We’re in the business of producing online project management and document collaboration software for a variety of businesses from the very small to the very large. Storing documents online or ‘in the cloud’ is a relatively new innovation and the truth is, for a number of our potential clients it still represents a step too far.
I’m inclined to wonder how businesses reacted when they were shown a fax machine for the first time. Objections must have been immediately forthcoming. “You mean that somebody’s got to have one of these at the other end?” well yes. How can you explain to a business that something you’ve previously been unable to do (like transmit facsimiles of documents down telephone lines), is actually one day going to be considered essential?
No matter how hard we try to explain how documents stored in the cloud can be accessed from anywhere, by anyone who has the right permissions, the blank looks we get make you wonder if it would actually be easier to explain to somebody from the Victorian era that one day video tape recorders would be considered a pretty cool idea.
This actually boils down to feeling pain. Businesses only buy into solutions when they recognise that the ‘solution’ they’re being offered will remove a problem that they have already perceived. The problem arises when the pain exists but has not yet been recognised or acknowledged.
Let’s take the example of sharing documents by e-mail. A technological solution that was accepted and adopted even more quickly than fax machines! The fact that e-mail is essentially free at point of use was obviously a key factor, but the fact that documents, contracts, specifications or drawings could be e-mailed immediately to any location, literally at the speed of light, had an instant impact on business performance. Surely sharing documents couldn’t be any easier than this. You could even share this document with more than one person. In fact (some bright spark even thought to himself), “when I send that contract for approval to the client, I’ll copy in key members of his team, the legal department and of course the boss.”
That’s when the problems start.
The legal department immediately suggests a number of modifications and return the amended documents, one member of your team responds with his own personal observations giving rise to a third copy. The client in the meantime signed the original and returned it in the post.
The boss doesn’t receive the e-mail (or claims not to have).
One document, three versions, two companies, one argument.
At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning that e-mail is 40 years old. Electronic communications have evolved. Forward thinking businesses now recognise the advantages in placing copies of valuable documents in one shared online space/folder, call it what you will, and then channelling the comments and observations about that document again, into one shared space. So the whole team can have visibility of all feedback and most importantly visibility of valid and current project documentation.
Comments and amendments are not buried at the bottom of someone inbox. All project documentation is kept in one agreed central location. There are no more disputes about document versions or missed communications.
Document Collaboration Software allows you to share project documentation amongst your team, contacts and clients. Strict access controls make sure that only you decide who can see what and that people are kept informed and updated about projects that they have an active involvement in. The latest versions of every document, specification or drawing are immediately visible to all. ‘To do Lists’ help you keep on top of who is doing what and project calendars keep everybody up-to-date about up-coming milestones and deadlines.
How do you manage your projects, documents and tasks?