Apr 10, 2010 0

Using Teambox for project management

It’s one thing to deliver a great product, it’s another to offer a great service. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an application that helped you do both? And how sweet would it be if this app was free? Well, let me introduce you to Teambox.

*The online collaboration software by Teambox has been updated considerably since the writing of this article. You can now find a more current guide on the Teambox site.

I’ve been using Teambox for the past three months, and it has enabled me to perfectly manage all of my projects. Whether you freelance or not, we all know that completing design work takes tons of effort. Well, guess what? Getting this work done often includes the following crucial responsibilities as well:

  • Interfacing with multiple contacts
  • Sending and receiving e-mails
  • Sending logo files and design comps
  • Waiting on and managing multiple content documents
  • Drafting and redrafting contracts
  • Indicating work hours
  • Tracking client requests
  • Remembering and assigning tasks

I’m not going to say that it is always a nightmare to maintain the communication necessary to complete a project. However, with all of these moving parts, a breakdown of the above responsibilities could create tension between you and your client (especially if you are freelancing). So why not introduce a solution that helps you and your client communicate effectively through the duration of a project?

Sign up

To get started, go to Teambox.com and create an account.

Create project

Give your project a name, and then create a URL to your project. See below for an example. Check “Enable time tracking” if you are interested in recording the time it takes to complete the project (you also can set this up later).

Invite others to join

Ask all parties involved in the project to create an account at Teambox. As accounts are created you can easily invite each person via e-mail address or Teambox username. Click on the “People” button to send invites.

Pages

Click on “Pages.” This section can be used to create a page containing anything you want. I tend to use it for storing general information and organizing documents. For example, I usually create a Contact page so there’s no confusion about how to reach somebody.

I also prefer to have a Contract page from which everyone can access the contract in all of its versions/revisions. If there is ever a dispute about services or if service need to be expanded, I have found it nice to have this available for the client to see.

Pages are great for managing multiple documents, too. Let’s say you have to manage a dozen bios. Create a Bio page, upload the documents, create dividers, and drag them up and down to arrange them logically. You can apply this same concept when managing Web content sent as documents, organizing photos and managing design comps or logos. Pages makes content easy to find, and it eliminates having to resend the same logo file to your client every time the client misplaces it. Instead, your client can get it from Teambox.

Create Task Lists to group tasks

Every project requires the execution of crucial tasks; the “Task Lists” will help you identify them. Click on Task Lists at the top and then on the gray button to the right that reads “+ New Task List.” A Task List groups and organizes specific tasks for your project. Start by creating different headings within the Task List — for example Design, Budget, etc. This feature helps keep your tasks organized.

Add Tasks to your Task Lists

Now add tasks under your Task List heading(s) by clicking the “+ Add Task” button.

Give your “New Task” a name and indicate what needs to be done. You can assign tasks to Teamboxers and  add due dates.

All tasks are editable, and any Teamboxer can respond to them. Tasks that aren’t completed by their due date turn red, and finished tasks are marked by a strikethrough.

Task Updates

As you work towards completing your tasks you can leave status updates. Click on the task that you are working on to check or update its status. Here you can define what needs to be done by commenting. This task can be assigned or reassigned to somebody. You can also add an attachment and indicate working hours.  And if the task is done, click resolved to close this task. All resolved tasks are archived and easy to reopen if needed.

Reordering Tasks and Task Lists

You also can reorder your tasks and task lists. By hovering just to the left of your tasks you will see the cursor change to a hand icon. Once that happens, drag and drop to reorder your tasks. If you want to reorder your task list headings, you will need to click at the top of the task lists where it says, “Reorder Task Lists” in blue. This will reload the page and allow you to drag and drop the task list headings to fit your needs. Then click “Done reorder” and the updates will be made.

Alphabetizing your task lists and tasks greatly helps create logical and speedy navigation. A well organized project is easier to follow and  complete.

Time-Tracking

When teammates log their work time in the tasks section, everyone can easily monitor hours spent on a project by clicking on the “Time Tracking” button. You have filter options on the right to easily check a teammate’s hours, or you can filter the results to check hours logged for a particular task.

Conversations

Conversations is another great feature of Teambox that lets teammates post questions or ideas that are outside the scope of the task lists. For example, you can start a conversation to ask the team for suggestions on how to improve business. You also could use the Conversations tool to initiate a time to schedule a meeting. Conversations is a good place to post a link that you want to share. This is also a smart place for giving positive feedback to your team. Tell your team that the client loves the comps, and to keep up the good work.

The other cool benefit of Conversations is that it will send your team members e-mail updates so they can easily follow the conversation string.

Files

The Files section conveniently gives you access to all the files that have been uploaded across sections. This makes it easy for you and your client to find and retrieve files.

Overview

The Overview page displays all the updates you and your teammates make to a project. You can always check the Overview to see what is happening. You can subscribe to the Project RSS feed for project updates, and you can download a calendar indicating all of your projects’ start and end dates, too.

The “Update your status…” input box can be used to leave quick messages or to convert a status update into a task. Hovering over the date of any status entry will reveal these options: Convert to task, edit comment and delete.

Tricks of the Trade

Typing the “@” symbol in any input box will prompt a drop-down menu containing a list of the project’s members. By selecting one, several or all members from this drop-down your message will then be e-mailed to the selected member(s). This helps keep your team informed even when fellow Teamboxers aren’t logged into Teambox. Try using this feature with task updates, Conversations or from the Overview page.

Another time-saving feature lives inside the “All Projects” tab. If you hover over All Projects, a drop-down will appear that lists all open projects. When you then hover over one of the project names, you will see three icons that are shortcuts to Conversations, Task Lists and Pages. This is surely the fastest way to zip back and forth between projects.

Conclusion

Project management can be a massive responsibility. Whether you are collaborating with a team, working one-on-one with a client or working on a personal project, Teambox will help manage your team and your projects successfully to completion.

Aside from the benefits listed above, it also promotes communication, transparency and accountability: Everyone knows his or her  role. Everyone can see how long a task is taking to complete. Everyone has the same access to a project’s information. No one is left in the dark.

Bringing an end to communication and workflow issues has made my clients grow to love Teambox. So check out thisonline collaboration software by Teambox, and contact the company directly if you have unique requirements for your project. Teambox can be set up on your own servers. You also can keep up with your project via your iPhone.

Best of luck!

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