Welcome back to our ongoing series of free online tools we recommend to facilitate collaboration in your Self Directed Volunteer team. In our first post we examined using a tool like Asana to assist you in project management and Evernote for information sharing. Today we’ll look at two more sharing-based tools: Dropbox and Skype.
Are your team members sharing files via email? – Consider using a tool like Dropbox
As useful as it is to share and save text information with the services mentioned previously sometimes we are going to need to share files. Typically most workers share files via email. The problem with this is when you want to work on that finance spreadsheet for the group you have to ensure that you’ve retrieved the right version from your email inbox and hope that nobody else has made conflicting changes with their own copy of the file. Imagine if instead there was one shared ‘hard-drive’ to which all of the team members had access. Team members can see changes being made in real-time and there is no possibility of ‘conflicting’ versions of files. And best of all, since this hard-drive is located ‘in the cloud’ it is regularly and automatically back-ed up such that earlier versions of each file can be retrieved as well as be made available offline.
This is exactly what DropBox does. Free use of the service does limit you to a specific amount of memory, however as you add more ‘members’ to your drop-box group your space will increase. Google has also recently made themselves a competitor to DropBox with the release of their ‘Google Drive’ service. Both options are equally useful and will ensure that your team are always working with the most up-to-date files.
Need help coordinating schedules for team meetings? – Consider using a tool like Skype
Finally, perhaps the simplest and still most important means of human to human collaboration is the human voice. As useful as it may be to ‘passively’ communicate with team-members via services such as Asana and Evernote, sometime you need real ‘face-to-face’ conversation and when this occurs your best bet is Skype. It is hard to imagine that there is anyone left who hasn’t at least heard of Skype. On the unlikely chance that you haven’t, Skype is a free service that allows you to make video and voice calls over the internet as well as instant messaging.
While many people are familiar with Skype’s use as a means to occasionally contact far-away family members, it is unfortunately very under-used in the corporate (or in this case non-profit) environment. Instead of forcing team-members to coordinate difficult schedules to meet at a physical location, meetings can take place via online video-conferencing. Instead of writing long emails to teammates, simple questions can quickly be asked and answered via instant message. And since all of your instant messages can be automatically saved and indexed it is easy to retrieve previously sent information (especially when paired with Evernote).
Most of the tools we have examined so far in this series also offer additional features for nominal fees and in many cases there are competitors offering similar services. However their majority of their creatures are completely free. So take some time today to examine these tools and carefully consider if they are a good fit for you and your team.
Have we missed anything? Are there any other free tools that you feel should be on this list? If so please let us know by e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.