If you've been working as a project manager for some time, you'll probably remember the days when all your project team sat together in the same office. In fact, you may still have that, especially if you work in an Agile environment. There are certainly plenty of benefits of having your team around you.
But for many project managers, that isn't the reality any more. Project teams are increasingly split and project managers have to manage their resources from wherever they are in the world. Add to that an increase in people with flexible working options, the requirement to work from home or from the road and you'll realise that it's essential for project managers to be able to collaborate effectively with their team mates, regardless of location or time zone. So how do you do that? Here are 5 easy ways to collaborate with your colleagues.
1. Share your files online
Online document storage has to be the easiest way to get everyone using the same files and to avoid miscommunication. Don't waste time looking for the latest copy of the project plan or hunting through emails for the most recent version. Store everything online and then the whole team will be able to see the latest revision of your plan.
With everyone being able to see and work on the latest version you'll save time and stop some of the general queries that project managers have to deal with every day. A tool like Seavus Project Viewer, which enables cloud-based online document sharing, will help with this.
2. Use password protection
Many managers are concerned about hosting documents in the cloud and the security risks that this might present. Generally they have nothing to worry about as online document repositories store your files securely. But for an extra level of security, you can always use password protection.
Share the password with your team members and then you can have confidence that only the right people are accessing your sensitive project information.
3. Meet regularly
One of the major collaboration tools is actually not dependent on software at all: it's the humble meeting. You can, of course, use software like instant messaging, Skype or other products to meet virtually online. Or you could just a conference call!
Get your team members together on a regular basis. This will help build trust in the team and ensure that they build effective working relationships with each other as well as with you. Depending on the phase of your project you might find that once a week is too frequent, but you can always put the meetings in the diary and then cancel them if there is nothing to say. That's easier to do than trying to get everyone together at the last minute.
4. Remove the language barrier
If the language of your project is English, project meetings can be tricky for those who don't have English as their first language. While they can probably converse in it perfectly well, meetings tend to involve lots of discussion, people talking over each other, people changing their minds and decisions being made, undone and made again!
Make at least some of the project as easy as possible for each team member by letting them use the project management software in their own language. Choose a product that they can customise so they can see what you see, but in their own native tongue. This will help everything make sense more quickly. Of course, they may choose to have an English version, but give them the option if you can.
5. Use templates
Collaboration can be quite time consuming - after all, it is all about working together, making collective decisions and being a team. It's a lot faster to make all the decisions yourself and just tell people what they are doing, although if you've tried that you'll know it isn't an effective way to manage a project and I don't recommend it.
So, if you are spending time communicating and collaborating, you'll need to get that time back somehow, and templates are one way to do that. Use the standard reports, such as one that sets out project objectives, and views in your project management software to save yourself time. If you have to set up custom views or reports, try to save them so that you can access them again from another project without having to create them from scratch again.
Share all your templates with your team so that they can also benefit.