Boost Your SDV Team Experience With Online Collaboration Tools

The beauty of being part of a Self Directed Volunteer Team is the autonomous nature of your group. In an SDV Team each person plays an integral role. By combining efforts, the SDV Team accomplishes goals bigger than any one person could accomplish on their own. Because your team is made up of volunteers, however, it is quite likely that not all of your teammates are able to see each other on a daily basis. In fact, in some cases team members may not even live in the same country. This does not have to be a problem at all. Indeed, being able to recruit expertise globally will literally open you to a whole new world of human resources. With the wealth of free tools now available, collaboration between team members has never been easier or more cost-effective.

Let’s check out some tools that you may be able to use to collaborate with your SDV Team. The great news is, each tool is available to you right now for free! 

1. Project Management Tools
Are you spending a lot of time in progress meetings? For your SDV Team to be productive you need to be able to easily organize your projects and tasks. SDV Network provides an easy to use project planning tool for SDV Teams. You can use a simple task list to then manage how the work is distributed in the team. But what about when you have complex or evolving projects or remote teams? This is where tools like Asana, Zoho, Trello and a host of others come in. 

At their most basic, these tools can be used as a shared task list for your team. Once you become proficient with their use, however, they can become so much more.

Using these tools, large projects can be created and then broken down into smaller tasks. Tasks are then assigned to individual team members. Tasks can also be assigned attributes such as priority, estimated deadlines, resource requests, etc. To keep the team informed about progress on assigned tasks, users can update their tasks with notes or simply indicate when they complete them. Best of all, it allows all members of the team, as well as the Key Staff Person, to see the status of the project and tasks in real time. In this way, everyone involved is on the same page and fully informed. No more confusion over priorities or expectations! 

The interface is typically easy to use and does not require a large deal of technical expertise. Search online to find out more about project management tools. Many have complimentary versions and free trials. Tell us which you like!

2. Shared Note Taking Tools
Is all of your important information stored on paper and unorganized? It is such a clichéd but still accurate statement: knowledge is power. But how do you access that knowledge? This is where tools like Evernote, OneNote, Slite and others come in. We like Evernote’s slogan, which is “Remember everything.” The simplest way to describe these tools would be as a digital notepad, but the true genius of these tools lie in how you use them.

If you are similar to me and countless others, you typically have volumes of useful, critical, and just plain interesting information scattered across post-it notes, notebooks, old print-outs, used for a time and then potentially lost forever! Imagine digitizing all of these notes, allowing them to be easily organized and searchable. Furthermore, imagine that your SDV Team meeting notes, photos and any other documents can be easily shared with and accessed by other team members.  These tools allow you to do so.

You can cut and paste digital documents or websites and take photos of physical documents or notes. The full power of these tools is too much to be described in one blog post alone, but search online to find out more about online note taking tools. Many have complimentary versions and free trials. Tell us which you like! 

3. File Sharing Tools
Are your team members sharing files via email? Consider using a tool like Dropbox, Google Drive and others.
As useful as it is to share and save text information with the tools mentioned previously, sometimes we are going to need to share files. This is most typically done via email. The problem with this is if you want to work on a spreadsheet for your team, 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 online location to which all of the team members had access. This would minimize the possibility of conflicting file versions. And best of all, since this drive is located ‘in the cloud’ it is regularly and automatically backed up such that earlier versions of each file can be retrieved as well as be made available offline. Free use of these services does limit you to a specific amount of memory, however, as you add more ‘members’ to your group your space will likely increase. These file sharing tools will ensure that your team is always working with the most up-to-date files.

Search online to find out more about file sharing tools. Many have complimentary versions and free trials. Tell us which you like! 

4. Video Conferencing Tools
Need help coordinating schedules for team meetings? Consider using a tool like Skype, Zoom and others. Perhaps the simplest and still most important means of human-to-human collaboration is the human voice. As useful as it may be for teams to ‘passively’ communicate through collaboration tools, sometimes you need ‘face-to-face’ conversation.   This is especially true now, more than ever, when just about every community has had to face quarantines and stay at home orders.

It is hard to imagine that there is anyone left who hasn’t at least heard of video conferencing tools such as Skype, Zoom, and a large host of others. These services allow you to make video and voice calls over the internet from any location. Some services are completely free.  Often, they can also be used for instant messaging.

While many people are familiar with using these platforms as a means to occasionally contact far away family members, they are unfortunately very underused. 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.  These platforms provide a great opportunity for ‘face-to-face’ brainstorming, decision making, providing project updates and more. What is more, all team members present on a call can have a live, real-time on-screen experience with the documents, media or other communications that are shared.  

Most of the tools we have examined also offer additional features for nominal fees. In all cases numerous competitors offer similar services. Take some time today to examine these tools and carefully consider if they are a good fit for you and your team. 

By: Edmina Bradshaw, Principal – edmina@sdvnetwork.com

SDV Network has researched and developed a structured framework for engaging and implementing Self Directed Volunteer Teams (SDV Teams). Let us help you get your teams going!

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