Enabling Project Team Collaboration

The complex nature of today's project teams requires strategic planning to make sure the end goals can be accomplished. Here's a helpful guide to get you started.


Share data sources — Again, the Delphi Group stated that nearly 60 percent of companies already use some type of online, shared workspace today, and many view it as essential to their survival.

Throughout the project, team members need such a space where they can easily store and access plans, designs and other project information.

Communicate
Dispersed teams need tools to help them exchange information, solve problems and make sound decisions.

Present information — When team members must view project information such as design data together in real time, they use application sharing. They may need to share large files and graphics-intensive data to communicate design intent.

Collaborate ad hoc — In addition to attending pre-planned collaboration meetings, team members sometimes call spur-of-the moment, or ad-hoc, meetings for one-on-one troubleshooting or clarifying misunderstandings.

Collaborate offline — Team members in different time zones must often communicate offline, via tools such as discussion threads and a common project repository.

Manage
Finally, to move a project forward, teams need ways to manage tasks, decisions, and overall project knowledge.

Manage tasks and decisions — For the sake of accountability, teams assign and track tasks for individual members, as well as track project decisions.

Capture project knowledge — It's necessary to capture project knowledge and make the information available to the team. Tracking project knowledge as a whole forms an audit trail, a critical ingredient to successful projects. A centrally managed audit trail is also now necessary for compliance with government regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley, SEC 17a-4, NASD, and HIPPA.

The Other 75 percent Factor

In organizing, communicating and managing a project, dispersed project teams work both inside and outside of meetings. Perhaps 25 percent of the work occurs in these meetings, and application-sharing technology provides critically needed support for this work.

But then there's the other 75 percent of the work. Looking at the overall picture of how teams work shows that application sharing is only part of the collaboration story.

The real collaboration issues center around such needs as these:
* Real-time sharing of documents and any other form of electronic information
* Offline sharing of electronic data
* Shared recording and distribution of decisions, tasks, and work products

Technology that enables project collaboration should: establish roles and rights, share data sources, present information, collaborate ad hoc, collaborate offline, track tasks and decisions, and capture project knowledge.

Selection Criteria

When selecting a product to fully support project collaboration, consider the following key factors.

Convenience
User involvement is one of the two most critical factors in project success, according to the Standish Group. Like generic application sharing technologies, your collaboration solution must be easy to deploy and learn so that all project team members can use it immediately.

Unlike common application sharing technologies, however, your collaboration solution should use fully accessible Web conferencing. While Web conferencing has emerged as the most popular, practical way to conduct real-time collaboration, many Web conferencing products do not function across the corporate firewall, according to InformationWeek. Even those that can do so may not have built-in security. Because your team may have a number of members that sit outside the firewall, choosing an inaccessible Web conferencing technology can deprive your project meetings of critical insight and expertise.

And Research Technology Management said companies should recognize that teams that create blockbuster products share knowledge in many ways, such as capturing team member and management buy in, recording project information, adequately organizing data, and conducting rigorous team review meetings. Your team thus needs an integrated solution with a wide range of communication options, from real-time to offline, instant messaging to task management, and application sharing to project repository.

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