Note: Page and File capabilities are no longer supported by Google within Google Groups. I am currently creating a post to compare other tools that provide similar capabilities. If you have a team collaboration tool you would like included in my analysis, please leave a comment with tools name and URL.
I am working with a team of five students chartered with the task of creating a new product for the marketplace. I recommended and have created a private Google Groups site for us to collaborate in. I personally have used this tool in the past for social media experiments, all private, so I am completely aware of the tools limitations and strengths. This seemed to be a perfect fit for the diverse team we find ourselves on. Each person in the team has a demanding schedule and other responsibilities to attend to.
I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about Google Groups and how this tool can help groups or communities work together and avoid the need to hold traditional meetings or conference calls.
Google Groups Functionality
This is the main page with provide a summary of activity and the main navigation points to the rest of the stie.
A place where your team can create thought streams which other teammates can reply to, brainstorm, or refine their ideas. If the team can remain disciplined to keep the thought streams together, it becomes a very strong tool in collecting and refining team ideas.
Note: Page and File capabilities are no longer supported by Google within Google Groups. I am currently creating a post to compare other tools that provide similar capabilities.
Comparable to web pages, these are places to store content rich knowledge. It is a collection point of information that would normally be stored in a document or single piece of work. Discussions can be generated from pages.
Files that are externally created can be imported into a common storage area for the entire team to review. Discussions cannot be generated from files.
Tools needed to manage subscriber lists, the site’s look and feel, and pending discussions or posts if moderation is turned on.
You can create/response to discussions via a team email address. The system can notifiy you each time a new message is created. You can set the frequency based on your personal or group requirements. I nice feature I love is “Subject Prefix”. This allows me to have the team set filters in their email clients to help organize and manage team activities.
Several Google Groups Concerns
This is not really an issue of Google Groups but rather the people you invite into your group. This tool only works if people use it. The quality of the work generated in this environment is only as good as the participation of its members. This tool does not completely remove meetings from the project but it does allow a diverse set of teammates to work on their assignments, any hour of the day, request and provide feedback on their work and others, and be productive beyond the normal meeting driven project.
Page – Content Rich
By this, Google means words and pictures. They draw the line with anything the Google Development team deems as a security risk. So trying to embed a JAVA applet of your team Google Calendar is not allowed. I’m sure the Google Calendar integration issue will be resolved at some time in the future. Yet, if your team desires to store examples of dynamic content rich code on your Google Groups site, you will need to find another creative way to do this.
The notification system default is to alert you each time a new message is placed on the site. With very active members or projects, you could return to their desk and find hundreds, if not thousands, of emails in their in-box notifying you of all the changes the team had made.
Poor SMS Support
Considering the SMS support built into other Google Tools, like Calendar, I found this omission a bit strange. It could be they simply expect you to rely on email, but most phones can send SMS to email now. A work around is to use the filter features of your mail client to then forward a copy to your cell phone as a SMS. With a real active group, you could set your phone on vibrate and rent it out as a personal massage device because it’s going to be going off a lot. You might want to change the notification settings to digest or abridged at that point.
The ROI Hunters find this tool to be very productive. We would love to hear how your team has used it. What you believe it’s strengths and weaknesses are. Please leave a comment.