Imagine you’re an analyst who has recently joined a project team. Your job duties include generating large, complex program documents on tight deadlines. Producing poor quality deliverables will put your stakeholder’s schedule and budget at risk. You know accomplishing this task will require the input of various team members, many of whom are scattered across multiple program management offices. Furthermore, you’ve been tasked with tracking team deliverables for stakeholder approval.
How can you overcome the challenges of remote workers, multi-office teams and inclement weather? Collaboration tools are the solution. Here are five ways to use collaboration tools so federal government teams and those who support them can work faster, better and smarter.
1. Defense Connect Online (DCO): Spurs fast decision making
Gathering team members together can be a daunting task. That’s why utilizing Defense Connect Online (DCO) is the next best option. DCO is a Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) approved tool for worldwide collaboration. Free to all Department of Defense (DoD) personnel, it also allows non-DoD users to join. Even project members with limited tech skills can find assistance with its rudimentary training webinars.
DCO’s secure environment allows stakeholders to both review and approve highly sensitive acquisition documents without missing a deadline. It’s important to have a secure collaborative site that allows for brainstorming and amending statements of work (SOW), justification and approvals (J&A), and other procurement documents. I’ve personally found DCO’s screen share feature valuable because it allows stakeholders to share applications from their desktops and collaborate in real time. Guests can request permission to take configuration control over a document to make live changes. Other features such as web-based conferencing, instant messaging, and white boarding are equally helpful.
2. SharePoint: Improves quality of deliverables
SharePoint offers transparency, which enables every member to track a document’s progress. It also helps members prioritize a procurement document’s strengths and weaknesses. These areas may require further input from subject matter experts (SMEs), collaboration which can occur using SharePoint’s “Check Out” feature. This tool also encourages open communication among vendor and sellers. SharePoint transparency allows stakeholders to review working drafts, amend them, and request vendor meetings if and when issues appear. In return, the risk of producing a poor quality deliverable is minimized.
3. Building a cloud repository: Eases transition for new team members
SharePoint works for managing stakeholder drafts, but it doesn’t address team drafts. Project members roll on and off contracts all the time. It’s inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be disastrous. Creating a cloud repository ensures this. Cloud repositories encourage team members to share best practices, lessons learned, and useful templates from previous projects. For a small team, I recommend Microsoft’s OneDrive or Google’s Drive. Both are easy to use and are compatible with government approved applications, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and PDFs.
For mid-size to large teams, I recommend a web-based project management tool such as Basecamp. Having this tool serves two purposes. First, it allows seasoned members to remain focused on generating deliverables. Secondly, it assures stakeholders that transitions will not impact the quality of their products because ongoing assignments, deadlines and deliverables are tracked and stored in one place accessible to all team members.
4. Yammer: Eliminates email overload and external distractions
If not properly managed, emails can be disruptive and overwhelming. Sometimes pertinent team emails can be lost in the swarm of daily correspondences. Yammer, an instant messaging (IM) social networking service, is an ideal solution to combat this. Team instant messaging refocuses project members’ attention on the messages that matter. This collaborative tool enhances listening by keeping management and staff connected and informed without external distractions. Moreover, it allows for strategic brainstorming, team innovation, document sharing and open communication. This is especially valuable when requesting specialized input from SMEs.
5. Basecamp: Encourages collaborative management of team deliverables
Earlier I mentioned that OneDrive and Google Drive were great tools for managing team documents. However, Basecamp is an ideal tool for tracking the progress of large team deliverables. Basecamp allows team members to review their critical decisions and outstanding action items, and address stakeholder concerns/issues. Additionally, this collaborative tool helps project leads delegate work, establish deadlines and review deliverables in progress. Basecamp also combats “meeting fatigue” by ensuring that the right stakeholders are attending meetings. Basecamp is best used when managing and storing deliverables such as project management plans, non-disclosure agreements, etc.
Tools Foster Collaboration
Collaboration tools are the perfect solution for generating high quality deliverables even when teams are geographically dispersed, working remotely or affected by inclement weather. They empower your team to provide sound recommendations in a timely manner. These tools also guarantee that your team’s deliverables are properly tracked, verified, and approved. What’s more, they encourage sharing of best practices and policy changes, and codify standard operating procedures. What collaboration tools have proven most useful for your team?