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Working Collaboratively In The Cloud

We’re strapped down working on the next version release of Roster Plus, and that means some intense virtual collaboration has been going on, which could only happen with the use of cloud-based applications. Here’s the stuff we use every day.

A Mockingbird in the hand…

Like whiteboards on steroids, Mockingbird provides a platform where multiple users can quickly draw and argue over the design of anything from a user interface layout to a process flow – in real time. It hits the perfect balance of being simple and accessible enough to dive into on a creative whim while being customisable enough to construct almost anything you dream up.

Even the apparent limitation from the finite amount of ‘widget’ types that Mockingbird allows you to work with can also be overcome with a little out-of-the-box (out-of-the-widget?) thinking…for instance, assembling diagonal lines out of a series of grouped vertical or horizontal lines. Or assembling a clock icon out of a square, a circle, some lines, and some precise mouse movements.

The entirety of our new user interface is being meted out in iterative group design bursts over Mockingbird. Ideas and accompanying demonstrations about how a toolbar could sit or a record could display can be realised instantly with a few mouse clicks over the cloud and some animated talking over the top of the computer screen.

Google driving it

Drafting of blogs, help texts and manuals, updating of progress spreadsheets and everyone’s ratings of different coffee bean types is all handled using the Google Drive suite.

To keep track of the next version’s progress, we have a master spreadsheet that has been set up to calculate progress percentages for each task needed to reach each final screen of the new version: from wireframing it, to writing the help text for it, to designing and scripting it. Team members update the progress of their task on each page in each corresponding cell, which updates the aggregate percentage for that phase of work, which updates the total progress percentage figure, which leads to excitement.

When a blog post, a web page, or some service-related documentation is being written, debate over the phrasing of a sentence can be helped along with demonstrative typing. Though admittedly it’s a bit creepy when you see another cursor zooming around eating up and spitting out your words, it does make you wonder how people used to do it only a few years ago by emailing documents back and forth.

Asanarama

Every business-related task we want to track from fixing bugs to buying pot plants is managed through Asana’s easy and powerful tasking system. By some act of wizardry, Asana has been designed so that everything you need to see about a work task is there, and everything you don’t want to see but other tasking programs usually show isn’t. The lack of rigidity about how you can go about creating and managing tasks is great too, as it lets you quickly map tasks and then get back to work instead of getting lost in the process of processing a process.

With an exponential increase in collaborative software tools in the cloud and their becoming steadily more accessible, powerful and affordable (even free!), one often wonders what’s next. Maybe in five years we’ll be collaborating using heads-up display contact lenses and brainwaves. Until then, happy rostering!

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