How to Use Collaboration Software
“What does the Bangalore team think about that?” Nowadays it’s really common for your project team to stretch across several locations and possibly even several countries. Keeping everyone up to date and also clear about the project vision and project status is a full time job. Wait. That’s your job – that’s what a project manager is supposed to do. But alongside everything else that you have to do, constantly communicating to team members who aren’t in the same office as you can be a huge overhead.
One way to get round this – or at least to make it a bit easier – is to use the collaboration features of your online project management software. We collaborate naturally with people who work close to us. Human beings are social animals, after all, and we like nothing more than a good chat by the water cooler. What if you could move all that sociability and sharing online, where everyone could see it and take part, regardless of where they were based? Well, collaboration software allows you to do exactly that.
Here are 6 ways that you can use collaboration software with your project team.
1. Send Messages to Your Colleagues
Ever wanted to talk privately to someone during a meeting? Or have something to add to the discussion, but you are in front of clients and can’t talk openly? Instant messaging is a great way to send short messages to your colleagues in private. The message appears instantly on their screen and the software allows them to respond to you via their computer. No need to talk – no need for anyone to know that you have even exchanged information, which is great if you are in a meeting with clients.
Instant messaging can also work across time zones and countries. Your collaboration software will show you who is online at any given time and if the person you want to speak to is available, you can message them. This can be better than picking up the phone, especially if the person you are talking to does not have English as their first language. Sometimes reading a message and composing a reply in your own time is easier than trying to hold a conversation over the phone where you have less time to think.
2. Start Discussions
Your collaboration software will give you the opportunity to start discussions. These work in a similar way to messages but they are available for a group to see. They are not real time either, so you can get input from people over the course of several days, meaning everyone can contribute even if they aren’t working the same hours as you.
A discussion could be about any part of your project. The software will save the discussion so that you can refer back to it in the future. This can be handy for audits, or simply just to remind yourself what the group talked about and what the final decision was.
3. Share Documents
Sharing documents through your collaboration tool can be a great advantage if you are working with third parties who do not have access to your company’s network. Instead, grant them access to your collaboration software and they will be able to see the latest copy of any document that you are sharing. This cuts down on the amount of email traffic and the number of documents stored (or lost) in in boxes.Get your project team into the habit of uploading their documents to the collaboration tools so that you can all see the latest version at any time.
4. Share Your Calendar
Want to know where your project team is? Set up a shared calendar. You can use it to keep track of who is on holiday when, team meetings and major project milestones. You could also use it for other housekeeping tasks like making a note of when your team room is booked out for meetings or who is using the projector that day. You can share global or resource level calendars and color code key dates. In fact, your calendar can become an extension of your project schedule and a really useful resource for the whole team. Sharing your calendar also prompts people to be transparent about where they are and what they are doing – it can dramatically help to improve trust and openness on the project.
Collaboration software allows you to add notes and comments to pretty much any of your project’s activities. You can comment on a task, attach a useful document to a risk, or add a note to reflect the latest status of an activity. Think of it as a bit like blogging, or like using a tool like Twitter. A quick note added to an item on the project schedule can let you, as the project manager, know exactly what is happening or where you need to intervene. It can save you a lot of time ringing round all your project team members to get status updates – although you have to encourage your team to make use of this collaboration feature for it to be effective! The software will save all these updates so that you can see the complete chain of discussion relating to that part of the project at any time.
5. Allocate Tasks to Each Other
All projects are made up of tasks, and it can be difficult to keep track of who is doing what. You can allocate tasks to each other (or to yourself if you are maintaining your own personal to do list). Each time you open up the collaboration software, you will be able to see the tasks in your own queue. If the permissions allow, you’ll also be able to see the tasks in other people’s queues, which can be really helpful if you are trying to keep an eye on what is going on elsewhere on the project.
The software will show you which tasks are due to complete in the next few days and anything that is overdue. This is a much better system than everyone trying to work out their own priorities and getting potentially distracted away from the important tasks. Every time you need to know the relevant milestones for one of your tasks, they will be right there in front of you so that you can prioritize effectively.
Collaboration software can make a huge difference to how you manage a project and how effective you are at working with other people on your project team. Why not look into the features that your software has and start putting them to work for you?
You can use the collaboration features of ProjectManager.com to try out comments, task allocation, discussions and calendar sharing. Try it for yourself and see how much of a difference it makes to your project. Start your free trial today.