Team Hack#4: Working Together on Notes and Documents

Something remarkable is happening in the team working world. The software framework of our lives is shifting beneath our feet. Yes, Bill Gates is retiring from Microsoft operations, but something even more profound is shifting… More people are using “Team software” or collaboration software. What’s more, is most of this new software is FREE.

Instead of using Microsoft Word or Word Perfect x.0, try a collaboration of writing notes among team members using the Google Docs software, all free online. Set up an online free Google account for your office use and have all of your team members able to log on. When you create a document or update a document, every person who has web access can view the document in real time. In fact, every person on the team who has been given access to the document on the system can change it. If two work on it at the same time, Google will let you know when you go to save that there are two docs competing to become the revised version. You can rename one and compare them, making a choice.

The best part of working online with documents is that you can avoid emailing back and forth fifteen revisions, trying to keep which one is the most recent and best. In addition, no matter where in the world you are, you can access the team’s most recent collaborative document. Simple solutions have already been made for working offline on materials, so you needn’t stay online all the time to be working on them. You can set your laptop to automatically update files you have been working on at the time you next go online.

Someone is reading this and asking, “What about security?” Fair question. Yet, I don’t know many people that have that much secure information that they collaborate on and send via an email or web. Obviously there are ways to encrypt and do that, it just doesn’t happen in my world that much. Most of what we work on simply isn’t that sensitive. If yours is, I would suggest working another way.

All of my students are required to turn in all work digitally. In team projects, I want them to get used to the idea of using online software, because many of them will work on teams that are not geographically bound to the same area as them. Life is changing and even social networks are electronic for many around the world. What makes us think we need the team in the same office to work together.

In my travel office (one of the businesses that we set up years ago) I can get a photo from that day’s Jerusalem event, put into a document written in Florida with travel flight  of a recent teaching details from our booking agent’s office in Ohio and match it to a video clip from our producer in South Africa from a DVD we shot in Israel six months before, link them all and have them on the web by nightfall in Florida. The next morning (Jerusalem time) a brochure can be generated at the printer’s office in West Jerusalem and a pdf copy can be emailed to me for final approval before the press runs. We call that a Tuesday, it happens all time in businesses around the world. I choose color printing based on where I can get a good deal, in Asia or New Jersey. All of it will be shipped anyway.

Our place of business is increasingly becoming wherever I am sitting with a cell phone and laptop. As much business is being accomplished in my local Starbucks on a Wednesday morning, as in the local strip mall. Business is changing. Teams can keep up and work together with no monetary investment!