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Manual project task/activity capture from emails, conversations and meeting notes
Hello all,

Many of us are using software for task and project management. Yet, there are many project tasks and activities that are discussed and communicated over email, in conversations (chats, messaging apps) and/or captured in meeting notes after project meetings.

Wondering if you are facing with the same issue in your project work, and organization, how big of an issue it is for you, and how do you deal with it? Do you end up manually capturing and entering these tasks and activities in project and task management applications?

Appreciate sharing your experience, and best practices to deal with this issue.
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Depends if the work relates to existing work items (e.g. work packages, user stories). If so, then documentation might only be done if it adds value to the team.

On the other hand, if the activities are "net new", then they really should be reflected somewhere in a work management system, whether that is a task list, schedule, or product backlog to avoid having a "hidden factory".

Kiron
One of the problems with so many ways we can communicate these days, and everyone having their own preferences, is that it makes so many places to lose information.

One of the things I suggest is to agree on your way of working (WoW) with the team including your modes of communication. Some modes are good for one-on-one and if it works use it. Others are better when information needs to be shared with the broader team. If you just dump information in a sharepoint, chances are most people aren't checking it for something that impacts them.

When I'm having a conversation on the phone, IM, SMS, or whatever, if there is something significant I need to share, then I ask the person to summarize it in an email so I capture it correctly and then distribute it to the affected parties. For important meetings, I publish meeting minutes. That's actually empowering as a PM since you get to characterize the discussion in a formal manner. If it is something that materially changes artifacts in the project plan, then there might be a required change process, or yes I might have to go manually adjust the plan since I'm the gate-keeper and everyone tweaking the formal plan themselves leads to chaos.

I also keep a running list of minor actions that don't get added to the formal project plan. There can be a lot of overhead in updating official documents, so we work the minor stuff outside the formal plan that supports the tracked deliverables.

In the good old days before laptops, it was as simple as carrying a notebook with me everywhere. I'd take notes during all meetings, flag actions with a *, and add those to a consolidated page of actions with a colored sticky note to find the page quickly. Every morning I reviewed the actions for what I need to work today. Every evening I review the notes for all the actions that get added to the list. Now I use software for that, but the principles still apply.
Thanks Kiron, Abolfalz and Keith. All great points.

Keith, the discipline of creating and managing these action lists and reviewing them regularly is a great practice. What software you are using now?

What I am seeing in action plan definition and documentation over emails and in communication. I was wondering if there are AI and language understanding tools for understanding action/task plans in textual sources which could help create these action lists, and managing them. It may be far off but would AI assistant be helpful in project management software where usually a team uses conversational tools to manage the project over it's lifespan.

Thank you.
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1 reply by Keith Novak
Jul 29, 2022 4:18 PM
Keith Novak
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Currently I'm experimenting with MS To Do, since it's free. Google Tasks is another free option but it does have some issues like reorganizing tasks. There are better paid options I've looked into like Todoist, but I haven't tried it.

Asana is another popular option. It is generally more powerful than I need for just my own action item list and have other tools for other functions, but there is a free version that I have considered exploring.
If you mean tasks of a project, it's recommendable to organize them in adequate software, according to the project approach. For example, agile tasks can be arranged in Trello, and do a communication interface with the Software Microsoft Power BI, to configure the information and display it on Project Management boards, allowing taking the best decisions.
Jul 29, 2022 2:38 PM
Replying to H Motah
...
Thanks Kiron, Abolfalz and Keith. All great points.

Keith, the discipline of creating and managing these action lists and reviewing them regularly is a great practice. What software you are using now?

What I am seeing in action plan definition and documentation over emails and in communication. I was wondering if there are AI and language understanding tools for understanding action/task plans in textual sources which could help create these action lists, and managing them. It may be far off but would AI assistant be helpful in project management software where usually a team uses conversational tools to manage the project over it's lifespan.

Thank you.
Currently I'm experimenting with MS To Do, since it's free. Google Tasks is another free option but it does have some issues like reorganizing tasks. There are better paid options I've looked into like Todoist, but I haven't tried it.

Asana is another popular option. It is generally more powerful than I need for just my own action item list and have other tools for other functions, but there is a free version that I have considered exploring.
We use MS Teams integrated with Azure DevOps to capture them. And in addition we created an RPA to read from emails. You have free tools inside the Microsoft suite to do that and it could be done in the framework today some calling "citizen programing". In the last case it could be good to define and agree an email template first.
Thank you, Veronica, Sergio and Keith. MS tools are good for documentation and work capture, though it seems this area has not seen much automation. In particular, as Sergio said, there is still a need to agree on email templates or some other note-capturing formats, or manual work.
Often the conversations among teams and/or customers happen in collaboration tools (emails, chats, sms or documentation of the meeting notes) where work are defined in more free-flow natural language, often as project team collaborates during the steps of the project or a case.

I was wondering about AI assistants where these notes are read automatically by AI and candidate tasks captured and linked to or added to the project as tasks in software.

I do not know if I am talking about special cases here, or if more practitioners see this in their project work or in general in the context of getting work done?

Thank you.
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2 replies by Nicole DLuca and Sergio Luis Conte
Aug 05, 2022 5:48 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
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We use AI too. But AI component has to be trained to read something. And when something format change then AI component has to be trained again.
Sep 06, 2022 11:46 AM
Nicole DLuca
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I may be way off track here but I believe what you are looking for is AI software that uses machine learning algorithms to perform a qualitative analysis of meeting notes, emails, and other documents providing a "knowledge map" or "idea map". I've been working on some algorithms that work pretty well but I am not an expert or anything I just have a passion for ML.

Check out the tools from MAXQDA, their products can integrate easily.
I find it is simple enough in most tools such as JIRA to create new work items that the "training" activity for an AI tool of teaching it the context under which a work item should be created might not provide sufficient value. What would be helpful is if such collaboration tools could prompt a team member when they feel a given task is being described - "it looks like you are defining an action - would you like me to create it in XYZ?".

Kiron
Aug 03, 2022 7:25 PM
Replying to H Motah
...
Thank you, Veronica, Sergio and Keith. MS tools are good for documentation and work capture, though it seems this area has not seen much automation. In particular, as Sergio said, there is still a need to agree on email templates or some other note-capturing formats, or manual work.
Often the conversations among teams and/or customers happen in collaboration tools (emails, chats, sms or documentation of the meeting notes) where work are defined in more free-flow natural language, often as project team collaborates during the steps of the project or a case.

I was wondering about AI assistants where these notes are read automatically by AI and candidate tasks captured and linked to or added to the project as tasks in software.

I do not know if I am talking about special cases here, or if more practitioners see this in their project work or in general in the context of getting work done?

Thank you.
We use AI too. But AI component has to be trained to read something. And when something format change then AI component has to be trained again.
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