While being creative is very much an individual characteristic, many of us find that we flourish in our creativity by collaborating with others. It’s an effective way to spark ideas and build on the thoughts and concepts from team members.
In the age of the internet – where team members are working in different locations or even different countries – collaboration has been many times displaced from the office and taken online. There are literally a plethora of tools that help groups track projects, share files, and communicate and give input the task at hand without having to be – heaven forbid! – in the same room.
So what are some of the more popular resources? Here are five that I’ve either tried or have heard feedback from colleagues or industry channels. If you abhor spreadsheets or traditional office project management tools, one of these might be for you. Let’s take a look.
Slack’s popularity has really grown in recent years. Think of AOL Instant Messenger or the Microsoft Messenger tool… that’s basically Slack, only a lot more robust.
Slack helps workplace teams communicate and collaborate among multiple devices and platforms. It has features that allow users to chat individually or in groups. It’s a perfect way to manage the progress of a project by uploading and files, creating tags for better tracking, and integrating other apps (Skype, for example) to increase collaboration among internal and external users.
I’ve tried Slack and found its features to be extremely valuable. However, I was trying to use it mostly on an individual basis to manage my projects, and it’s much more useful as a team resource.
Asana is a web-based tool, meaning you use it in a browser. However, there is a mobile version that lets you enjoy the same functions as long as you’re connected to the internet. Asana is a task-management tool in which you can create tasks, assign them to specific team members, establish a deadline, and track progress. Tasks can have subtasks, attached files, discussions, tags, and followers.
I use Asana in my department, and it’s very useful in keeping track of projects and their status. In addition, you can get email alerts whenever a team member updates a task or subtask. Like anything, the tool is most effective when it’s used regularly – in other words, everyone is using it as the primary project tracking system. So make sure your team is on board with using it as their primary project management resource.
Dropbox is like having an online hard drive. It’s is an easy, cloud-based way to store and share photos, documents, spreadsheets… pretty much any electronic file. A mobile version is available so you can view files when not at your computer. In addition, you can share files and folders with colleagues, allow them to change the file, and let them make comments in a designated field.
You can either open Dropbox in a window as you would any other drive on your computer or upload files on the web. Files are transferred by automatically synchronizing them over an encrypted Internet connection.
I use and love Dropbox. Like I said, it’s exactly like having another hard drive. I’ve used back-up tools such as Carbonite, but the problem with these tools is that it only backs up, but does not store. So if you delete the file on your computer, Carbonite will no longer back it up (maybe they’ve changed it since I last used it, but that was my experience). Dropbox stores your files until you delete them.
Another project management system, Basecamp lets users store all projects in one place. It keeps projects organized so managers can see the status of each project at the same time, no matter how many. The progress timeline shows everything that’s happened in all your projects day by day.
Basecamp helps you collobaorate with team members by creating to-do lists, designating who needs to do each task, establishing deadlines. In addition, users can track progress by checking off to-do tasks as they’re completed. Team members can start discussions or add comments, keeping everyone in the loop.
You can also forward emails into Basecamp to keep every communication related to the project in the same place. You don’t even have to be in Basecamp to work on project. You can send email to a special inbox to to add things like to-dos, discussions, comments, and electronic files. The tool can store these files with their projects and keep them organized so they can be found easily and quickly. A summary page gives the manager an overview of the project and lets him/her track the progress.
I’ve never used Basecamp but have read positive reviews and recommendations from colleagues. So if you need a project management tool, Basecamp appears to be a great option.
Social media is where people today gather communicate; Yammer addresses this trend. Yammer is your organization’s private social network that helps you and your teams start conversations, collaborate on files, and organize around projects. In addition, Yammer creates a searchable database of conversations from which anyone in the company can benefit, not just those who were a part of the original discussion. Users can also create polls, post events and post questions. If a question has already been asked, the system will recognize this and immediately direct the user to the answer.
Yammer’s a tool I have not used, and the reports I get from colleagues are mixed. However, the trouble seems to be with the buy-in rather than the functionality. So before you invest in Yammer, make sure you have a culture in which it will be used.
Have you used any of these? What are your thoughts on them and how they help you collaborate with team members? Are there any other tools you have found work better than these? Let us know in the Comment section below.
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