It really wasn’t so long ago (mid 1990s?) that marketing managers had notes typed up by secretaries as memos, then signed and dropped them into the internal post to be delivered the following day. To another part of the same building.
That seems faintly comic from the perspective of today’s laptop, wi-fi and email culture, where documents can be sent at any time to anywhere and everyone works hard to keep up to date with their reading.
And therein lies the problem: emails are just memos with go-faster stripes. They encourage pass-the-parcel decision making and one-way broadcasting of part-finished thinking. Rather than facilitating working together, they atomise people and activity.
It doesn’t need to be like this. Collaborative tools have come of age and it is simple and low-cost to work together in real-time, always staying in sync and enjoying the benefits of iterative improvements.
Here are five of my favourites:
This web-based app seems to be really taking off. It’s a fabulous way to share presentations and continues to add new features. There’s now a plug-in for PowerPoint 2007 and support for Apple’s Keynote files.
- Google Docs
A free service from the Big G that allows groups to edit documents/spreadsheets at their convenience. Revisions are fully trackable, access control is simple (but sophisticated) and there is never any confusion about having the latest version – there is only ever one.
- Skype (for IM)
As well as enabling free conference calls, Skype is an excellent instant messaging client. It’s especially useful for ongoing conversations – for example, members of a project team can keep a chat window open titled “project ideas” for several weeks and contribute only when they have something to say. And the entire discussion can be saved for reference.
Part of the challenge of project management is keeping everyone on the same page. The advent of simple “in the cloud” tools such as Basecamp gives everyone access to the latest status and working documents.
Most large businesses have intranets now, but they tend to be one-way publishing tools. Wikis are now easy to set up (try Zoho or Confluence) and allow ideas to be continuously improved and built upon.