Tools for Teams: Beyond the Email Bottleneck

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The spec you're supposed to review has gone missing; there are three different versions of the project plan floating around and the remote team doesn't have any of them. Clearly, email is not enough. It's time to take the tools management process seriously.

What this is

Collaboration is central to team work—reviewing deliverables, communicating status, dealing with issues—but it doesn't come easily. This paper by Tony Christopher of Digital Places proposes that the solution to these frustrations lies not just in the tools, but in how the organization goes about implementing them, and how seriously they take the tools management process.

Why it's useful

Talk to team members from any given project long enough and the same frustrations are heard again and again: "I can't find that spec I'm supposed to review." "Where's the latest version of the project plan?" "Our remote team members aren't getting all the docs!" These cries are obvious signs that email is not enough. Valuable knowledge and needed information is too often buried in widely scattered inboxes where it can't be found, let alone transmitted for the benefit of future projects.

As an alternative, this paper outlines a five step approach toward creating a Networked Tools System that will allow organizations to truly capitalize on networked tools, instead of ending up with a robust but unused server-based repository.

How to use it

  1. Read the paper for ideas and examples of project issues that are similar to what your organization often experiences. (Sometimes, it's just nice to know you're not alone.)
  2. With this perspective, draft your own high-level tools plan, using the Overview of Features/Capabilities on page 10 of the paper.
  3. Once you have a plan you feel comfortable with, begin lining up support and resources for the selection and operation your tools system. Typical roles and a plan of action for selecting and implementing the right tool(s) are suggested on pages 7-8.

About the Author
Tony Christopher is the principal and founder of Digital Places, a consulting firm in Silicon Valley, CA focused on collaboration and knowledge management solutions. He has led collaboration and knowledge management programs for Apple Computer, NASA, and the FAA. His unique expertise combines technology depth in web applications with business depth in organizational processes. He can be reached at

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