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Keep information in an organized form

Keep information in an organized form

Keep information in an organized form

Dear members,

I am working on a project as the project leader leading other professionals with very specific knowledge must be involved in the development of the product and as the lead mechanical engineer of the project.
As the project leader I am responsible for the good information flow, being up to date in every situation.
Information lands in my inbox, i am making notes on meetings, writing memos, etc.
Unfortunately i spent lot of time to dig out information from my email archives to answer various answers coming from other engineers or managers/product managers/sales people.

who, when and why said something
what is the actual value/tolerance/quantity/cost of something
what was promised by me or others, when, why?
delivery dates
suppliers quotations, which one is the actual
and so on...

Every time i need these info i go back to square one and dig it out from Outlook. It takes a lot of time, have redundancy.

Do you know any methodology/software/document template which can store info mentioned above and can answer questions like the examples?

I await your ideas.

Best regard,

RE: Keep information in an organized form

I have the same question.
I managed a group of 7,8 people and keep track information ok without problems. But now the group is growing to more than 20 and I receive >100 emails a day... How could I handle this to much information...
Please provide me some tips

RE: Keep information in an organized form

Seems to me that there three options:
> You need to be obsessively well-organized, and create a project documentation file that essentially mimics your project WBS, and obsessively file things in their appropriate slots with appropriate keywords or hashtags
> You need to have an obsessively powerful search tool, like the now defunct Google Desktop, that can search and find things, via contents or keywords or hashtags
> You need something in-between, like a 2-level WBS structure and something like dngrep, or Google Desktop, that can search inside files for keywords or hashtags

There's no substitute for discipline; you MUST file things immediately and accurately. Failing to do either results in a haystack from which you will later want to find a particular straw of hay. I've been involved with a couple of projects at work where we attempted to organize years of paper documents by scanning and filing. All such projects eventually fizzled when the participants finally realized what a monumental task it was going to be. The only time the relevancy and categorization of a document or a piece of information is firm and fresh is at the instant of creation. Any latency in filing results in having to read the document and trying to remember or figure out from scratch how to file the document.

Of course, do as I say and not as I do. Nonetheless, I do tend to take advantage of long file and folder names so that I can use something like Everything to find relevant filenames.

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RE: Keep information in an organized form

Thanks a lot IRStuff.
Long ago, I categorized the email. However, in the last 5 years I received many emails a day and categorize them take a lot of time. I move every thing there in "alreadyRead" inbox but then later on I figure out searching information in the big email box is not a easy task...Do you think we should categorize them as much as possible?

RE: Keep information in an organized form

I've moved away from the micro-filing plan I used previously with trying to have sufficient subfolders to file every email based on engineering discipline and technical topic. I realized I was spending most of my day trying to catagorize and file emails. I was spending more time on filing than I was on working the issues.

I would recommend using an action/decision register to track open technical and management issues. I use a simple excel based register and I log updates to unresolved technical and management issues so I have a log of ongoing discussions on the issues as well as a register of the final decision that closes the issue.

RE: Keep information in an organized form

If you are the project manager, part of your job is to keep the information organized. File your emails in a rational manner, then it will be easier to find what you need.

It's also good discipline to make sure the subject line of the email reflects the content, as specifically as practical.

RE: Keep information in an organized form

I've found that sorting emails is not worth the effort. I've used Thunderbird as my email client for many years and find that its search capabilities are much faster than any filing system I could devise. I throw every read email in the Trash. And at the end of every year, create a new Trash can for that year (Trash 2013) and move the 2013 email from Trash into Trash 2013. Works for me.


RE: Keep information in an organized form

I can't help thinking about how a forum, such as the platform that this website utilizes, might be useful in Project Management for a given project:
  • Topics, or project issues, are organized by threads
  • Subfolders can be used to further subdivide and pinpoint discussion topics
  • All topics and discussions are automatically archived, and stored in a central location, instead of being dispersed over the email boxes of multiple individuals
  • Upon logging on, the project team member gets to see which topics have new input (posts)
  • Hyperlinks can be used to reference, and navigate to, other threads or posts
  • RSS is available to receive email notifications of new activity
  • Forum gadgets add useful functionality, such as project-specific calendars, project org charts, contact lists, photos, GANTT Charts, etc.
  • Smart phone platform support keeps the forum accessible anywhere, anytime
  • ... and this list goes on
I don't have experience with any PM software apps, but I certainly find myself having the same basic project problems mentioned here.

RE: Keep information in an organized form


Along those same lines, there are 'enterprise social media' tools like Yammer (the one we have available where I work):


The concept is similar to the forum idea you posted about, but organised a bit differently. I think it's something that would work much better in a startup or small company, rather than a large organization where it just gets lost with the rest of the available systems (like I feel it did in ours).

RE: Keep information in an organized form

We utilized Newforma Project Center to manage e-mails. Some degree of individual responsibility is required to categorize the e-mail to the correct "folder". Newforma also has the ability to share documents and allow documents to be annotated with comments, etc.

However, the key to the success of any of these systems is some human telling the computer where to file the e-mail. Just like the old days with paper, file folders, and file cabinets (you millenias do know what those are don't you?[bigsmile] )

RE: Keep information in an organized form

To be a successful Project Manager - you need to be organized.
Some may agree and others disagree, but when you consider that a PM should (theoretically) control only two (2) activities-Time and Money (Budget and Schedule) it seems like an easy well paying position.

BUT - most companies give you several projects to handle simultaneously - so all you have to do is control the budget and schedule X times. Project Management usually requires you to know EVERYTHING about your project; the current status of every discipline, including engineering % completion, procurement and expediting, every specification for each code or equipment (you may have to give advise on a change of design), etc. - simple easy job, this Project Management stuff.

Project Managers need to be logical thinkers, be able to make quick decisions and have information at their fingertips - (no one can remember everything), especially if you have multiple project to manage.

My recommendation is to get yourself organized, but if developing a filing system is a challenge, you may have to do a few years as a lead engineer before tackling project engineering and then project management.

RE: Keep information in an organized form

Hi Kris,

I'm working as a project manager (i.e. chief engineer) of a complex system, leading a group of 7 people who are themselves team leaders.

One key thing I can suggest is, you would not have to know each detail information regarding your project.

Your team members, as delegated, should know the details. And in some cases, you may not be the correct address to answer some of the questions.

The examples you have given are surprising to me. There are different IT solutions that could help.

1) It shouldn't be the project manager's responsibility to know the history to all decisions and conversations. It's not humanly possible.. you can only know your and your team's decisions, and decisions must be registered in meeting notes or must be taken as action items.

2) Value-tolerance-quantity-cost and other parameters or attributes of Things must be kept in a single or in several linked lists. Lists must be configuration-controlled (to know what changed, when, and to get baselines as project progresses.)

3) "Promised", i take it as commitment promise. So this is basically a task list, or notes of action items. For this, a server side database is the best approach. Sharepoint or Atlassian Jira are some infrastructures for that. Issue and task management will give (at a glance) who is committed to what. And they do not forget :)

4) Delivery dates should either be in an ERP software suite, or some other database.

5) Supplier quoations and their actual ones should be inside some database as well.

Outlook has better search features in the recent years (2010 and further versions)

I've named only a few of the IT solutions, there may be hundreds of more.

Finally, good luck with the challenge.


RE: Keep information in an organized form

Xobni, if you can find it, is a great email search tool for outlook. Tracks things on keywords, or filenames.
Try Asana for workflow management

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