As teams move away from traditional office locations, collaboration tools need to develop to support this new team structure. But, what's next? Many organisations are turning to the cloud for collaoration and project management tools to cope with the shift. TechRadar Pro talks to Per Wising, head of R&D at online project management software firm Projectplace, to find out more.
TechRadar Pro: Why is there now such a boom in collaboration and project management tools?
Per Wising: Collaboration and project management tools go hand in hand with the rise of cloud computing as more and more businesses invest in the technology. There has been a marked rise in the number of satellite teams, made up of in-house, suppliers and freelancers spread across different geographies – meaning there is a greater demand for online tools that can help bring the team together online. It's easier to communicate efficiently through modern online collaboration tools than the more traditional tools previously used.
TRP: Why do companies and individuals need project management tools?
PW: Businesses require an effective way to bring all the different elements of a project together and be able to communicate effectively throughout all stages of a project. Using a project management tool to track progress can help provide visibility to all team members involved. It can also help visualise all of the activity in a distributed work environment, whilst making planning and execution easy. Your job title doesn't need to be 'Project Manager', and you might not identify yourself as a project manager, but inevitably everyone manages campaigns and tasks that could make use of these tools.
TRP: How are cloud project management tools better than traditional alternatives?
PW: The make-up of our teams is changing, and we need the tools to support this new working style. We're no longer working 9-5 Monday to Friday in the office; we're working varied hours, weekends and across multiple locations. A cloud project management tool with a community element can help bring the disparate team closer together, while empowering each member of the team to reach the common goal.
With cloud tools users can access them at any time, from anywhere, meaning that updates and feedback can be entered in real-time without any delays. With traditional paper based or document based tools it's harder to share updates, and any changes might have to wait until users are back in the office. Cloud tools can provide the transparency needed for team members and motivate individuals to work towards a common task.
TRP: Aren't ordinary Gantt style tools still widely used? Why do you think there is now a need for cloud collaboration alternatives?
PW: Traditional Gantt tools may still be used, but we often hear that these are very time consuming for the project manager, and they spend more time designing the Gantt chart, than actually completing any tasks within the chart. Having cloud versions eliminates the cumbersome admin of traditional Gantt charts, and allow for easier editing and provide easy access to all members. New tools can help address the modern project manager's needs in the anywhere-working, cloud era and to enable smoother collaboration between project managers, team members and senior management. In addition they empower teams to self-organise, prioritise tasks and work towards a common goal.
TRP: What do you think the next big thing in collaboration and project management technologies will be?
PW: Mobile will be the next big thing in collaboration. We can already see apps being developed for cloud tools, and it will only be a matter of time before they're widely available for all desktop applications and devices. As the workforce shifts from office based to a more fluid team style, there will be a greater focus on mobile apps that empower individuals to use smartphones, tablets and laptops.
TRP: How will cloud-based collaboration tools change the traditional team setup?
PW: Cloud collaboration tools provide more visibility and transparency of the whole project as opposed to just each individual's tasks. They nurture a more collaborative environment where everyone is invited to provide feedback and thoughts regardless of job roles and seniority. Team members are able to see the bigger picture and understand how their task fit into the bigger project. In addition, they empower users to work effectively with suppliers and freelancers, expanding team size as teams are able to work closer to the project than ever before.
TRP: Do you think the upcoming changes in flexible working will affect teams' productivity and motivation? What will it mean to the team?
PW: That's certainly what many CEOs fear will happen as they receive an influx of requests from staff to work from home. However, cloud collaboration tools can help bring teams together and give them a sense of contributing towards a common cause and reaching a common goal. The right tools can empower and at the same time motivate the team. Business owners should look to technology that enables users to be connected at all times from anywhere, to empower their staff to work effectively whether they are at their desks in the office or working from home. The key to productivity is often motivation.
TRP: Are there any security implications or issues with these types of tools?
PW: There will always be the security after thought with anything in the cloud, or online for that matter, but it shouldn't be a barrier. The truth of the matter is though that although these security risks are real, cloud providers put a lot of effort into ensuring their services are secure, so whether you like it or not, your data is probably more secure in the cloud than it is in your own office.
Businesses just need to ensure they select a credible provider.