Recently, while working on a project to develop collateral for a promotion with a team of collaborators, I was struck by how many different tools and methods were used to achieve the final product. In this case, the final product was a piece of collateral. Actually it was several pieces of collateral, but each part of the same project. Each piece had a small team of subject matter experts (SMEs) working together with several members participating on multiple teams.
Anybody who has worked with me knows I'm a major fan of document management and version control when working collaboratively on collateral, a single source of truth so to say. I find it exceedingly frustrating to be the one responsible for collating the feedback from the team members. First, it takes quite a bit of time to collect the feedback, read through it, and incorporate. Second, it seems without fail there will always be at least one section that everybody comments on and each comment is different making it impossible to incorporate all opinions. Third, with the technology available today, the first two frustrations are completely unnecessary.
For this project I had the team use Box for the repository and management of the deliverables. This is the first time I've used Box and overall I'm impressed with it. It's cloud-based with version control, comments, task assignments, and many more features that I have yet to discover and use. As edits were made to the source document they would inevitably be saved with the existing file name and an appendage of the date, version number, or the initials of the person that made the edits. The first of many wrenches was that different people had different ways of identifying their modified document.
Box does a good job of version control and with a bit of coaching we soon had everybody updating a single file and allowing Box to manage the versions. This simplified the process and removed confusion on which was the latest version to make edits against. The next step is sending the draft document to corporate editing. Another wrench is introduced as corporate editing requires a Word document, they use "track changes" for edits, and create a new file name with their naming convention. I understand the need to have an approval cycle for edits, but this introduces another copy that needs to be appropriately managed and updated to the Box repository.
The next step is sending the final draft to layout where the source content is applied to an appropriate template and typically converted to a PDF format for posting to the web. I added the appropriate people to the Box folder giving them permission to download and add content, but unfortunately their process required an e-mail with the final content attached. Yet another wrench that required somebody else to upload the final piece of collateral.
The final step is posting to the web. Once again, e-mail is the preferred method. This is because the web team consists of shared resources and they subscribe to a mail alias that requests are sent to. I sent my request to the mail alias with a direct link to the final, edited, in appropriate layout and template document I wanted posted. Unfortunately, the process was to send the document as an attachment to the mail alias. We then used e-mail as notification to the collateral being in stage for QA then production for QA. The final wrench was turned.
Coincidently enough, a colleague of mine had just written a blog about multiple tools Cute Babies, Collaboration, and Competition and how they can hinder the collaborative efforts of cross-functional teams. Not only are there multiple tools, but there are also multiple processes that can affect the use of tools. In these multiple team, cross-functional efforts I think it's the responsibility of the project lead to determine in the beginning which tools and processes are to be used and it's the responsibility of the team members to adapt. After all, in the end, it's the project lead that's accountable and shouldn't we support them in a truly collaborative environment that meets their needs? Even if our wrench is the cutest.