Collaborating Better.

Effective team work is heightened by intelligent tools that not only allow collaboration, but excel at optimizing it. We've pondered some pitfalls of bad planning, and outlined success strategies for your team.

Collaborating Better.

Based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the team at Mäd enjoy a fruitful amount of public holidays peppered throughout the year. On top of that, we have generous flexi-time and holiday options, and we've championed remote working for years via our various solutions.

Remote working became a global hot topic due to the Covid-19 pandemic forcing employers to adapt or die due to important health regulations essentially shutting down the traditional office- but there's more to consider than simply using a computer at home for work.

We've found strength in equipping our team with collaborative tools no matter where they may choose to work. Let's dive in to the rationale.

Avoid Squirreling.

Our cross-functional teams harmonize on many key client projects. A typical example would be a rebrand with an accompanying website. Firstly, we run workshops to ensure our team fully understand the client, and that we can help carve an intelligent path towards an agreed vision of success. Then, the designer will start work on the rebrand whilst the web developer starts building a site map and initial batch of pages.

At this point, it would be very easy for these team members to hide their working away. For example, if our designer is using the highly popular (and powerful) adobe creative cloud set of software, they'll likely have 100mb+ files stacking up on their hard drive; As not every team member uses .ai's, or .psd's, it's commonplace for designers to simply share photos of their progress.

But here's the problem.
What happens when the designer takes a holiday for a few days, or a week, or longer?

If the team don't have access to their files, we can't progress anything, tweak anything, or even grab elements from their work to help with the rest of the project. If the web designer needs a certain sizing and colouring of their design, they'd simply have to wait - or have the time consuming task of rebuilding the design even if it's not their speciality.  Tucking key files away on the hard drive of one particular drive is called 'squirreling', as a squirrel would with nuts in winter, saving them for their sole usage.

Don't get your team in a position whereby they can't access key files whenever needed.

Avoid Simultaneous Multiple Versions.

Bigger projects often require multiple team versions working on the same document, or file. It's easy to predict how this can become problematic if it's not set up for collaborative success.

As discussed before in our Figma insight,

Why We Chose Figma as a Software Solution for Collaborative Projects.
Look through the lens of our design team, and why we moved all of our active projects to Figma.
If we wanted to work on the same file, we’d share a file, and work independently on it. Then, we’d need to send the updated file back to the other team member - and be extremely careful that we hadn’t missed any edits as it’s common for team members to work on a task at the same time. It could be extremely problematic to end up with a list of tediously named documents that potentially clash with missing updates:

Imagine in v1.3 a decision to change a shade of blue is implemented, but the other designer has worked from v1.2, meaning the new updates get lost and potentially forgotten by the end result. This is clearly problematic, and if team members are working remotely and aren't able to provide daily face to face updates then this could be a further reason for faults to occur.

Don't let filing derail your project success.

Avoid Non-Inclusive Solutions.

Not all collaborative tools are ideal solutions.  Choosing the right tool is key for maximizing productivity and output. For example, a great piece of coding software can be useless for graphic designers to later attempt using, and equally it can be difficult to present very technical work to clients that lack such prowess.

We look for powerful tools with friendly interfaces, and (ideally) options for effective showcasing as we find much benefit in being fully transparent as we work. With our work transparent, it motivates us with healthy pressure (as the client can see progress real time) and allows team mates to know exactly what stage of development we're each working on.

Don't think short-term, find all encompassing tools to fit your project

Our Suggestions.

As earlier linked, Figma has been a catalyst for us. We're finding increasing benefits for this software, and enjoying the extreme ease it provides. Being able to see active users, where they're working, and work alongside them is brilliant. It's also a common cause of impressed praise from our clients as we show them our work whilst presenting prototypes to help visualize the end results.

Extremely accessible, we find the Google Suite has furthered our productivity with ease. Sharing the benefit of multiple users working on the same files at the same time is coupled with the ability to view and restore previous versions- meaning that mistakes are easily rectified.

Both solutions also save to a virtual location, so that files are always easy to access from any device at any time. With lots of technical files in our arsenal, we're saved from cluttered hard drives of multiple large files that outdate quickly (but are useful for backups, and our peace of mind!)

Unsurprisingly, we yet again feel the need to mention the important of centralizing communication. To further the progress of actual work, a clever project management tool allows all discussions, to-dos, decisions, progress, issues, and everything in between.  By optimizing our time we're able to work with more clients, and ensure an acute attention to detail. We use Bloo.io - a solution born and raised in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, operated from our Mäd HQ.

New Solutions.

Even as we are set to publish this opinion piece, we're discussing new software options for better operations.

Today, we're looking at trybrandy.com,  which operates as a virtual brand asset manager. At present, we provide detailed brand guidelines and pass over all the editable source files - but with Brandy, we would be able to allow any client to access key information and files that meet their bespoke requirements, regardless of whether they have design tools and experience or not.

Being able to automatically generate custom sized logos from the vector source will save time for everyone.

Whilst Brandy isn't technically a 'collaboration' tool per say, the ease of navigating the brand assets virtually will undoubtedly free up key designers (no need for constant tweaks and helping non-designers) whilst keeping everything centralized and available for multiple user access at the same time.