Whether you call us remote, dispersed, home-based, or just plain "savvy," those of us who work in a virtual office space that puts the entire world at our fingertips absolutely rely on collaboration tools to make it all click. The same goes for basically anyone doing business today - from SMBs to multi-national conglomerates.
Anyone who's tried to collaborate across time zones or even across town knows that all collaboration tools are not created equal. This week the Savvy Sisters Speak up about the collaboration tools that keep them dialed in, tuned up and in the loop at all times and from all places.
I am going to harken back to the stone age and assert that email is still a great, inexpensive (and likely still the most-used) collaboration tool. The key is to get everyone on the same page with conventions so that, for example, all emails relating to a certain project have the same title beginning so that they can be easily searched and sorted. If you approach it with the same discipline you use for file naming conventions, you will get a lot out of it.
For more in-depth tracking, reporting and collaborating needs, I have used a product called Basecamp (http://basecamphq.com/) with great success. It allows you to create, assign and track milestones, upload files to a central repository, and, of course, it's web based so the team can access it from anywhere.
I echo Kate's sentiment that simpler is better. Although I have also used Basecamp, often managing the system can become a job in itself. (I speak as an ex Web dev project manager whose job it ws to keep all the data up-to-date.)
By far, my favorite collaboration tool is Google docs. It's simple. It's easily accessible. It creates "living" documents - meaning that the live version is always the most current, so you have no issues with version control. Google docs are limited in terms of functionality and file types, but - as we said - usually simple is best.
For a slightly more robust, but still super-simple tool, creating a wiki site can be just the thing. Wikispaces is a free tool for individuals and groups that allows you to create a collaborative work space with a broader range of content and additional messaging and tracking features.
What are your favorite tips and tools for collaborating?