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Toronto Net Tuesday Recap - Collaboration & Productivity: Spend more time on what matters

Collaboration

By: Chris Sorenson, TechSoup Canada Volunteer

Editor's note: download our Collaboration & Productivity Tools handout for more ideas of tools you could use

20/20 Hindsight has struck everyone who has ever come to an end of a project. There is that brilliant moment of clarity that is only revealed after completion, that moment where one realizes those key practices that could have saved time, energy, and money. Unfortunately these moments are hard to anticipate and are usually recognized only after it’s too late to do anything to address the particular problem, but record and take note with improving best practices in mind for the next project cycle.

The most recent Toronto Net Tuesday session on “Collaboration and Productivity”, held in the lovely new Annex CSI building, was the perfect storm of technology and policy to help participants maximize output with simple methods using both the latest technology and old favourites. The experienced and energetic speakers were chock full of information to share and the results were terrific.

Nick Yeo - Charity Village

Nick speaks about his experience at Charity Village

Nick Yeo, currently Project Manager at Charity Village, shared his wealth of communications, project, and strategic experience in collaboration at both the local and international levels. Time management we all know can be challenging, Nick told us about the importance of finding a system that works best for you, by sharing his experience employing the Pomodero technique during those times of the day he is most productive. Agenda and schedule are vital to his daily work flow. He shared tips like conference calls shouldn’t be greater than 45 minutes, and if they are, your agenda is too ambitious.

Whatever size project you and your team are working on there is a large choice of free and low cost tools available to in the 2.0 wilderness that can help squeeze out the extra oomph that of limited resources. Nick mentioned that Charity Village doesn’t have central offices and that they are big fans of SharePoint which they value due to the “check-in/check-out” aspect. They also use Screwturn as their wiki. Calliflower for phone conferencing, and GotoMeeting and Webex for web conferencing. Whatever your particular technology mix there are a few points Nick suggests that we keep in mind on our projects:

  1. Identify your deliverables
  2. Identify your shared commitments
  3. Trust each other.
  4. Know when to say “No”

Keeping the focus on these areas should allow any team to get the most out of what they put in.

Nick's Presentation (video)

Amanda Grainger-Munday - Timeraiser

Amanda speaks about her experience at Timeraiser

Amanda Grainger-Munday, Manager, Communmciations/Social Media at Timerasier made an electrifying presentation using Prezi and spoke about their “sharesies” philosophy of near total transparency as a tool of engagement and enterprise. In the spirit of Sharesies, their budget and time management is public posted on their website!

Amanda stressed the importance of avoiding silo thinking and summed up their business philosophy as

"Create Once / Distribute Widely / Access Everywhere"

which they realize, in part, by having as much integration across their applications as possible.  Like many of us they use and are fans of Google Apps, and have made choices which allow them to integrate their data with compatible platforms from other providers. Amanda illustrated this by sharing how their Google Apps is integrated with their CRM (SalesForce.com), their project management (Smartsheet), their file sharing (Box.net) and their contract management (EchoSign).

This practice of choosing technologies that have built in integration has saved hundreds of work hours for Timeraiser and allows their staff to work efficiently and in tandem with one another. Since everyone knows what everyone is doing, duplication and isolation are impossible.

Amanda's presentation (Prezi)

Amanda's presentation (video)

Editor's note: due to technical difficulties with the video camera, we unfortunately didn't capture Amanda's EchoSign demo.

Both speakers answered extensive Q&A, agreeing that proper planning before a project begins is essential to successful project management. Clearly defined goals, regular communication, and smart technology choices will help any organization get the best of staff, volunteers, and clients. 

Editor's note: for nonprofits wanting to improve their collaboration and productivity, we are offering a Google Apps Boot Camp in Toronto on April 28, and a Google Apps 101 webinar on May 5.