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No matter if you are a college student working on a group project or a nation-wide business organization with multiple offices, coordinating people is one of the most difficult aspects of project management. If you don’t have the right people assigned to accurately prioritized jobs, your team will not be organized, happy, nor efficient. Not to mention, there needs to be mutual understanding, effort, and constructive criticism from every team member.
How do you create a space that allows for constructive participation, especially when dealing with international teams and busy lives? You guessed it, digital project management platforms. These platforms allow for collaboration without necessarily needing the team’s physical presence: everything can happen virtually and according to everyone’s schedule. We’d like to share three widely used collaboration tools, followed by some that Agency Oasis uses, as outlined by Oasis’ Technical Director, Mark Ursino.
Mural.ly is an online brainstorming and mood board canvas. It best serves in the initial stages of a project, especially when having to come up with the design and/or branding concepts. It’s a great way to directly drop links to images, videos, and articles so that the user can keep track of their source. Unfortunately, Mural.ly is not free, but it does allow for a 30 day free trial.
Trello is a project management platform, especially useful in agile programming. Trello allows the user to create sprints, assign tasks to different team members, set deadlines, and more. Each member is assigned a color, so that they can easily detect which tasks have been assigned to them. Every time a change is made, a new document is attached, or somebody comments on an update, the whole team gets an email notification.
In Trello, every task has a time estimate, and more people can be assigned to a single task. As soon as the user is done with the task, Trello prompts them to input how much of the estimated time they spent on it. This latter feature is very important, as it allows the team to visualize time distribution across all jobs and team members.
An even more important feature of Trello is its multi-language settings: the user can select whatever language they are more familiar with as the default for its own dashboard, no matter the languages used by the other team members. Another big plus: Trello is free!
Google Drive (online cloud to create Docs, Presentation, and Spreadsheets) can be used daily and for various reasons, from sharing a grocery list with your roommate to putting together essays, presentations, and spreadsheets with various teams. Its mobile app allows the user to edit documents on-the-go. Google Drive is becoming more and more popular especially in schools where students, often busy handling a job and an internship on top a full class schedule, need to optimize the time spent during in-person group project meetings.
With Google Drive, each team member can complete their tasks on their own time and bring their most updated drafts to the in-person meeting, so that all that’s left to do during the meeting is to review and make edits together. This is a very efficient way to utilize in-person meeting time than allocating extra meeting time for each team member to complete their tasks or completing each task together. Additionally, Google Drive allows team members to see who is working on a project and for how long. This is useful to track the extent and speed of contribution to the project, realize the level of involvement each team members has in their task, and redistribute tasks accordingly. Also important, Google Drive allows users to comment on each other’s work and make real-time edits (and it’s free!).
Integration Among Different Platforms
It’s not unusual to use a mixture of the above tools during a project. For example, a team can brainstorm and develop a concept using the Mural.ly mood board, divide the tasks on Trello, and upload final media and documents on Google Drive. This is what’s great about these platforms: they can be used together. An example of this is Slack, a messaging platform that is exploring how to successfully integrate multiple collaboration platforms together. Although Slack doesn’t integrate all the platforms available in the web, it does promise to add new ones as soon as possible and it prompts its users to request new app integrations as needed.
Interview: Atlassian and Basecamp for Agency Oasis
We have been experiencing with using and integrating various project management platforms at Agency Oasis as well. When discussing which digital project management tools we use at Oasis, Mark Ursino points out “We have a number of products within the Atlassian suite of tools that tightly integrate together. We leverage Atlassian JIRA for task management and defect reporting/tracking at the project level. This allows our producers and technical leads to manage team members with tasks and deadlines. It also doubles as a place for our internal QA team and our clients to report defects and allows us a means to capture and track progress towards resolution. We also use Atlassian Confluence for internal collaboration as our intranet space. This provides a one-stop shop for all of our internal portal needs of operating the agency across offices and departments.”
Mark shared another project management platform used at Agency Oasis is Basecamp, “a single system of record for all client communication and deliverables which makes it much easier to manage as team members ramp up and wind down on projects.”
The downside to using these platforms is face-to-face interaction. However, while some people may fear that relying on these digital tools decreases human participation, it actually does the opposite. As pointed out by Mark, collaboration is fundamental for these platforms to work: “The more engaged and resourceful its users are, the more features are leveraged to their full potential, e.g. tagging messages and files, setting up to-do lists, etc.” So, yes, collaboration is a downside of project management tools, but for the right reason.
No matter whether a team collaborates online, in person, or both, there is a need for every team member to collaborate in order to push the project forward. Project management tools like the ones we have discussed are extremely important for organizations, like Agency Oasis, with 150+ employees scattered around the country. These platforms act as reminders for people to know which tasks they have to complete, no matter their schedules and where they are in the world.