Collaboration and Freedom!

Ahead of the weekly whole-of-project-team meetings for a big project at my work there are about fifteen people who have to update the same Microsoft PowerPoint presentation in the SharePoint-powered EPM Server, and it’s proven to be an incredibly frustrating exercise because: there is no support for concurrent authoring, so it’s strictly one-at-a-time and first-in-first-served sometimes an author thinks they have a timeslice with the presentation, but somebody else is working in there too, and updates get lost/overwritten like all normal people, most of the team leaders leave the updating of the presentation until the last-possible moment, which means we end up with fifteen people trying to update the same file over a very hotly-contested brief window of time.

My solution has typically been to update a local copy of the presentation and then email it to the brilliant, long-suffering, and always-tolerant project administrator to fold my slides into the main deck right before the presentation happens… but that is not a good solution, and in thinking of a Better and Fairer Way i was reminded recently of three things: the great fun that was had using Google Docs to collaborate in the closing phases of preparing the Identity and Access Management Strategy, during three of us were updating the strategy document concurrently. It was spooky seeing text changing on the screen both in the paragraph where i was typing and in the paragraph above, by another’s hand!

After a recent Tech Drop talk i attended at which a New-Zealand-based Google engineer who’s been working on the cutover of 2,000 employees from Microsoft Office to Google Docs i found that it was incredibly easy to upload a PowerPoint presentation into Google Docs (we’d done this before, but only experimentally).  So i’ve tried this out with the big project’s presentation for the weekly meeting, and:

  • …and the freedom of being able to update this presentation from anywhere, with any web browser, concurrently with other users, collaboratively, is really a joyful and good thing! Disclaimer: i’m really and honestly not a Microsoft basher, though that’s probably a topic for another post.
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