Monday, May 16, 2005

The Next Big Thing

The Next Big Thing on the internet will be (is) personal project and productivity management. It will span from individual level productivity, to light-weight project management, although the projects themselves can get quite large. The key elements to the system are:
- Standardized workflow procedures
- Internet enabled synchronization
- New tools, both online and offline
- Common vocabulary

The core to the work flow itself is basically what's is outlined in Mark Hurst's Good Easy or David Allen's Getting Things Done. Concerns become projects, projects are broken down into tasks, tasks are distributed to where they will reveal themselves to you at the most appropriate moment.

Synchronization will tie up things like address books, to-do lists, reminders etc. between multiple computers and multiple users. Mac OS X new Tiger features, combined with a .Mac account, demonstrate how this sharing and synchronizing is is being implemented. Since one key to the GTD system is centralizing tasks, it's important that I can update my calendar from anywhere.

New online tools to facilitate this are encapsulated in the wonderful 37Signals web-applications Basecamp, Backpack, and Ta-da list. Simple, light-weight, easy to integrate in GTD. (That's Getting Things Done -- see above).

43Folders is a GTD fanatic, and sites like this will form a common vocabulary that will be useful and so will spread. I don't now if everyone will one day know what "tickler file", "GTD", "Hipster PDA" will mean, but I do think that people will mail things to themselves in the future, have names for systems of project management, and will migrate to-do lists off PDAs and onto paper (and formalize the paper systems so they integrate better with new, electronic tools).

But hey -- we all hate project management, right? And it doesn't work, so why should this time be different? This is why:
1) Old bloated project management was hard to use and complex. Look at MSFT Project. Look at whatever Canadian PM company IBM bought (terrible tool!) This made people not want to use it. New project management is light, and light PM can deliver 90% of the benefits of complex PM with 1% of the effort.
2) PM is useful. Lowering the cost increases the net value so expect it to spread.
3) Blogging counts as a Next Big Thing, although in any reasonable sense it remains totally marginal. Yes yes yes, newspaper people read it, but who reads newspapers anymore?
4) We have to do something to claw some productivity back from spending all our time reading (and writing) blogs.


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