BETTER PROJECT MANAGEMENT THROUGH DOCUMENT COLLABORATION

James N. Salapatas, PE, PMP of the Keller Graduate School of Management defines nine elements of success in project management: (1) Defined Life Cycle & Milestones, (2) Stable Requirements and Scope, (3) Work Authorization and Change Control, (4) Organization, Systems and Roles, (5) Planned Commitments, (6) Corrective Action Decisions, (7) Quality Assurance, (8) Tracking and Various Analysis, and (9) Escalation and Issue Management.* In these current, difficult times, many of us find it hard to stay up-to-date with our tasks and responsibilities. It is hard to get your work done when the traditional tools available to you are not longer accessible. It is hard to stay focused with so many distractions. In the article, I will explores several collaboration tools that may assist you improve your productivity. See what works for you. Not all tools work for everyone. See what fits. But, it you can find just one tool that helps you a little, then I’ve achieve my goal – to make things better for you. I will explore several tools available in the NextCloud environment.

Deck

Deck is an application that allows you to plan a project, create tasks and deliverables for that project, assign tasks and deliverables to yourself or colleagues, and track your project’s progress. Deck utilized a Kanban-style approach to project management. That is, you define specific outcomes or deliverables in your project. Each outcome has smaller outcomes that make up the outcome. To start the Deck process, you create a board that has stacks of activities (e.g., outcomes, deliverables, tasks). Each stack contains cards which represent sub-outcomes or milestones for that task or activity. You manage your outcomes by using the cards. You can assign the card to yourself or to others. When assigning the card, it is a good practice to set a due date and detailed description of the card’s purpose. To get more organized, you can select tags and attach files to each card. Since Deck allows file sharing, all persons assigned to the card will have access to the files. You can also share your board with colleagues and groups for reporting purposes.

Tasks

For those of us who are list-oriented (that’s me), Tasks is a simple tool for managing my To-Do list. It has a standard list-making capability, but also a few features I like. It allow me to designate certain tasks as priority so I know what items are hot for the day. I like the due date feature because it helps me visualize what is coming due. And since it is cloud-based, I can share my my list with others. It unfortunately does not allow me to assign my tasks (so much for passing the monkey).

Circles

Circles allows you to create your own groups of users of colleagues and friends. You use these circles as a short-cut reference in any application you use in the collaboration platform (file sharing, social feeds, messaging). What is unique about Circles is your ability to create different types of circles for different purposes. There are four types of Circles – Personal, Public, Closed, and Secret. Personal Circles is a list of users known only by you. Use this type of Circle if you to frequently share files or information with the same group of people. Public Circles is an open group Circle visible to anyone that is willing to join. And anyone can join. Closed Circles requires an invitation from the Circle creator (you). Closed Circles are also private to the group. Secret Circles is an open group that can be protected by a password.

Talk

Talk is one of my favorite applications in the NextCloud application. Talk is a video chat and video conferencing application that you can use independently (like a Zoom session) or while sharing a file. Integrated with Collabora online, you can group edit documents when video chatting. Talk is an awesome tool! I can get some much work done working with colleagues. I use a version that is integrated with Collabora online, but there is also a version that integrates with OnlyOffice (See NextCloud Hub). Talk also allows you to share your screen with your audience. You can present a PowerPoint (Impress) presentation, group edit an Excel spreadsheet, or edit a Word document. Talk also allows you to send messages and link shared files or projects to your conversation. I’ve used WebEx which I found acceptable if one person is presenting or editing. I got the same results when using Google Meets. Microsoft Teams is promising. I’ve haven’t explored it yet but got mixed reviewed from colleagues (e.g., “works great,” “Mac users have difficulty with it”).

In this article, we explored using collaboration tools to better manage your work. Deck, Tasks, Circles, and Talk are a few of the tools available on several collaboration platforms. I suggest you try and test as many collaborative tools as you can. See what you like. See what fits your purpose. Then, invest the time to really learn the tool. I think the way we interact and get work done has significantly changes for the long term. Be ready to embrace it. Hope this helps.

*Salapatas, J. N. (2000). Best Practices – the nine elements to success. Paper presented at Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium, Houston, Texas. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

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About the Author.

Nat James is a practicing North Carolina attorney in the Research Triangle Park area. Mr. James has drafted, negotiated, and closed business contracts for clients since 1992. This material represent his observations from past experiences. It is not intended to provide you legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship between you and Mr. James. If you need legal assistance, seek independent legal counsel by contacting your State Bar or State Bar Association.