Over the last few years, I’ve experimented with many different collaboration tools in my businesses and in my profession. I’ve made recommendations and learned some lessons along the way.
The First and Last Lesson
Keep it Simple. Very Simple.
Not everyone is tech savvy. I play, learn, poke, and toy with this stuff all the time. Most people don’t. What is a low threshold for me may be insurmountable for the next person on the team. If the threshold is too high for them, they won’t participate and that kills the collaboration. So, my recommendation is to find the simplest solution that will meet your needs. Period. Added features will cater to fewer and fewer people making it ever more difficult for the majority. That’s why Google has kept its tool so simple – a search box and two buttons. Anyone and everyone can use it.
Here are some collaboration tools I recently recommended:
- Ning.com – A social offering, but certainly allows for discussion and collaboration. I used this back when it was a free and is pretty simple to set up. The new “mini” service is a great place to check it out.
- Pbwiki.com – For the more tech capable crowd. This company has grown its offerings from just wikis to much bigger solutions.
- Proboards.com – I haven’t used this solution, but I have used paid forum solutions in the past. Good for discussions, but difficult to reference documents.
- zoho.com – I set up an account with them when they were brand new. Their offerings have gotten better and broader. I think the Free project management solution is worth a look. The learning curve for the administrator can be pretty high.
- Google Groups – I tried this with some not so savvy people. I stayed way too busy answering questions just to get them in the tool. It has all the pieces, but the barriers to entry still seemed too high for some.
What do you use and recommend for a diverse, dispersed group of collaborators?