While I am away at this year’s Institutional Web Management Workshop being held in Edinburgh we have a guest post looking at some of the current key online collaboration tools.
Matt Ambrose is a freelance copywriter who’s been working remotely for clients for over six year, so understands the benefits and challenges first hand of doing remote work online from home.
He writes a remote working blog which offers lots of tips on how to work from home successfully. The blog is designed to be a valuable resource for both internet employees and employers on how to get the maximum benefit from remote working.
Far from a passing fad, the remote worker lifestyle looks set to become almost the norm in the not to far distant future. IDC research estimates that 75% of the American workforce will be conducting some form of remote work by 2013, and 35% of the global workforce. A recent report by peopleperhour reported a 68% increase in the number of UK businesses hiring remote worker in the last 12 months.
The nature of where we work is changing fast, so it’s vital to ensure that the ability to collaborate and be productive don’t suffer as a result. Tools like Skype, email and instant messenger are great for maintaining lines of communication. But you also need tools for teams that are working closely together and don’t have the luxury of being able to walk around to a colleague’s desk to share impromptu ideas or to brainstorm as a group.
Collaborating over email can be slow and complicated
If you’ve ever tried to conduct a group collaboration project over email, you’ll understand how much more time consuming it can be compared to working together in the same room.
Documents get emailed back and forth around, with each participant adding their track changes and comments. This results in one poor individual facing the impossible task of trying to amalgamate everyone’s feedback into a single, clear document. The result can often be more like the product of a game of Chinese whispers rather than a professionally prepared document you want to present to business leaders or customers.
Basecamp enables you to create a virtual workroom
One way to bring remote workers closer together is Basecamp. A popular tool in the web development and marketing community, Basecamp is like a virtual meeting room in which participants can centrally store documents, share files and work on the same projects at the same time. Basecamp offers to-do lists, wiki-style web-based text documents, milestone management, time tracking, and a messaging system. Having a central repository eliminates the chaos of having different versions of documents flying around on email, while managers can track the progress of projects in one place.
For solopreuners and remote workers that only need to collaborate occasionally, another option is to use Dropbox. This popular cloud hosting tool can be used to share the same documents among remote employees and maintain core central versions. It’s also free for up to 18 GB of storage – perfect for remote workers on a budget that want to improve collaboration and ensure everyone is on the same page.