What Internet or Intranet-based Collaborative Tools Do You Use for Your Job?

Chemical engineers collaborate to brainstorm new product ideas, solve technical problems, manage projects, and more. I'm writing a series of articles for Chemical Engineering Progress magazine on the online tools that ChemEs are using to collaborate.

I'd love to hear what you're using - so please share your experiences and insights. What tools are you using? What benefits do you and your fellow collaborators get out of them? Are they easy to learn and use? (Those who read CEP's Career Catalyst know I often quote people from this group!)

Share your thoughts below.

Image: Ed Yourdon


Douglas's picture

Here at ChEnected, we certainly take advantage of Dropbox to share documents all the time. We also occasionally use Google Docs & Calendar when when we're working on something together or want to keep a group calendar for coordinating conference blogging, etc. And of course, we share and exchange photos with others through our Flickr account (http://www.flickr.com/photos/chenected/).

Alessandra's picture

At work and through various professional and volunteer organizations for which I serve, some of the more useful platforms I've used (besides the one Douglas has already referenced) include Yammer (which allows for conversations, pages, calendars, file uploads and groups), Basecamp (similar to Yammer), Wiggio (a free online work collaboration platform, also like Yammer or Basecamp) and SharePoint (which many companies may be more familiar with). Of the platforms I've used, Yammer has allowed for more seamless coordination and collaboration in my projects to date, and has been very easy to learn and use!

ehorahan's picture

We use Outlook and the Microsoft Communicator. Sharepoint is great for keeping our project groups organized. Also - the good old-fashioned telephone.

Robert S's picture

We use Sharepoint and I have even been involved in some work putting together the platform that we using. There is tremendous value in these concepts (I don't think that matters which one it is) in terms of sharing and storing information. This is extra valuable to someone in my role where I will go into a project and do a lot of groundwork for people that will be coming in blind at a later point in time and need to know what is going on and be productive the moment they get on site. That being said, I have two main challenges as the person responsible for providing content to these tools, one philosophical and one technical. These tools are completely passive, there is no way to bring people to the content and there is no way for me to know who is reading and if the people that need to be are reading it. It can be challenging to maintain motivation to put a lot of work into the content and not knowing if anyone is listening. Though when it pays off and ideas come together fast and furious it is very nice. Second, with all these tools migrating to the cloud it is very dependent on available bandwidth. Working in the office connected to the network is great. But I work in some remote areas with limited connectivity and the time I spend on doing one little task can be astronomical...not good for productivity or frustration levels. And if it goes out, I can be completely stranded from resources. And a minor challenge is that these have the same issues of a social network. Their usefulness is proportional to their participation rates. Personally I use google - I think they have the simplest way to do all of it, which I value given my previously stated arguments. But I get access that through our firewall.

advantagemarketing's picture

Thanks to everyone for sharing which tools you use. I can appreciate Robert S's comments about the challenges in using these tools. One thing that is becoming clear to me is that not every project is suitable for online collaboration. And that online collaboration can require a different way of working than what we may be used to. Three cheers to ehorahan for mentioning the good old telephone! I think it can add the third dimension - that of relationship building - back to online collaboration.