Even small companies find themselves operating on a global scale. It is becoming less common for everyone on a team to be in the same building. One team member might be working in another company office across the country. A second could be a contractor working on another continent. A third could be working from home.
As worker locations become more widespread and worker schedules become more disparate, project collaboration becomes harder. Today’s managers must use all of the communication technologies available to keep their team on track.
Use the Right Communication Tool
Email, telephone, instant messaging and other methods of communication have their advantages and disadvantages in project collaboration. Each will be appropriate depending on your team members and the task at hand.
Email allows recipients to respond at their own convenience. That makes it easy for workers to integrate into their own schedules. Response time is slower because even someone who is on the clock isn’t checking email every two minutes.
Telephone is the most immediate communication method, but there is the risk that the person being called isn’t “working” at the moment so may not be able to help or will even resent the intrusion. This in turn is frustrating to the caller who may not know when it’s okay to call.
Instant messaging allows people to see who’s online and therefore who is currently working, but some employees don’t like it for exactly that reason. It has the immediacy of the telephone but can be more intrusive.
There are times that project collaboration requires that the entire team meet to discuss the status of tasks and future plans. This can be hard to coordinate with team members from outside the office.
Home workers can be encouraged, or even required, to attend meetings in person. This “face time” helps build the team and remind everyone who is involved on the project.
More remote workers can teleconference or, if the company budget permits, videoconference into the meeting. They maintain a presence and feel like part of the group.
Truly remote workers run into difficulties because of time zones. A morning meeting for everyone else might be a late night meeting for one worker. Careful project coordination will be required to respect everyone’s schedule.
Online Project Management
One of the best tools for project collaboration of a widespread team is an online workspace such as an extranet.
Individual calendars and project schedules are available to anyone who needs to see them no matter where they are or what time it is.
Online file sharing makes important documents accessible. Several workers contributing to the same document or project work from a central source are less likely to create duplicate versions.
Managers can see where each member of the team is and how the project is progressing in comparison to the schedule. Team members can understand how their efforts contribute to the success of the project as a whole.
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