by Susan Murphy
One of the things we pride ourselves on here at Jester Creative is our excellent teamwork and collaboration. There are many different aspects to our business: at any given time, we’ve got video editors, web developers, graphic designers, writers and trainers all working on various projects. Our team is not only diverse in their skill sets, they are often geographically diverse too. Lots of our team members work remotely, and we have clients across North America. Good communication and collaboration is essential to getting the job done well.
People often ask how we’re able to manage it all without having everyone working in a central office all the time. We have lots ways that we maintain good communication with our team members and our clients. Here are a few tools we use to keep everything running smoothly.
We’re huge fans of DropBox (affiliate link). DropBox is a file sharing service that lets you share files and folders across computers or with people you specify. All you have to do is install a little piece of free software on your computer (Mac or PC) and it creates a folder just like the folders on your desktop. You can then create sub folders and upload files, and it automatically synchronizes your desktop DropBox with the online version. That means that any computer you have can be synced to the same files.
But wait, there’s more! One of the primary reasons we use DropBox is for sharing files with our clients and our team. If we’ve got videos, web site mockups, or documentation requiring approval, we simply upload the files to one of our DropBox folders and then share the link securely to anyone who needs to see that information. The person on the other end can then download and upload files to their folder easily! Users also get a notification when new files are available, so you don’t even have to send an email after uploading! DropBox makes sharing work with our clients and team super easy. And best of all, it’s free for the basic account (2GB), which is plenty of space for the kinds of files we’re sharing. There are also paid options available for larger storage needs too.
If you spend time on the Internet, and particularly if you have a Gmail account, you may have heard some rumblings about a tool that Google is currently developing called Google Wave. The product is in Beta testing right now, but it’s available to people via invitation (i.e. if you know someone who has a Google Wave account, you can ask them to send you an invite).
Basically, Wave is a free collaboration tool, that allows you to create “waves” of content that you can invite other people to participate in. Think of it as a chat room where you can be having an ongoing discussion, but also share links, images, maps, and other information too. There’s even a polling feature that allows you to get “votes” from your fellow Wavers.
Our Web team uses Google Wave to communicate on projects, and it works great. We can share content back and forth, provide updates, feature requests, and everyone is in the loop all the time. It saves countless emails going back and forth, and its real-time features even let you see when other people are typing their responses.
Wave has a little way to go to work out some of the bugs yet – for instance some of the interface features don’t work well and it’s sometimes a bit slow, but all in all, this tool has great potential for collaboration and sharing with teams and clients.
Skype is one tool we can’t live without. In case you’re not familiar, it’s a tool that allows you to make phone and video calls over the Internet. Although there are paid plans
where you can use Skype to call regular phone lines, we use the free service which is computer-to-computer calling. We have business associates all over the world, and we can use this tool to set up free calls between multiple people in many locations. It also has two-way videoconferencing, which we find incredibly handy for contacting clients or team members when we need to be able to show them things, but don’t have time or a travel budget for an in-person meeting. Skype also has Instant Messaging, for sending quick notes or sharing files quickly.
Face to Face Contact
There are tons of online tools out there that allow people to connect and share information efficiently. These tools certainly allow us to communicate more easily with our team and our clients. But tools only go so far – they are no replacement for face-to-face contact. We make it a point to connect in person with our clients and team members often. Keeping relationships strong is critical to a project’s success. But for those in-between times, the online tools ensure that those connections remain rock solid.