Monday, October 6, 2008

How do you collaborate on your projects?

Recently I made a short inquiry among some of my contacts on LinkedIn, asking about the way they collaborate on the projects they're working on.

The things I was interested in were the size of the teams and the tools my contacts were using, plus some thoughts about these tools, how useful they are for the daily work and what they bring in, in order to make the collaboration more productive.

Here are some of the answers I got:

My department has 14 people and we collaborate on a daily basis with approximately 5 departments, located in: England, India or Romania. We're using:
  • email (sometimes too many emails for a clear understanding of the issues)
  • phone (sometimes lost of time because people tend to discuss other issues and one call that should last 2 minutes extends to 2 hours)
  • meetings (probably the most "productive ones", but difficult to achieve, when people are located in different countries)
  • internal communication program based on Jabber
  • OFO (Oracle Files Online), where these departments have access to information, some people have access to change data, etc
  • OPN Portal, where some people have access to update information
One of the most valuable is probably OFO because I need certain data on a daily basis and it would be time consuming to keep asking people to send me that info, when I can simply access OFO.
Project and Reporting Specialist at Oracle

I've worked in teams from 3 to 15 people. We've been using:
  • Microsoft Word
  • Outlook
  • Visual Source Safe
  • SharePoint
  • Microsoft Project
  • Rational Requisite Pro
  • Rose from IBM
Task precedence, duration, assignment are the most valuable to me. Also track changes in MS Word. Reporting on project/task progress is also very good on large projects, but not essential on small ones. In the setup of a project I would like to have the following options:
  • project name, description, cost, deadline
  • resources (name, description, cost) + invite if necessary (automatic would be nice)
  • milestones (with ordering)
Project manager

Depending of the project's size, we are between 7 and 20 persons. We use:
  • email, network folders
  • calendar sharing, document versions, notifications
  • team chat rooms combined with email client embedded
Senior System Integrator at Vodafone

On my current project, an international road-show, I am working with over 100 people in over 40 countries worldwide. It is therefore very challenging sharing documents and planning tasks. In my core team there are 4 colleagues but we collaborate with more teams internally to create all the road-show assets and contents. We use the in-house CRM for exchanging planning and budgeting data, and also an on-line repository for posting dates and assets and for exchanging best practices. The features that I would like to add for the future (most probably, based on the current repository and system we use) are collaborative planning, empowering the users to use a joint planning tool and faster posting and sharing of relevant documents. Also, I am looking into adding more interesting functionality so people would see the increased value of the tool and use it more extensively. For example: - on-line project management - creating an event agenda on-line - sharing assets and result reports via one single tool
SAP World Tour Manager at Matchcode

We are 6 members in my team at the moment. We're using:
  • plain old email
  • Wiki pages
  • meetings
I find the wiki pages to be the most valuable, because it's easier to write down information and to share knowledge through them. Verba volent, scripta manent.

Senior Software Engineer at Oracle

At this moment our team is formed of 20 persons, 14 working from Romania and 6 from US. Our communication mediums are: email, phone and live meetings. For development, we're using the following tools:
  • Perforce - to keep track of the product changes
  • Microsoft Project - to manage the project resources
  • IxTracker - a custom made application for ticketing, which features a nice configurable dashboard and highly customizable reports
I find IxTracker extremely useful for a realistic view over the progress of our work. It integrates flawlessly with Perforce, offering build management in correlation with requests and actual code changes. It's also able to make a graph following the history of a ticket.
Sr. Software Engineer & Team Lead at IXIA

It's normal that the tools and procedures mentioned by each of the persons above differ, according to the type of job, the context in which the job is performed and the projects themselves.

However, there are some common needs that come about from the answers:
  • dashboard for a broad view of the recent activity
  • notification and staying up to date with the changes in the project
  • common document pool with file versions
  • issue tracking

These show that proper centralization of data, with a decent level of integration with various project specific tools, lead to a greater awareness over the internal aspects of a project, making the team more productive.

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