Far from the traditional scheme in which a project manager distributes the tasks, monitors their realisation and centralises all the management and reporting data, the collaborative project promotes the team and communications as the primary focus. Although collaborative work is not a new concept, its adoption in companies has accelerated in recent years thanks to new technologies related to social networks and cloud computing. New effective tools make it easy to set up a collaborative project and complete it in the best conditions.
What is a collaborative project?
Traditional project management
In traditional project management, the project manager orchestrates the work of the project team members. He or she distributes the tasks, ensures that they are properly carried out in a timely manner. Each employee works individually and reports directly to the project manager. This involves a vertical organization and there is a very clear hierarchical relationship. This hierarchical relationship may not exist from the point of view of the status of employees in the company, but it is indeed real within the project team. As each task is clearly identified and separated from the others, team members are unlikely to communicate with each other. Regularly or at the end of the project, individual realisations are grouped together in order to develop the product in progress. Each person’s work is clearly identified. Each team member team bears individual responsibility for the work he or she has provided.
Collaborative project management
In a collaborative project, the organisation is radically different. If as in the case of a traditional project, all team members have a common goal (the realisation of a product, the resolution of a problem, etc.), there is no hierarchical relationship. The organisation is horizontal and each participant has the same importance as the others. It no longer involves individual work grouped together at the end of the project to form a whole. Each task may have a link with the others and above all, each one permanently adds its achievements to the product developed in common. Modifications made are tested and checked in real time by all the persons having access to the project. The various elements of the final product are regularly merged. Team members are required to communicate with each other continuously in order to coordinate and help one another as needed. Everyone gains autonomy and his or her work is valued. Decision-making power is no longer centralized; each person has the same level of information and may provide his or her opinion on the project’s progress, the tasks to be performed as a priority and the distribution of the work. One goes from individual to shared responsibility.
Advantages and disadvantages
The setting up of a collaborative project finally offers many advantages and few disadvantages.
Team project members being more autonomous, they can express more creativity and innovation. Hierarchical relationships being eliminated, the relationships between team members are greatly improved. There is no competition; the sharing and acquisition of knowledge and skills are widely encouraged. Communications between team members are permanent, everyone can propose his or her ideas and be the driving force of the project. The team certainly gains confidence, performance and productivity.
The main problem with a collaborative project may come from the fact that there is no longer a well-defined hierarchy. This situation does not necessarily suit everyone; some people need to be more mentored and motivated. This lack of hierarchy may sometimes be a source of stress, that will have to be managed effectively at the risk of a lack of motivation and ultimately an opposite effect to that expected.
The success of a collaborative project is due above all to the skill, involvement and motivation of each team member. Cooperation, innovation and productivity must be the focus of concerns.
The importance of the choice of tools
The spreadsheet / email / project management software trio has had its day. Tools must allow everyone to have the same level of information, to be able to share documents, to be able to modify them in real time, and to facilitate collaboration between all participants.
The tools necessary for the realization of a collaborative project are related to communications, task coordination, and the sharing of resources and knowledge. The democratisation of new technologies has allowed the growth of numerous collaborative working tools.
Brainstorming tools will facilitate the work of reflection and collaboration during the various stages of project design. The organisation of ideas and reflections may be done in tables or mental maps for example, shared with all participants.
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Sharing tools will allow everyone to distribute information freely, in the form of presentations, documents, tables but also audio and video files. This involves facilitating communications and allowing the development of a knowledge base common to the entire team, which may eventually be used by other teams and projects. With the help of a shared table, such as Kanban, for example, every person will be able to follow the evolution of the tasks assigned to him or her, but also those of other team members. This allows the team to have an overview of the progress of the project in order to better decide on the follow-up, the priorities and the actions to implement.
Time management tools
Time management is also very important and sharing a common calendar will allow everyone to stay abreast of the various deadlines, events (meetings, monitoring committees, deliveries, training, presentations, etc).
Other collaborative tools
Other more specialised tools (monitoring, management of malfunctions or fault, absence management tool, etc.) may be set up in order always to share more information, increase team autonomy and facilitate decision-making.
The use of tools such as social networks, instant messaging or cloud-hosted applications also makes it possible to involve people who are geographically remote people in the same collaborative project. It is therefore no longer necessary to group an entire team together in the same site. Members can be spread around the world if necessary, which greatly facilitates the intervention, occasional or not, of experts who might not have been available if they had had to travel. In this way it is possible for people from the same company who are distant geographically to work together, whether it involves telecommuting or several sites, but also outside, independent people… Most of the success of open source IT projects in particular are due to the fact that people from different backgrounds can work together, wherever they are.
The Nutcache solution
If it is possible to multiply collaborative tools in order to cover all needs, it may be interesting to examine solutions covering all needs. Software such as Nutcache consolidates the functions of communications, employee management, project management, assignment and monitoring of tasks or even of reporting. Hosted in the cloud, each project team member has permanent access to all the information he or she may need, wherever he or she is, and on multiple media (computer, tablet, smartphone). The choice of a solution integrating several collaborative tools communicating with each other makes it possible to overcome a certain number of constraints, in particular in terms of hardware and maintenance (installation, configuration and updating of software within the company infrastructure). The fact that the solution is hosted in the cloud ensures the availability and security of the data.
To conclude on the collaborative project
A collaborative project presents numerous advantages in comparison to a traditional organisation. The key word for this type of project is communications and collaboration. Adopting a multi-purpose, integrated solution such as Nutcache to manage a collaborative project makes it possible to overcome numerous hardware and infrastructure constraints, and to provide a consistent set of tools to team members. Do not hesitate to test for free the complete Nutcache solution for a period of 14 days.