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Posts Tagged ‘project teams’

Finding a Happy Medium: Distributed Team Communication

Spotlight Software is your go-to tool to facilitate communication within your team; however, there can be too much of a good thing, even where team communication is involved.  Over-communicating may be an especially pressing problem for teams that are changing and growing at a rapid pace, such as with start-ups and app development projects.

Team-Communication-Spotlight-SoftwareAccording to a recent article in Inc. Magazine, studies dating as far back as the 1970s showed that adding people to a project will put it further behind schedule.  The article summarizes an IBM project case study, which showed that:

Every time some aspect of the project fell behind schedule, IBM assigned a few more people to the task. And what [the study’s author] Brook’s noticed, which still surprises people, is that this didn’t work. His observation came to be known as Brooks’ Law: Adding people to a late project tends to make it run later still.

At the heart of the issue lies the growth of an organization or team.  As the number of team members increases, so too does the need for more communication between individuals.  In the beginning stages, a project may only involve a handful of individuals who are involved in all areas of development.  But as the team grows, positions tend to become more specialized, meaning that, while the number of individuals involved in communication increases, not every team member may need (or want) to know everything that’s going on.  It’s been documented that most meetings – nearly half, according to the Harvard Business School – are unnecessary and hence, unproductive, in part because of over-communicating.  Email may be a contributing factor, making it easy to invite a whole list of people or, as with some web mail applications, suggesting names to add to a list, even if those people are only loosely connected to the department at hand.

Spotlight tackles the issue of over-communicating by allowing for specialized reports and focused dialogue. Unlike other task management tools, with Spotlight, users have control over what’s important. While Spotlight offers a top-quality task management system, the real strength lies in its ability to help manage people and encourage timely, appropriate communication among virtual teams. By using social network-like communication tools, virtual teams communicate even better than in an office because users quickly see what others are working on at any time of the day.

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How Social Networks Improve Project Team Communication

Social Networks for Project TeamsIt’s no secret that in any project, frequent and meaningful communication is the key to success. This is especially true in software development as teams are doing more and more projects virtually across borders. When you think about all the means of communication available for teams, there is one that connects all of us regardless of location: social networks.

Our tag line here is “Project Management goes Social”. Project management and social are two words that you probably don’t see together very often. But Spotlight combines the two, using social network-like communication to keep project teams in sync and Agile project management for process and delivery. Now team members can collaborate efficiently on project tasks and know the status of everyone without ever picking up a phone or writing an email. Saves time to say the least.

There are a number of ways social networks solve communication challenges. Here we look at three that help project teams improve their communication, regardless of location.

Need-to-know-now situations

Software development projects will definitely have those urgent situations. Bugs that need fixed now, impromptu demonstrations, and server interruptions require very quick action. While email may be option, many people don’t have alerts set up or even check it that often.

Twitter-like communications can serve this need for quick information sharing that requires immediate response. Using protected Tweets and hashtags, team members can be quickly notified of events. Spotlight incorporates this Twitter-like messaging through quick status updates for events like this. Our developers simply send out a short message to let the rest of the team know when a major bug is reported or if they will be out of the office for an appointment. These messages immediately appear on the Spotlight dashboard for all team members to see and take action.

Using this Twitter-like feature has cut down our emails and phone calls dramatically. This allows us to use our email for communication with customers and external stakeholders.

Building a community

Project teams, especially those working virtual, often run into trouble building that trust between team members. Being successful requires the project team to learn about each member, how and when they work, strengths, weaknesses, and culture. This will develop that team chemistry even if you aren’t in the same office.

Building a Facebook-like community can encourage this kind of interaction. These communities give team members the opportunity to get to know their colleagues a little more on the human side. Spotlight incorporates this sense of community by providing every team member their own status card that appears on the dashboard for all other members to see. We often encourage our team to update their status with exciting things going on in their lives to build that team camaraderie. Other team members can “Like” the status or reply to it.

Building this trust through communities can be invaluable when the project hits a road bump and things get a little tense. Team members who know each other on a more personal level will often work together better in these scenarios.

Shared team discussion

Discussion boards or shared notebooks can serve as a great platform to work out bugs and assist each other. A social wiki often serves this function well where people can add, modify, and remove content at their choosing. Have a great tip to help someone with a task? Post it to the wiki and let your teammates add supplemental information to it.

Spotlight incorporates this idea into its platform through a shared project board. Similar to a wiki, any team member can post content to it, ask a question, or upload relevant files for the project. Our developers often post to the project board when a major upgrade to the production server is being deployed, letting everyone know the situation. Unlike the quick, individual status update, this message appears there until it’s manually removed so no one misses it.

Having a collaborative area like a wiki where the project team can trade ideas and help each other often results in faster task completion. Eventually, it can turn into an entire library of reference material for future projects.

Conclusion

While social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and a wiki are great tools, you still have to keep track of all three separately. That’s why Spotlight incorporated all of these features into a centralized platform where you can take advantage of each. It makes communication among our project teams seamless.

Has your business or project team used other social network platforms for improved collaboration? We’d love to hear about other tools and your experience.

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


Breaking the Ice for Virtual Team Communication

By Seth WeedinVirtual Team Communication

A virtual team environment can often cause an already quiet person to sit back and let others do the talking. Not being face to face with other people allows them to disengage even more. This is one of the main reasons virtual team communication is a very difficult thing to optimize.

It’s important to encourage all members of a virtual team to collaborate and input their ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from the person who doesn’t always interject.

There are several things that managers of virtual teams can do to “break the ice” among team members and ramp up virtual team communication. Oftentimes, all it takes is one meaningful conversation with those that are a bit shy to break them out of their shell.

Nancy Settle-Murphy, CEO and Founder of Guided Insights, along with Rich Trombetta of Innovation Company, outlined 7 tips on bringing team members out of the box in a virtual setting. Idea input from all team members improves the level of overall virtual team communication, eventually leading to increased project success rates.

Our team collaborates on a daily basis via Spotlight to encourage even the most reserved team members to offer their ideas.  One tip in the article points out how many people are just more comfortable writing out their ideas than verbally communicating them. The team dashboard in Spotlight offers a centralized place that all team members can see each others ideas and thoughts through typed out Status Updates. We often discuss many of these ideas in live virtual meetings later on.

Being able to portray ideas through the Status Update function helps our virtual team members build off each others ideas as well. Oftentimes, a team member offers an idea that just needs some tweaking or built upon a little further to make it a truly unique solution.

In the world of software development, this is especially important as one idea for an application often leads to a brand new, improved feature as fellow team members build upon it. This is when great virtual team communication and collaboration really pay off.

Positive reinforcement, encouragement, and listening can often get even the most reserved person to let down their guard and contribute their ideas. While it may take a little time, using the 7 tips from Settle-Murphy and Trombetta can expedite the process and improve the overall level of virtual team communication. Combine them with Spotlight and you have very unique environment that can make your virtual project teams very successful.

Try Spotlight free for 30 days and improve your virtual team communication.

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.