Our agency sees a deep level of collaboration because of our involvement in the Joomla community. Joomla is a worldwide open source project with many people from all different parts of the world working together to help advance the project. However, collaboration isn't limited to worldwide organizations. Many businesses, including ours, leverage these tools for collaboration within our own office walls.
Here are some great tools to use to help improve your communication and collaboration efforts:
ActiveCollab is a robust project management system which allows teams from all around the world to actively collaborate and track progress of a project. Additionally, you can create client accounts to access the project in order to track progress and see what is currently being worked on.
One of the benefits of ActiveCollab is they have hundreds of extensions you can install to help tailor the function to your specific needs. Additionally, because it is a hosted solution, they allow you to access the code to make any changes and modifications you'd like. Lastly, they have a full open API which allows you to easily integrate it into other systems.
There's a good chance you have heard of Skype, however, there's an equally good chance that you aren't using Skype to its full potential. Skype is an amazing way to keep a constant line of communication open with anyone you are collaborating with.
If you are working on a group on a project, you can create group chats that allow you to organize and communicate as a team. This allows for great open discussion forum and delegation of tasks to different team members. Additionally, Skype allows for screen sharing so you can visually walk through your computer and receive audio feedback from others you're connected with.
From communicating with clients, to other team members, Skype offers a great solution for real-time communication to keep everyone on the same page and the project moving forward. There is even a great phone app that allows you to continue participating in the conversation when on the go.
I've fallen in love with Google drive (formally Google Docs) for its collaboration and cloud hosted features. For those not familiar, Google Drive is a full feature office document solution complete with additional file storage options.
You can create a document and share it with a team. Once shared, all members can go in and either view or edit (depending on settings) the document. You can see user changes in real time, chat in a chat window and make ongoing comments in the margins.
I've had teams of 40-50 people working on one document all together which allowed us to create a complete 10 page document in less than a few hours. Talk about power.
Google Drive is not limited to just word processing, they also have presentations, spreadsheets, forms or drawings.
One newer feature of Google Drive (vs the old Google Docs) is the ability to upload, store and share files. So if you have a PSD, PDF, PHP, etc. file that you'd like to store on a cloud and share, Google Drive now gives you 5GB free storage on their cloud. We used to use Dropbox a lot for this service and I would have listed them in this article, however, recently we have shifted this all to Google Drive to keep everything centrally located.
There will be times when you will want to have a screen sharing conference with either other team members or clients. If they have Skype, this would be an option to use, however, many people do not have Skype and to ask a client to create an account for a meeting is a bit overwhelming.
Instead we use a screen sharing service called Join.me. With Join.me, you are given a special URL and access code that you can email your clients. When they visit the URL and login, you will be able to share your screen with them and they can even take control of your computer to navigate and manage your screen.
We use to also leverage Team Viewer a lot which is another screen sharing option, however, we have slowly migrated exclusively to Join.me for its ease of use when working with clients.
These are the major programs and tools that we leverage each and every day for collaboration between team members both within our office and outside our office. Of course there are many others and the correct ones will really depend on your organizational structure and who you are working with.
One of my favorite reasons for using these tools is they are all cloud hosted so I am able to access them anywhere at any time. I've hand many times when I've either been on the road or working from home and I can continue to work on projects without missing a beat. Additionally, most of these tools have mobile apps to give you access while not on a computer.
If you have other collaboration tools you really like, please post them in the comments. We'd be excited to learn about them.