Like Diogenes looking for an honest man, I keep searching for organizational tools.
Some exciting ones are in the offing, but one deserves a revisit: PlanPlus Online
(www.planplusonline.com), which is the digital embodiment of the Franklin Planner
made famous a number of years back, now supports mobile devices, and quite nicely.
The Franklin Planner, now published by Franklin Covey Corp., is one of those things
you either "get" or you don't. In its paper-based version, the planner will present
you with space to map out and record your day: appointments, to-do items, expenses,
notes, and so on. By encouraging you to prioritize your "daily task list," based on
your own values and goals, the idea is to organize your work into ways that advance
your life, not just your list-completion skills.
Many large companies -- Sprint and DuPont are two names that come to mind -- adopted
the paper planner in the 1990s, and the volumes remain somewhat popular today. But
so much is shifting to digital formats, and the FranklinCovey folks have moved right
along with that, just in case you're not into dead trees all that much.
Online, from a desktop computer using a standard Web browser, your screen layout is
similar to the printed planner page. There's a place for everything to be
inserted; the key difference being that, since we're talking keyboards here, you
can probably read what you've written more easily.
On a handheld device (my choice was the Apple iPhone 3G) the format is tailored for
the smaller screen. You don't lose much in the way of functionality here, and
it's nice to have the convenience of entering items while on the go.
Two nice differences are worth noting. Now, you can set up PlanPlus Online to text
message and/or e-mail your daily task list and appointments every day at a pre-set
time. Mine is at 7 a.m. The cost is built into the monthly service fee of $25, and
it's a nice option, a digital kick-in-the-pants if you will.
The other feature of PlanPlus Online works better, I believe with a desktop or
portable computer - not a handheld - and some training. You can customize the
back-end of the system to track and monitor just about any business process you
might have. Since the company that developed PlanPlus Online with Franklin Covey is
into the "CRM," or customer relationship management, space, there's an
emphasis on sales processes. You can use these to track prospects, assign them to a
team, make sure everyone is doing their part.
But what if your business isn't straight commercial sales, but rather a service or
"influencing" business such as public relations or lobbying, let's say. Those
are two occupations with plenty of followers in this area, and it would be nice,
I'm guessing, to have a way to organize all this.
That's where the customization comes in: with a little training, you can turn that
sales form into a lobbying contact tracking system. The data can be exported to a
spreadsheet or database for tracking. Records can contain attachments including
Microsoft Word documents, photos and other files.
Suddenly, we're not just looking at a time-tracker. Instead, PlanPlus Online is a
task manager-cum-content management system, one that could probably work very nicely
in a small enterprise. (Multinational firms probably have their own systems in place
already.) And, the price seems right.
There really is a sweet spot here: software as a service, or SaaS, with that
extra soupcon of customization that brings great value to the end user. In a demo,
the process worked flawlessly, and even a non-programmer such as your columnist
could get the hang of it with a day or two of instruction.
I'll confess to a 16-year love affair with what is now the FranklinCovey system.
This new iteration extends the franchise and might well snag your interest.