As a project manager, you’re always looking for efficiencies. Writing projects need coordination and writers need efficient systems and means of communicating to successfully complete client initiatives. This year, at TEDx Fort Wayne, twenty-five planning volunteers utilized several, online project management tools to deliver a successful, annual event.
Time was a premium. The teams were diverse and included multiple departments, partners, vendors, and influencers. Our careers, families, and outside responsibilities pulled us in various directions. Finding time to plan a conference, in the midst of minimal time availability and differing schedules was challenging.
We found five useful tools that made project management easier and helped to make the conference a success.
Podio describes itself as “online work platform with a new take on how everyday work gets done.” I call it the “Swiss army knife” of project management and collaboration – even if the service was founded in Copenhagen.
In practice, it lets geographically dispersed teams communicate and add tasks, projects, and files to the workspace. Using Podio made feedback easy. Team members built upon each other’s ideas without scattered email threads.
Podio’s apps are magical. Build business processes with its app builder or choose one of thousands that other users have contributed to the free app store. We modified an app to download speaker information, from the website’s contact forms, right into the Podio workspace. The team was able to review individual profiles, view submitted videos, and then rank and leave comments for the rest of the team. This online process, nicknamed “speaker idol,” greatly increased collaboration over the in-person process used the prior year.
This simple file sharing and synchronizing service was a huge help in project management. Each team had their own, shared folder for plans, agreements, creative materials, etc. In the end, pick one cloud-based service that fits your team’s needs and move on. Time is too valuable to nit-pick forever on features. Drop Box fit our needs.
Hangouts is free, simple, and offers quick video conferencing for up to nine people. It was a savior when someone couldn’t attend a status meeting. Hangouts were also perfect for fast, brainstorming in-between scheduled meetings.
Whiteboard and CamScanner
What’s a whiteboard doing in a list of online useful project management tools? It’s still one of the most valuable ways to brainstorm. The problem with volunteer projects is the team doesn’t have easy access to revisit the finished board . Enter CamScanner, a smartphone app that makes your phone a scanner that generates image enhanced PDFs that can be uploaded to Dropbox and other sharing services. Then, everyone can have the whiteboard to reference after the meeting.
Listening to and engaging our target audience through social media was key during the project. It gave us ideas for subjects, speakers and marketing tactics. The team was able to get greater diversity of thought, which helped us to make better decisions during the project management process.
The common theme between these five free or inexpensive tools are their abilities to streamline project management by making communication and information sharing easier across distances and time. Projects move faster because collaboration doesn’t have to wait for physical meetings.