|Image [cc] JAM Project
We live in what is referred to as “The Information Age”, but I think that we may have shifted into a new phase that might be called “The Collaboration Age.” There was a very interesting article from The Business Insider a few weeks ago that discussed an Indian Intern’s impression of life in America, and one of the ‘weirdest’ things he found about the culture here is that people are highly collaborative. He talked about how students collaborate and the goals of the collaboration wasn’t to simply complete a project, but it was rather to use collaboration as a way to share, teach, train, and learn until everyone “got it.” This was in an environment (John Hopkins University) that a few decades ago was know for being so competitive that students would hide important books in the library in order to gain a competitive edge over other students. In addition to the need to collaborate, he notices that the students take an ethical approach to the collaboration, and a desire to accomplish something that they will be proud to attach their name to. Therefore, actions that once may have been seen as “cheating”, are now seen as valuable collaborative efforts that help everyone achieve the desired goals. When you step back and think about it, it is really a monumental shift in culture.
There was one part that this intern mentioned that is probably true not only of the assignments within the university setting, but also found in today’s professional work environment. Assignments are extremely difficult, complicated, and complex. Attempting to complete a project on your own is no longer the best option. Whether it is completing an assignment in school for a professor, or answering legal issues for a client, the questions are difficult, and the process of getting to the answers/solutions are complex. Today’s professional workers need to collaborate. We see it in our personal lives, and it is making huge inroads into our professional lives as well.
So that was my long introduction to this week’s Elephant Post answers to what tools do you use to collaborate at your work. There are some interesting answers that range from very old-school tools to some of the new resources available. Enjoy the answers, and think about your work environment and ways that you currently collaborate, and ways that collaboration can be improved.
We use Jabber from Cisco as an instant messaging, and easy way to pass files to each other. It is a great informal method of communications that is much faster than email, and it also connects to our phone and Outlook calenders so we can tell when others are in a meeting, or on the phone. It is very informal, so it makes it easy to ask questions without feeling like you are filling up someones email. It also allows you to chat with multiple people at once.
I use Box in my law firm. I use it to access my documents from my mobile device when I am away from my office. I also use it since it allows me to easily collaborate with my clients and coworkers easily. It eliminates the need to send multiple emails when working on a legal document, and I can just add a collaborator and we can work on the document by adding comments and tasks in one string of communication. Lastly, I like how I have control and visibility over my documents. I can see when and by whom my documents have been viewed and downloaded, and also password protect access to my documents.
We use Confluence quite a lot to facilitate wikis (team collaboration spaces as we prefer to call them) and blogs to some extent. We’ve also looked at using Yammer to encourage teams to collaborate and communicate with each other.
Microsoft SkyDrive primarily. Box.com as secondary. It used to be Google Drive until they made their public statement that nobody should expect privacy with their services. Our business has 36 employees.
With our team, we use Box (document management), Clio (internal client matter communications and other matter-specific collaboration) and Yammer (for general idea sharing unrelated to client matters and as our virtual water cooler). Oh, and there is always the dreaded email (Google Apps for Business). We use these platforms because they all integrate.
We are using MS Lync in our firm quite often and everyone seems to like it. We are able to have quick just-in-time chats with one person or multiple people. We have are using it for at your desk video conferences. Right now it is just 1-1 video conversations, but may expand to multiple parties. People are still getting used to the video thing, but it is a good way to connect over long distances. We also use Lync to share documents, charts, web pages, etc…, for comparison and review.
- Google Docs (paid to increase security, despite NSA monitoring)
- Shared and layered calendars (cross platform)
- Google Hangouts for video chats
- Google surveys/forms!
- Skype messaging