Recently, two clients introduced me to a couple of online tools that I’ve found to be of great assistance in managing projects that involve multiple people. You might want to check them out to see if they can help you as well.
The first is Basecamp. I’ve been using it to manage a project for the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship. We’re writing a best practices booklet and the process involves four people – the client, a researcher, a graphic designer and me, the writer. With Basecamp, we can easily send messages and post documents and all of this information is in one place and accessible to each of us. There is also a to-do list with deadlines and responsibilities and a milestones section. You can also use a tool called writeboard to write collaboratively, make corrections and review multiple versions of a document. We haven’t used this tool, but it sounds intriguing…maybe next time. (Let me know what you thought if you’ve used it.)
You can get a 30-day free trial of Basecamp and then monthly fees start at $49/month for small groups. That gets you the ability to manage 35 projects, 15 GB of storage and unlimited users, a package that is probably adequate for many small businesses.
The other tool I’ve been alerted to is Dropbox. This tool is helpful if you use multiple computers and have multiple people are sharing files. You simply create a project folder in Dropbox and upload any pertinent file. Then it can be downloaded from any of your computers or mobile devices and by anyone else you’ve given access to. You can also see a list of “Events,” which is a list of recent actions that took place in your folder. I only store files on one main computer, but for those who use multiple computers and a mobile device, I’m sure Dropbox has to be hugely helpful. No more “Oh, that file is on my other computer” moments.
Mark Sebell of Creative Realities introduced me to Dropbox. He and I are in the very early stages of writing a book with a third person, one of Mark’s former clients. All three of us have been using Dropbox to upload files we want to share. That way we can be sure we all have access to the latest version. For instance, last week, Mark uploaded a series of questions he wanted the former client to answer; I grabbed that file and added some of my own questions and then uploaded the file again. As I know all to well, writing books is a complex process and with files flying back and forth between multiple people, things can get messy. I think Dropbox will help eliminate some of that messiness.
All you have to do to use Dropbox is download the app at dropbox.com. You can create folders there for multiple projects and give access to different groups of people to each folder. I have the book folder with Mark and his former client and I have a blog folder where Laurie Breitner and Karen Utgoff, my two main contributors to this blog, are sharing material. And it’s free! How can you beat that?