Collaborating and Workflow: A Beginner’s Guide

Most people hear the term ‘group project’ and groan. I’m one of the rare people out there who genuinely like them. That’s not to deny that when you get stuck with a group that’s slow to do the work, it’s an absolute slog. But about 90% of those problems can alleviated by clear communication and workflow, which can lighten the load for everyone.

Collaboration group projects
Once everyone’s on the same page, group projects can become downright enjoyable. ©Kim McGill

Communicating

If people don’t know what they’re doing, they’re not going to do it. That’s why it’s essential to have a good method for everyone to get updates, ask questions, and share content.

Annabella's Birthday Party - Paul Jacobson
Choosing a communication platform easily accessible by phone helps spread out groups continue to work it out.

Facebook is popular since it’s such a ubiquitous platform, but personally, I’m not hugely fond of it. It was designed to share personal posts with friends and family. It can be difficult to search pages for specific bits of information, and it’s chat system is relatively clunky.

Messaging applications such as ‘WhatsApp’ allow you to gather people into group chats in any arrangement required. A step beyond that are platforms such as ‘Slack’ or ‘Discord’, which also allows those groups to have sub-channels. That way, instead of discussing everything in one stream, you could have places to discuss story ideas, videos, upcoming meetings, etc.

Trello page Concentrated Science collaboration
Our Trello page for Concentrated Science lets the writing and editorial team clearly know what everyone is working on at a glance.

Another really helpful platform is Trello. Similarly, it allows the creation of different sub-categories to allow for organisation. Here, however, individuals can make ‘cards’, which can be a single topic of discussion. Cards can be moved into different categories. So, for example, it can begin in ‘Story Ideas’, be moved to ‘Needs Editing’ and finally to ‘Published’. This can allow everyone to clearly see what stage different projects are at, and understand what needs doing. Sharing Documents

If you’re into content creation, having a second pair of eyes edit your work is always a good thing. They offer a perspective you naturally lose if you’ve been working on something for any length of time.

But emailing a document back and forth is a pain. It’s time consuming, and you can easily lose track of which version is the most recent.

That’s why online document sharing programs which allow multiple people to view and edit at once at so vital. My personal preference is Google Docs, which has a text editor, spreadsheets and a presentation tool. It also allows people to go into ‘suggest mode’, which means that any changes they make can be accepted or rejected by the team.

Suggest Mode in Google Docs
Suggest mode and comments is particularly useful when dealing with large groups who might have different opinions.

There are alternatives if Google’s not your speed, like Microsoft Office Online, Nuclino or Zoho Docs. 

Just Talk To Each Other

At the end of the day, however, no amount of fancy apps and platforms will do anything if the group doesn’t communicate clearly. Arrange regular in-person meetings, or at peace video chat ones if the group is spread across multiple location. Make sure the environment is comfortable enough that people are willing to ask questions. At the same time, make sure goals and deadlines are crystal clear.

If everyone knows what’s happening, you’re going to make amazing things together.


Collaboration” by Kim McGill is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Annabella’s Birthday Party” by Paul Jacobson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.