If your team organization is more "herding cats" than "well-oiled machine," maybe it's time to consider a new approach to collaboration. Teambox and TeamLab are two team-centric tools worth considering.
First released as open source software in 2009, Teambox project management software joins social collaboration tools with online project management, but still manages to be intuitive and easy to use. Depending on your team, you might have fun using Teambox, and also improve communications, organize tasks, and collaborate more efficiently.
"What Teambox enables is better communication between those who are addressed and those [people] on a team who are not directly addressed but have something to contribute," says Karl Goldfield, Teambox Collaboration Agent 001. "It is this transparency that is powerful and changing the way people work," he says.
With so many other collaboration tools on the market, why should you try Teambox? "We look at this answer from a design point of view," Goldfield says. "We offer a solution that is easier to use and elegant. Look at it like iPad vs. other Tablets. They all pretty much do the same thing, but iPad and Teambox are the easiest to use and generate adoption. In online collaboration, adoption is key. It does not matter what features you offer if people do not want to use the system."
To try Teambox, download the code from github.com/teambox, or you can try it online for free. The free trial gives users 50MB of storage and allows up to three projects. Other monthly pricing plans, which cost from US$12 to $99 a month, offer increased storage options, up to 100 projects, search functionality, and cloud hosting and enterprise support. Because I've been exploring Chrome extensions lately, I opted for the Teambox Chrome download.
After the install, I received a chipper welcome email from Karl Goldfield with links to get online help, suggest features, and to watch training webinars. Goldfield even provides his personal email address, Skype name, and phone number to answer user questions. (He replied to my email interview questions the same day.)
Teambox functionality is really intuitive, which means users don't waste a bunch of time learning software intended to save time. Teambox adds a Facebook-like conversation stream for your project discussions, the ability to create tasks with start and finish dates, time tracking, pages, file uploads, user permission levels, and the option to manage projects for different organizations. If you want to keep the fun but increase the functionality of your team, test drive Teambox online for free.
TeamLab business collaboration software, which is not related to Teambox, is distributed under the GNU GPL v3 license and available for download from the SourceForge site. If you'd rather not host the software on your own server, two other solution options are available: you can register online and run the platform as a SaaS solution, or you can run the TeamLab AMI (Amazon Machine Image), a virtual machine with the software pre-installed.
When you start using TeamLab, you have the option to import existing contacts from your address book or Basecamp account, change your assigned password, and edit your profile. Profiles can include a user photo and can be linked to Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Recent Activity also shows under the user profile, giving users an overview of their blog posts, photo uploads, bookmarks, project participation, and so on. In the Community area, you can add new employees, keep track of birthdays, see recent activity in a What's New box, manage a wiki, post to blogs and forums, and add bookmarks, events, photos, and polls. After you create your first project, you can manage your team, mark milestones, assign tasks, have online discussions and share files, and generate reports. TeamLab also provides a template functionality, which can make setting up future projects a breeze.
The TeamLab premium package includes 10GB of storage, the private project option, selective file sharing, priority support, and faster file uploads. The premium package costs US$49 a month and is only available in the SaaS solution. On August 29, TeamLab announced that user access rights functionality, which was previously only available to premium package users, is now provided free of charge to all users. If you want a full mobile version, calendar, email management, and customer relationship management features, you're out of luck; however, these options are "coming soon," according to the project website. Like Teambox, the TeamLab software is incredibly intuitive, so you and your team can be up and running with it in no time.