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Simplify Collaboration Within Your Project Management Software
By Keith Cawley

One of the biggest challenges enterprise companies face in project management is encouraging and facilitating internal collaboration.

Many project management software solutions have extensive features built in to help ease some of these issues, regardless of whether your team is located locally or across the globe.

It’s worth noting that these features are more common in cloud-based PM solutions than in locally-installed ones. However, unless your business has specific security regulations that prevent project-details from leaving your company (or being accessed remotely), cloud-based solutions generally offer greater flexibility and feature-sets.

Here are several ways your PM solution can help your internal collaboration efforts.

Document Sharing

One of the biggest benefits of using a cloud-based project management solution is the ability to easily upload and share documents and files associated with a particular project. This greatly reduces – or potentially even eliminates – the need for team members to email documents from one person to another.

Some helpful tips:

  • If your PM solution offers folders (or notebooks or other methods of organizing documents), use them … and use easily identifiable names for those folders.
  • When you upload documents, take the time to file them properly in the aforementioned folders. Random documents floating in a project are easily lost.

  • Make sure that proper permissions are set on all documents, files, and folders so that everyone on the team that requires access has the ability to do so. This will save time and frustration.

Task Definition & Delegation

Being able to define specific tasks – and who is responsible for completing each of those tasks – is crucial.

Some helpful tips:

  • Be as specific as possible when defining tasks. Ambiguity can often lead to confusion among team members.
  • If you assign a task to multiple people on a team – which many PM solutions allow you to do – be sure to clearly identify which member on the task should be responsible for reporting back to the team as a whole. This will help reduce duplication among team members.

  • When a task is completed, mark it as such (or archive it). This should reduce the number of tasks your team members see in their respective dashboards.

  • If the ability exists to set a reminder for tasks, create those when you enter the information. Odds are likely you’ll forget to do it later.

Internal Messaging

Most PM solutions offer some sort of internal messaging tool to allow team members to collaborate entirely within the software. This, once again, is another valuable tool to help reduce the amount of email – and the potential loss of important communication – between team members.

Some helpful tips:

  • Be sure that everyone on the project has an easily identifiable user name, especially if there are multiple people on the team with the same first name.
  • Check to see if your PM solution has screen sharing options in addition to the traditional chat and messaging features. You may be surprised at the full collaboration capabilities that you have at your fingertips.

Time Tracking

Whether you want to set deadlines for task completion, manage the time team members spend working on a project, or schedule meetings, PM solutions are extremely helpful. By maintaining all of the timing aspects of the project in the same place as the project details themselves.

Some helpful tips:

  • If you’re responsible for logging your working time on a particular task or aspect of a project, log the time immediately – or as close to that as possible – so you don’t forget to log it later. Many timing issues – one potentially being client billing, if you’re billing on an hourly or project rate – can be held up if your hours aren’t properly logged.
  • Check the timing aspects of the project frequently. If your PM solution uses Gantt charting, be sure to check to see whether any other team member has made adjustments. Likewise, if you have the ability to update deadlines or other time tracking information, do so frequently so your other team members can stay abreast of project changes.

  • Take the time to link your PM time tracking to your personal calendars or whatever tools you use to manage your individual time. If you’re not accustomed to checking the deadlines or meeting times frequently, this will update that information for you in a location that you are checking regularly.

  • Be sure to update your PTO or vacation time within the PM tool. It’s important to let team members know if you’re not in the office or available for meetings.

Contact Information

PM tools can help eliminate the need for one person to manage all of the contact information associated with a project. By keeping contact information up-to-date – for you, your team and your clients and vendors on a project – you make it very easy for your team members to contact anyone they need to contact at any time.

Some helpful tips:

  • Update your information if it changes. This is related to updating your time out of the office. Let your team members know where you are so they know how to reach you.
  • Make sure all outside vendors, contractors or clients have contact information uploaded as well. This, again, allows team members to easily find the person they’re trying to reach.

By taking advantage of these tools and strategies, your team should find it much easier to collaborate internally.

Keith Cawley is the Media Relations Manager at TechnologyAdvice. He writes about a variety of business technology topics, including business intelligence, project management, and gamification. Connect with him on Google+.

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