New 21st century teamwork tools
The global economy and the need to work over time zones and continents have led many companies to adopt new techniques of collaboration. New tools of communication are now available for use even if your company is an SME and not a multinational.
Time and costs
A huge impediment to working over long distances or even across town is time and costs. It is simply not time and cost effective for a team of 8 or 10 individuals to fly a couple of thousand kilometres or miles to a central point to meet. Nor is it necessary to spend a couple of hours in dense morning traffic to get to a meeting. In fact, these modern tools can be used internally in the same building. By using new Web-based tools teams need not meet often. And they are able to collaborate better and achieve more, faster.
A workshop or meeting might be essential to kick things off, to establish personal connections and a team feeling. You could do most of the work thereafter in your own office - at you own pace, in your own style and at hours that suit you. What's more, you save time and costs.
Astounding results with fewer meetings
An article in the Harvard Business Review (April 2004) caught my attention. In Can Absence Make a Team Grow Stronger? by Ann Majchrzak, Arvind Malhotra, Jeffrey Stamps, and Jessica Lipnack, the author's findings were summarized thus:
"Far-flung teams can be remarkably productive, even outperforming groups whose members work side by side. But to make these teams succeed, you have to follow new rules about how to manage them."
Collaboration over long or short distances is made possible because of the Internet and telephone conferencing.
Use wikis for projects
The open source software community embraced the idea of collaboration. You undoubtedly have visited Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia. It is expanded daily and its quality and breadth of content is slowly but surely eclipsing the Encyclopaedia Britannica totally.
It is noteworthy that wikis are used by:
- Software project developers of SAP (which develops software solutions for corporates) and Cisco use wikis for their own projects. Boeing and other giants are also doing so.
- Universities and non-profit organisations are among avid users because its free - although some software companies charge very reasonable support service fees.
- More and more companies are discovering the value of wikis.
- ABPLAN uses wikis and other collborative means of collaboration extensively.
What is a wiki?
A wiki is a collaborative interactive website workspace which numerous people can edit together, on which they share files and documents, and collaborate. It is possible to add jpeg files and images/photographs, PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, MP3 files, videos and more.
Knowledge sharing, access control, fewer e-mails
Take note of these additional benefits:
- Fewer e-mails and higher productivity as e-mails get ignored, lost, and buried. Update a discussion or a file on a wiki, and you won't waste time looking for or waiting for e-mails
- Knowledge sharing - Create collaborative pages for your team to share their latest thoughts and keep moving forward
- Access controls - Use simple access controls to determine who sees what and maintain full accountability for every change that's made
- Adaptability to a range of uses including knowledge repository, project/task tracking and as intranet
- Swifter, more widespread and effective communication
ABPLAN's wiki and related products
ABPLAN has its own wiki project template which I adjust to meet the needs of each client and project.
I also use Google Sites which is a gratis product which now includes a Google wiki. It is easier to use than the orginal wiki sites of recent vintage. A Google site is great for developing the content of a new website. I use it for my ABPLAN/client projects. My clients commit to an obligation of providing a weekly report to me. This could be done via our wiki.
Another great collaborative tool is Google Docs which I use to develop any document e.g. such as agreements which will take a number of revision. This is a great product. However, I find obtaining access to a company's documents on Google Docs concering our Built for Results Programme cumbersome. Dropbox presents a simple solution. A client and I simply open a Dropbox for our project and send our folders back and forth. The client would ever so often update its internal Google Docs concerning our projects so that all team members have access to the latest information - and empty the Dropbox every now and then. It works!
You are invited to join in a form of collaboration which suits you, save consulting and internal meeting costs and obtain results sooner.
What it takes to make a collaborative site work
It takes disciplined people with disciplined thoughts to make effective use of a collaborative site or document and to get faster results. You need to:
- be comfortable in typing your thoughts
- participate actively in the conversation
- visit your collaborative site a number of times each week if not daily and participate
- do your part and keep to your commitments as stated on a wiki, work systematically and against agreed deadlines
- provide comments on developments as these are posted on a project wiki
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Last modified: 26-11-2011