Monday, December 28, 2009

These 5 tools can help your team collaboration scale a new high

'Collaboration' seems to be the new buzzword in organisations today. In fact, Andrew McAfee suggest that instead of saying social software we use the term 'collaborative'. So yeah, technology is fast changing the way we collaborate in the enterprise, but how can we use technology to collaborate better in our teams? Of course there's always the question of culture that we need to address first, but once that's done we need tools to facilitate collaboration. Here are a few tools that I find really useful for in team collaboration.

Google Wave

Blame me for jumping on the Wave bandwagon, but really it's a really useful tool. As the creators of Wave would say, email was invented before the internet. If email were invented today, it'd perhaps be similar to Google Wave! The fact is that email is fast becoming really unsuitable for collaborative fast paced discussions. Every email that's gone back and forth more than 5 times and has had people added progressively, starts to become really difficult to comprehend. This is where Wave, with its synchronous communication model fits in. If you're working on a document with someone and simultaneously facilitating a discussion on what the document should contain, use Wave. If you want to have an online planning session, try Wave. Google Wave will soon have a number of Gadgets that'll make collaboration so much more interesting and productive. Take a look at this list of wave gadgets to know what I mean. Most importantly, Google Wave integrates and plays really well with the rest of the Google Applications stack. For $50 a year, you can replace your collaboration suite with that of Google's and get Gmail, Google Documents, Google Sites, Google Videos, Google Groups and Google Calendar for your own domain. To know more about Wave take a look at these 15 features of Google Wave and then refer the complete Wave guide for more information. Don't have a Google Wave account? Email me, and I can send you an invite.


Okay, okay I work for ThoughtWorks. That said, Mingle doesn't need you to be a ThoughtWorker to be a fan. Mingle is a project Management and Collaboration tool. Its a part of our Adaptive Life Cycle Management suite. "Adaptive" is the keyword here. While every other project management tool under the sun, imposes or "prescribes" a structure on you, Mingle allows you as the team to define the structure that works best for you. Mingle's interface mimics the Agile card-wall which fosters collective ownership and real time visibility across the team and all stakeholders. Mingle also has an in built wiki, for in-project documents and information. The latest version of this tool captures your informal conversation using its new functionality called Murmurs. Murmurs integrates with the Jabber IM platform, to centralise and capture all project communication. Add to that Mingle's ability to integrate with 3rd party collaboration tools such as Google Documents, Google Calendar, etc and you have a truly Web 2.0 project collaboration tool. And yeah, it integrates with Google Wave as well! Mingle is free for 5 users for a period of 1 year. So feel free to download and have a play around. If you want to know more about Mingle, attend one of our webinars or contact us for a demo.


Campfire is a web-based group chat tool that lets you set up password-protected chat rooms in just seconds. Campfire goes a step beyond Instant messaging which is super for 1-o-1 chats, but hopeless for large groups. Then again, working with different services is a pain. AOL don't talk MSN, don't talk Google, don't talk Yahoo. Campfire is network-agnostic, so regardless of which network you prefer, you can continue to collaborate with your team using Campfire. So, for distributed teams Campfire provides a great platform for synchronous communication.


While telecommuting is becoming more common each day, organisations still aren't handing out phones with huge calling balances to employees. How do you telecommute without busting the bank with your telephone bills? With better internet connectivity and fast improving tools, VOIP is here to stay. My favourite VOIP tool is Skype. Its free for computer to computer calls and costs very little for computer to phone calls. It allows me not only to call 1-o-1, but also to do conferences and to share my screen with the person on the other side. I look at it as Telephony 2.0. If you've used Skype, you perhaps know what I mean. If you haven't, I strongly recommend that you tie it into your project collaboration stack.


Often, a conference call isn't enough to collaborate effectively. You often need to conduct a meeting with whiteboards, presentations, synchronous communication and what not. Here's where a web-conferencing tool can come in handy. DimDim, in my opinion is the easiest web-conferencing tool for your team, especially since its free for upto 20 people in a room! Take a look at the video above to see how cool DimDim really is and feel free to try it out -- it costs you nothing!
Now this is definitely not an exhaustive list of tools that help collaboration in teams. What tools do you use? I'd love to hear from you, so please post your ideas and suggestions in the comments section. It'll be nice to know how you're using some of these tools, so I can get my hands dirty with them as well! Again, if you want a Google Wave account, email me, or drop a comment for this post and I can send you an invite.


Priyanka D said...

I think people wanting to work from home, would really benefit from online collaboration tools like DeskAway too. Features include contacts, blog feature, assigning task, reporting and analytics of a project and a whole lot more.

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Dave Thomas said...

With the edge we earn from the online tools, what else in the world can't be done? I have heard something about Skype and Mingle already, and they are just too useful, they are also communication tools used in my office.

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