Modern technology is fantastic for allowing you to effectively manage a large number of people in different locations. Below, I have rounded up the best of the ones that I have used in the past and explained how they are so useful.
- JIRA – I may be biased but I can not tell you enough how much I love this software. It is (ostensibly) an issue tracking system from Atlassian software (an Australian company) and can be a bit complicated to set up initially; however, when set up it is a pleasure to use and produces a large number of complex, useful reports. I say ‘ostensibly’ above as it is very configurable and should be thought of as a powerful project management tool. One of the best features of this tool is the ability to different workflows for completely different tasks/issues, which will allow you to use this with support, operations, product development, documentation, and even sales and marketing. It is a powerful tool with a constellation of add-ons and is, to date, the first vendor tool I install at any engagement.
- Trello – For most people, remote and offshore collaboration are necessary evils. Trello is a task/project visualization tool that operates in real time and has extremely powerful attachment, editing, and updating options. You are able to use a base version for free and are charged for more boards. For organizing yourself – in product development, marketing , or operations – it is a very useful, visual tool that can dramatically reduce miscommunication in a team.
- A version control system – This is not a specific recommendation for one tool (although I prefer Git and Github). Previously used only by developers for storing source code changes, these systems are ideal for storing documents, graphics, digital assets, and even anything else that might change over time. This is crucial for being able to recover from problems, for storing older versions of files that are experimental, or just about anything else. They are a key component of a good backup and disaster recovery system as well.
- Google apps – Much as we would like otherwise, all businesses run on paper, physical and digital. Google apps will allow you to have a Microsoft Office-like set up for dramatically less money. In addition, all documents can be created to shareable in real-time; this works well with Trello above to give you a collaboration experience that has not been possible in the past.
- An ergonomic workstation – Ok, strictly speaking this is not a technology application per se; however, over the past decade, experts have begun to understand exactly how important a good, ergonomic work surface is. This includes several components such as a proper keyboard, a proper (i.e., adjustable and NOT cheap) chair, and a good desk. There is also a significant amount of literature that suggests some form of standing desk will help your health and productivity. Standing desks range from DIY standing platforms to high-end ergonomic, powered desks. In any case, both your chair and desk should be something on which you spend some money, given the amount of time that you will spending at them. There are few other pieces of equipment that will give you a better return on investment that these two – as an added bonus, you will have a lot fewer health issues using better equipment and standing/treadmill desks.
- Pen and paper – This one is a bit of a cheat – the technology here is over a thousand years old (barring any electronic pens that you are using). However, research has shown that using pen and paper causes more retention of concepts and information than using a keyboard and screen. Luckily, we can have our cake and eat it, too! There are a large number of technologies to support post-written digital capture – digital pens, advanced optical character recognition (OCR) of your written words, and effective, efficient transcription to digitize your audio musings. Using pen and paper to improve your understanding of your discussions and design sessions does not have to mean that the information is lost – far from it, you can capture this digitally later, when it is needed, and focus your attention on interacting with other people.
- Your phone and your legs – Yes, I know that I have been talking about technology to solve your management problems and this is another ‘old’ technology. However, the amount of time that people will spend trying to get information or decisions via email or text is considerable, when you can either pick up the phone to talk to them or, better yet, walk over to where they sit. This can result in a resolution that takes a few minutes vs. several hours or days using digital methods. An exception to this is when you need proof that either the conversation occurred or of the details of the talk – these sorts of things can still be best addressed by digital methods (or paper, if you are truly old school!)
So, how many of these tools have you used? Do you disagree with any of the list or reasons why they are in there? What tools would you add to this list?
Image courtesy of Peter Harris / flickr.com