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Posts Tagged ‘team communication’

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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Friday Findings: 10 Ways to Communicate In Spotlight

Posted by: Seth Weedin

Imagine this scenario: you manage a project team that is spread out over a few different locations. It could be a software project, it could be a design project, it could even be a writing project of huge proportions. Team communication is a necessity, yet you still find yourself having a hard time reaching people, knowing what they’re working on, when they are out of the office for lunch, and when they’re offline for the weekend. There has to be better ways to communicate.

Can you relate? For many project managers, this is the reality of managing a project, especially with distributed team members.

Now think of this possibility: you can log into an app from the web or your mobile phone from anywhere and instantly see which team members are online. You can see exactly what task they are working on. You can see how long they will be available and then fire up a chat, conference, or video call via Skype for the daily scrum. All without sending an email or picking up a phone.

This is what Spotlight People & Project Manager does. It facilitates communication using the principles of social media to keep your project team in sync 24/7. In this week’s Friday Findings, we look at 10 ways to communicate in Spotlight for your project team.

Real-Time Status UpdatesWays to Communicate in Spotlight - Status Card

Each team member in the project has their own status card that provides all status, availability, and task information in one area. Using the status update text field in the image, team members can easily communicate their current status and availability. For example, the status card shows this team member is working on the mobile version of private messaging until this afternoon. When he leaves the office for lunch, the status card is simply updated to away and he types a message in the status update field letting the rest of the team know it’s lunchtime.

All project managers and team members can instantly see the updated statuses from the dashboard both on the web and mobile. This allows project managers to know what the team is working on or if they are away without the hassle of sending emails or calling all the time. No more black box with your team!

What is Everyone Working On?

A pain point when managing a project with distributed team members is knowing what they are working on. The “Currently Working On:” field alleviates this. All tasks that are assigned to a team member at that time are listed in this drop-down menu for selection. When they select a task to begin, Spotlight automatically starts tracking time worked.

This is one of the more important ways to communicate. In software development, it’s important that fellow developers know what each other are working on. All the pieces have to fit together at the end and this prevents any confusion on tasks.


Ways to Communicate in Spotlight - Status Control

As a project manager, you usually know when a team member is going to be out of the office for an appointment, etc. But when will they be back? The availability portion of the status card lets you know when a team member is available or away and for how long. For example, the person in the status card is ‘Busy’ and working on the mobile app until this afternoon. If he leaves for an appointment, he can update his availability status to ‘Away’ until say 2 pm.

Easy Replies

When a team member updates their status and availability, other team members can directly reply. Spotlight will then notify the person there is a reply waiting on the web and mobile in case they are away from the computer. If it’s urgent and the team member is away, they will instantly know via mobile that the issue needs addressed.

The status update and reply can be a way for team members to engage each other on a more personal or even fun level. We use the status updates to wish happy birthdays or say something about the weekend and people reply with lighthearted messages. It’s a way to build team camaraderie and trust that will make them even more productive.


See a team member working hard on a task or out for a fun weekend? ‘Like’ their status! Not only does this further promote that team relationship building but it gives members recognition if they are working hard on a major task for the project. Everyone instantly sees a like on the dashboard and it becomes somewhat viral. The likes keep the team motivated and is an easy way to recognize people for their hard work.

Skype Integration

Tons of tools have come out for quick conference or video calls but Skype is still the people’s choice. That’s why Spotlight built Skype right in. By clicking the Skype button on a team member’s status card, a conference or video call, or chat can be initiated immediately. If you want to add team members to the call, simply click the button on their status card and you can easily conduct the daily scrum right from Spotlight’s dashboard.  There really isn’t very many better ways to communicate than Skype.

Ways to Communicate in Spotlight - SkypeWays to Communicate in Spotlight - Skype

Private Messages and Project Board

Situations during a project warrant the need for both private messaging to individual or only certain team members and project discussion boards. Spotlight’s project board gives everyone a centralized place to immediately notify the whole team of something pertaining to the project. Assistance from other team members, important delivery dates, recognition and motivation are all topics that could be addressed on the project board.

Private messages are pretty self-explanatory. Use them to send a message to a recipient or group of recipients. There are things during a project you don’t want all team members worrying about. The private messages are for this reason.

Instant Chat

Someone late for a meeting? Or need to tell someone you need help with a task? Use the Chat button on a team member’s status card to quickly initiate a conversation. Our developers will use this to quickly ask for help on an issue they are stuck on or to let someone know of an emergency for example. Not only does it facilitate open and frequent communication among the team but let’s them quickly address issues with each other before they get out of control.

Comment On Everything

Almost everything in Spotlight has a comment functionality. The ability to comment on tasks is especially useful because it allows team members to quickly add information that may make the task easier to complete. Screen shots can be uploaded with comments for a visual representation of any wire frame, new design, or bug for consideration. No more attaching large documents, images, or PDF’s to emails and hoping they get through to the other inbox!

Manage Projects from Anywhere, Any Time

Everyone is on the go these days. Spotlight’s mobile apps available on iOS and Android give you the needed visibility into your project and team from anywhere in the world, at any time. All the communication channels and functionality are fully available on the mobile apps so when you leave the office, you really are just bringing it with you. If you want visibility into the project at all times and be able to communicate with your team, Spotlight’s mobile apps give you that opportunity.


Collaboration between team members in a project, whether it’s software development or other, can often be the difference between success and failure. Yes, phone and email still work. But how much time do you have to constantly be typing emails and making phone calls to find out what your team is doing?

This is how Spotlight does it for communication and visibility. We’re also interested in your ways to communicate during a project. Share your advice and experience with a comment, it can only help the rest of us!

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