Should you be friends with your coworkers?

My previous blog post  covered the increasing use of Agile development methods in mainstream and large scale projects.  Another trend that L. Leroy Ward of ESI International listed in his recent article on the top 10 trends in Project Management for 2012 is Collaboration.

In this post, I’ll discuss the use of collaboration software as an integral tool for project teams.   Project success depends on timely communication within the project team and sharing of information to get tasks completed.  The ability for teams to easily share information and interact with each other quickly and effortlessly can positively impact project results.

A crucial technology that makes this possible is cloud computing which provides a platform to bring together collaboration tools and a centralized data repository to manage projects.  This technology along with social acceptance of sharing information online has given rise to numerous applications that integrate social and functional aspects into a single tool. Project Management tool vendors have noticed this shift and have created applications that integrate cloud and social networking to provide teams with a powerful set of tools.   Products such as Teambox, ProjecTruf, Teamwork PM, BaseCamp, Huddle and numerous other web-based project management tools are being adopted and used by project teams worldwide.

I work for a large multi-national technology company with global development teams across at least 3-4 different time-zones that work together on various projects.  For years, we have used internally developed communication tools which were not integrated with our project management tool; however, we are now in the process of selecting an integrated web-based tool that will combine project tracking and reporting capabilities of project management along with collaboration tools.   I see a lot of positives in using a tool that seamlessly integrates collaboration with project management. For one, the global nature of our teams and business lends itself to the use of such tools.  Second, the ability to easily access key documents anywhere anytime is essential in an increasingly mobile workplace.  I see this trend being widely adopted by the business community.

Have you used any web-based project management tools?  What are your experiences in using them on small and/or large projects?


7 thoughts on “Should you be friends with your coworkers?

  1. I personally have never used any of the web-based project management tools listed in the post; however, I do use Dropbox for coworker file-sharing, and it is extremely useful. I’m not sure I can even imagine having to mail or e-mail large amounts of hard copy documents to one another whether a project was large or small. Not using some sort of web-based file-sharing seems archaic at this point.

  2. I agree with Scott- I’ve recently started a “side-project” (non-work-related) with several friends in the UK and Germany. Due to the time difference, sharing ideas can be difficult, but we’ve been using Dropbox to great success. The amount of material makes it so that sending via e-mail is near-impossible, and no changes go unnoticed, especially for those of us who are working closely with the documents.

    But to see the work coming alive with the feedback is amazing, to say the least. Feedback, ideas in words and rough sketches comes back to me with comments and/or concrete graphic work from multiple viewers/workers. Our initial work was via e-mail: sending messages and waiting for replies, with possibly just a reply and no real movement forward.

    If the application is simple enough to integrate (aka, intergrate, or just be non-invasive/disruptive), then there’s no real good reason NOT to implement them, especially if you’re taking a step-up. The level of improvement differs from company to company, but I can definitely attest to the efficiency of web-based/cloud-based work in a global setting and do see this becoming a best practice in the near future.

  3. I’ve used basecamp for several years with virtual teams. I think it’s fine, but will definitely research some of the other sites mentioned in the article.

    As far as Cloud computing, I think the possibilites for collaboration are enormous. I recently attended a Google event on their enterprise solutions, and some of the solutions they had were impressive. They had a panel from startup and large companies discussing their use of the products with much success.

  4. I have never used any but I have read about them and would like to explore them in the near future.

  5. I have used Basecamp in professional and academic settings with much success. The limitations I have found are coworkers or group members that are reluctant to use the tools and insist on the ‘old school’ way of emailing and ‘cc-ing everyone in the group on the email. I think Asif is right about how essential group communication platforms and cloud computing is to group work right now; especially with international projects or team members who work remotely. Logistically, digital platforms facilitating team work is ideal; however, solely using telecommunication in a project can be disruptive to teamwork and possibly productivity. I have always found it easier to put a face and a personality to the people I am working with, and I am sure other people agree. Group telecommunication platforms are streamlining team projects, but I doubt they will ever fully replace face to face team meetings, planning sessions, etc.

  6. My team at work was seeking a cloud based project collaboration tool in order to reduce email volume and imporve project communication. We chose Basecamp and have been testing it for the last few weeks.

    It has been interesting to see how the tool is used. We quickly learned that the tool is only as good as the people using it. Those who are organized and diligent about using it find it useful, but others who still fall back on using email instead in turn ruin the experience of using Basecamp effectively. Just like any other tool, it is a discipline. If people don’t use it habitually, it will not be of benefit.

    Overall, I do think that teams in the work place are moving towards this type of communication. For companies that are not in project management as their main line of business, they are taking small steps to using something like a cloud platform. What used to be just ftp sharing sites, are now sharing sites with collaboration capabilities.

  7. I’ve been looking for a good project management coordination tool for some time now to use on international projects with China and Australia. We’ve tried Sharepoint with limited success and found as others have that it only works if people use it. In all fairness though, we didn’t implement the Sharepoint site at project launch, so the communication paths outside of the software had already been established.

    What has been helpful are sharing network drives between companies. To eliminate the delays that come with opening a file from an overseas network though, we run a program called ‘AllwaySync’ first thing in the morning. This program synchronizes our network drive with our sister company’s network drive so any changes made there are seen at the beginning of our business day.

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