Categories: collaboration tools
I recently did a webinar for the ProjectManagement.com community about my book, Collaboration Tools for Project Managers. It was the closing part of the April book club, and I spent some time answering people’s questions about collaboration tools. BUT… there were so many questions that I didn’t have the chance to get through them all during the session.
So, below I answer a few more of your questions. And if you’d rather watch the webinar and see what was discussed, you can do that here.
On with the questions…
We're seeing a lot of video on social media, is there a place for video in project management communications?
Absolutely. The rise of video has a lot to do with attention spans and people’s preferences for taking in information, and project managers can learn from that. We are – at least my generation is – almost programmed towards long reports and wordy documents. Even if you try to cut things down to an exec summary, it’s still words.
I’m sure people can think of other uses for video, why not share them in the comments section below?
Video, and other visual forms of communication, help you get to the crux of the message, the real heart of the issue, because they force you to communicate quickly.
I think there’s plenty of opportunity for project managers to use video. For example, training – you can use screen captures to show software, and that works for showing off prototypes or wireframes of websites too, for example. You can use video for spreading the vision or setting the objectives of the project when the team is split all over the place. I’ve even recorded a video intro to a meeting I couldn’t take part in, so that I knew that I had set the tone appropriately. I’m not sure if my colleagues felt that was a gimmick but it made me feel like I had done my absolute best!
Quick how to videos for your colleagues if you are supporting people learning new things, using video to allocate tasks, with a quick overview of what the task is. That’s not the same as being next to the person, but it is better than pressing ‘allocate task’ on a software tool and the task being received with very little context.
What's the easiest type of tool to start with if we don't currently have any collaboration tools in place?
There are two types of tool I’d suggest, if you don’t have a very mature technology environment.
Wikis are the first. They aren’t much in fashion at the moment but I still think that wikis are good tools to use and very easy to get started with. I’ve used them for business change purposes, tracking and responding to FAQ, to create a user guide. In that situation, we hosted it internally but used WordPress, which is a free content management and blogging tool, so it was a very low cost way of creating a dedicated project knowledge online presence.
On a different project I used a wiki as a way to store operational information about a particular site. On that project, we were working on a software implementation across over 30 locations, so keeping all that data straight in your head was hard work. Having a single place to record the unique features of each location and their deployment was really good.
Second, I would say an online chat tool. Something like Slack or Yammer is also very cheap to get started with, you can use it for just a project team or your whole business. If you need a real time chat tool, or want to play with one, then that would be a good place to start. Tools like that don’t do much apart from let you have conversations and share files with each other in real time.
How can we manage the culture change to a new collaboration tool?
This is a huge issue for many teams trying to get something new adopted, but the good news is that as project managers, we are already equipped to deal with the challenges!
It is all about having good business change practices. You want to understand the reason why you are adopting new tools. Then you can create a change management plan, understanding who is going to be affected, how they feel about it and how you are going to support them through the change. It could be training, or you may need to buddy people up. These are the same kind of things you would build into any IT project where there is a business change element and you are changing the way people do their jobs. You are introducing a new tool.
I think we often forget that we are users as well as project managers in this kind of rollout, so my top tip would be to remember to plan any collaboration tool deployment as a project, with all the business change, training and communications that you would do if you were delivering the project into another department.
How can I deal with my colleagues who just want to use the latest product they read about at the weekend?
Ah, shiny object syndrome! We see this a lot, and it’s not the first time someone has asked about it. There is so much choice out there about tools. That can make it hard to feel like you’ve really chosen the best one. The simplest way to address this is to make sure that you have clear user requirements. You need to know what you want to do, and then find tech that works in that way. Just because something has got a great write up at South by Southwest or in the New York Times doesn’t mean it is a great fit for your team. Sticking with requirements will really help you get a solution that works.
Having said that, you need to convince your colleagues that this is for the best! That’s a different conversation, but one you can focus around the cost for the company of constantly switching tools. If they feel there is something better, something that is a good fit for your organisation, then perhaps agree to review project management tools every 18-24 months, for example, so that you can keep fresh, while not exhausting the users with introducing new tools too frequently.
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