phone, Notes and Tasks not completed (calculated from the Tasks table, see below).
- Projects – Representing a major initiative or company goal and grouping together several tasks. Fields include: Project Name, Description, Project Leader (link to Employees table), Target completion date, Expected completion date (roll-up using the latest deadline date from the tasks assigned to this project), Project delay (formula with Expected completion minus Target completion).
- Tasks – Capturing the single activities or “to-do” for each person under a specific project. Fields used are: Name, Description, Project (link to the project table), Responsible (link to Employees table), Status, Updates (capturing the latest information on the task), Deadline, Marketing Channel (optional, used for the marketing calendar), Link (for web references) and Attachments (to include files).
What can I do with this task manager?
You can do surprisingly many things with this, admittedly simple, template.
First of all you can have a global dashboard to see what are the current tasks and projects your teams is working on.
Each project leader can see all the activities related to a project of his/her responsibility and see if a task is on hold due to some problem.
Obviously, each person will also have a personal kanban board with his/her tasks regardless of the project they belong to.
For specific projects you can also have different views tailored to the specific needs. Below a calendar and a timeline view of the Marketing Calendar.
Moreover, through the automations, it’s possible to add basic but useful features that make the use of this task manager even easier, like:
- Schedule email reminders for each task responsible 1 week before a task deadline and also when a deadline is reached
- Email notifications to a project leader when a task is delayed or is on-hold for some issues
- Weekly projects digests to all the project members with current tasks, issues and deadlines for next week
We believe that to coordinate a growing team a company needs a simple but reliable place where projects and tasks are defined. People should know what everybody is working on without endless meetings or annoying emails.
With Airtable as a task manager you can align and focus your team, have the big picture of how the project execution is going and improve visibility.
Reach out if you want to know more on how to manage the company tasks in Airtable to simplify and automate your company operations!