Conducting a Symphony: Group Collaboration Tools

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No one can whistle a symphony.  It takes a whole orchestra to play it. ~H.E. Luccock

I recently had the pleasure of working on a collaborative project with some very talented, creative, and highly motivated people. When individuals successfully come together as a team to bring a project to fruition, the symmetry that ensues is akin to a beautifully orchestrated symphony. There is nothing more rewarding than a task completed from bringing people of diverse backgrounds, skill sets, and work styles together.

Once you have been part of a successful collaboration you start to wonder why it isn’t done more often, why every project isn’t completed en masse. I am sure that many of you have been part of a successful group endeavor and probably twice as many unsuccessful team projects. So what makes a collaboration successful?

Even in a team there needs to be a conductor, someone who sets the pace, gives direction and makes adjustments when needed. A group project should have defined goals with recognizable milestones. There should be someone who evaluates the team members and places them in functions that works towards their strengths and compensates for any weaknesses. A successful collaboration needs organization, guidance, and leadership.

Having been part of a team and a team leader I know that a major component of whether a group project will be successful is contingent on the tools you employ to get the team organized and the job completed. In the past, a meeting place, pen and paper, a whiteboard if you were lucky were enough to get a group organized. Today the tools have morphed into computers, smart phones, and the. Now you do not even need a meeting place. With the advent of technology you can bring a group together from all over the globe, and if your Nasa beyond.

With the addition of technology there is no limit to what can be accomplished when talented individuals come together.  But for the conductor the challenge now becomes what tools to use to guide the collaboration. There are so many choices and though more choices should be good, sometimes it isn’t.

I have worked on projects where the technology to keep the group organized was more challenging and distracting than the undertaking itself. One issue is using too many disjointed tools, the old adage “keep it simple” can and does apply to your tech tools.

Here are just a few of the many choices available for group collaboration:

Yelp

Openoffice.org

Google Apps

37Signals

Mashables list of 60+ Collaborative Tools for Groups

Tech Magazine’s 30+ Social and Business Collaboration Tools

The list above highlights just a few of the online collaboration tools available, there are even more offline choices, as well as sources to combine offline and online applications. I personally like to use tools that bring everything together in one easy to navigate, data collecting, feature rich, fully integrated, geek loving place. I am sure that is your wish also! And though it is not always possible to get your cake and eat it too, in the area of group collaboration tools it actually may be possible to get everything you want in one place.

Here are two web based tools that I think could do the job nicely.

Teamr

teamr1

I wrote about Teamr in a previous post about creating a social network and since that post, like the innovative company they are, they have added some wonderful features. Teamr is a free service, with paid premium functions, that provides a user-friendly, effective way for teams, groups, and organizations to coordinate their efforts. On Teamr you get your own website, calendaring, project management tools with a gantt chart, forum functions, email tracking (with a selection of templates in a premium account), media and document sharing, payment processing, and even a store. The only thing they are missing at this time is social media integration and mobile applications, I wouldn’t be surprised if they add these functions down the road. Teamr has created a one stop shop for organizations, groups, clubs, and teams that need a tool that can handle ongoing activities, communication within and outside of the team, and the ability to monetize their efforts.

Producteev

producteev1

Producteev is a new web based collaboration tool (still in Beta) that takes project management and social media and combines them into one easy to use tool.  Producteev has the project management task features, a feed feature similar to Yelp to communicate within the team or to use to send private messages to members. With this feed like Yelp you can attach documents to your updates, but unlike Yelp Producteev syncs your attached document with your previously uploaded files under your files tab. Producteev has really hit a home run with their third party services integration, where you can link your IM, email, mobile, Twitter, etc to your project and relevant tasks. You do not have to leave Producteev to communicate on other channels and you can link the conversations back into your assigned task boxes. Lastly they have mobile applications, currently iPhone, Adobe Air (Desktop), Windows Mobile, and Nokia S60….Blackberry coming soon. The only feature I see that they are missing is reporting, graphs, and gantt charts. Working online is wonderful but sometimes you want to take all the data from your project and put it into a report to be shared offline. Since they are still in Beta, perhaps this is something that will be added soon.

What tools do you use to bring your collaborative projects together?

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About Author

Bridget is President of The Get Smart Web Consulting Group, a web presence and digital strategy firm with offices in San Diego County California and Collier County Florida. But more importantly she is a web, tech, and Twitter addict!