A Short Introduction to Digital Project Management Tools
What’s the best way for teams to communicate, collaborate and manage projects in the digital workspace? The simple answer is there isn’t a perfect solution or a method that works for all teams, at all times and in every workplace context. One of the striking effects of the Covid pandemic of 2020-21 was the abrupt transformation of the way many people worked; rather than being the exception, working from home became the norm for a large section of the professional class.
American social media giant Meta was a leading proponent for the working from home movement during the pandemic, and has since maintained a policy of optional home working for all its staff. Its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, made this interesting observation in early 2022: “People are more productive working from home than we would have expected. Some thought that everything was just going to fall apart [as a result of the shift to home working], and it hasn’t happened.” The Office for National Statistics estimated that in April 2020, during the UK’s first Covid lockdown, over 46% of the British workforce did some or all of their work from home. The pandemic clearly accelerated a shift towards more remote work that was already taking place. Even so, the rise of the ‘hybrid working’ movement over the past two years has been a dramatic and positive change in the way we live. It’s an example of the German concept of Zeitenwende; an epochal shift, or a turning point in history.
One consequence of the shift to home and remote working is the meteoric rise in the importance of the new communication technologies that facilitate it. Video calls and conferencing, instant messaging, document sharing, and virtual client collaboration tools have all gained sudden, spectacular importance for the modern office team. As Michael Dell explains, “Technology now allows people to connect anytime, anywhere, to anyone in the world, from almost any device. This is dramatically changing the way people work, facilitating 24/7 collaboration with colleagues who are dispersed across time zones, countries and continents”. Dell’s summary shows both the transformative power of the remote working movement and also some of its potential problems.
At the same time, the rise of remote working has also created new interest in the importance of real, face-to-face meetings and collaboration in the same physical space. Whilst home and remote working can be useful and many people find they can be more productive outside their central office environment, certain tasks are often better completed face-to-face. Strategic meetings that require deep, exploratory conversations around complex subjects, nuanced and complicated project management tasks involving multiple stakeholders, and blue-sky business development work are all often done better when the team is actually working together in the same, shared environment. It’s often the case that the more complex the group task, the less likely it will be done optimally by an entirely remote team. But what particular technologies can help a remote team work more effectively together?
Video Conferencing platforms are the technological bedrock of the brave new world of remote and hybrid working; without them, the remote workplace would be very remote indeed.Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom are the ‘big three’ platforms in the modern video meeting and conferencing space. They all do similar things, but they also have certain differences which are worth considering if you’re planning to set up your team to use one of them exclusively. Google Meet (which was formerly known as Google Suite) was designed specifically for businesses rather than private individuals and very much has business needs in mind. With the ability to handle up to 250 people in a single online video meeting, its interface is fully integrated with other Google Workspace applications such as Google Calendar, and it allows people to enter and leave the meeting with ease.
Zoom is one of the world’s most popular video conferencing tools, and for good reason. It’s user friendly, has a good reputation for video and audio quality, and extensive functionality such as live document sharing. One downside of Zoom is the uncertainty about the level of security it provides, with some high-profile cases of meetings being hacked and invaded as a result of so-called ‘Zoom bombing’ attacks.
The other major platform for online conferencing is Microsoft Teams, an application which is actually part of Microsoft Office 365. If your team already uses the Microsoft operating system across most devices, then it’s definitely worth considering. Like Google Meet, Teams can host meetings with up to 250 people participating.
Project management tools for remote working
Basecamp is among the leading pieces of software for client collaboration and workflow. It’s essentially a set of tools that fundamentally reduce complexity in project management tasks. Basecamp, though, is more of a real-time communication tool that helps teams stay on the same page; it’s less suited for traditional project management tasks like logistics work, resource planning and long-term scheduling.
Trello, a rival to Basecamp, is a web-based list-making application developed by Trello Enterprise. Users can create task boards with different columns and move the tasks between them. It’s become particularly useful as a management tool for iterative tasks such as client acceptance testing, warranty claims and customer support tasks. An article in PC magazine noted that “it may require some experimentation to figure out how to best use [Trello] for your team and the workload you manage.”
Another platform, monday.com is an alternative digital project management tool; it’s a cloud-based platform that allows users to create their own applications and project management software themselves, covering areas including workflow management, customer relationship management (CRM), software and product development, marketing tasks, and traditional project management. It’s possibly best suited to professional project managers who are tech savvy and have the time to use the software to create a bespoke solution tailored to the needs of their specific team or business.
Slack has become one of the most popular tools for internal corporate communications; it’s an instant messaging application designed by Slack Technologies that’s specifically engineered for the needs of the modern, remote office environment. It allows users to chat with colleagues, send audio and video clips, and create and join group discussions. It’s been described as ‘WhatsApp for work’, which is arguably the most accurate description of what it is and what it does.
For software developers, Assembla is one of the most interesting tools out there to manage and organise workflow. In software engineering, ‘version control’ is a class of systems responsible for managing changes to computer programs, documents, large web sites, or other collections of data. Assembla is a web-based tool for version control and source code management for businesses. It is also possible to integrate Assembla into managed private clouds, which gives it a high degree of flexibility within existing corporate systems.
If you’re thinking of upgrading the project management and communication tools currently used by your office team, don’t hesitate to give us a call to discuss your requirements in more detail. Talking about complex technology in plain English is central to what we do at Modular Digital, and our team of friendly experts are always on hand to chat about all the options that might be best suited to your needs.