Tools to Help Employees Work Together; Web-based apps focus on teams instead of organizations

Tools to Help Employees Work Together

Web-based apps focus on teams instead of organizations


Oct. 20, 2013 4:59 p.m. ET

For years, organizations have installed powerful software designed to get employees to collaborate. But at most companies, the software has just sat there, unused. The problem: Too often, the software proved a poor fit with how people actually work. Now, several Web-based applications are taking a different, more focused approach. They aim to make it easy for an individual team member to recruit co-workers and other potential partners to solve specific work problems, whether or not the rest of the organization comes along for the ride. Here are three tools that can help overcome the inertia that has blocked use of other applications. Each highlights the power a single person can have in getting co-workers to work together.Help From a Friendly Interface

The first challenge with any collaboration tool is getting people to actually use it. Wrike is an online project-management suite from Wrike Inc. that makes it easy to persuade team members, even those outside the company, to share documents and stay updated on one another’s progress by tapping into the power of a tool people are already comfortable using—email.


Team members can send progress reports and receive updates via their regular work email, but all the information is automatically collected in a powerful online project site. The project leader, and other members, can monitor the status of the project from the site, assign and accept tasks, share documents, and add notes to other members. In other words, they can take full advantage of the tool’s collaborative possibilities.

Whose Line Is It?

While broad sharing has value, sometimes a co-worker needs to be brought in to change, add or verify some part of a document while the rest of the document has to remain confidential. Normally in that case, cutting and pasting is the only option.

Smartsheet, from Inc., is an online project-management app based on the common spreadsheet that makes it possible to collaborate on parts of the document. With the application, a team member can create a Smartsheet and then invite others to share the entire sheet or just the specific rows (with any related files or discussions) that the co-worker needs to work on. Any updates to those cells percolate through the entire sheet, so that it isn’t necessary to cut and paste sections into emails and then update the master sheet with responses.

Keeping One’s Commitments

Even the most powerful collaboration tool can’t ensure that team members follow through on their assignments. CommitKeeper by 4Spires Inc. is based on research into the best ways to ensure people pledge to meet their commitments. The tool is designed to ensure that co-workers explicitly negotiate over who will do what by when.

A sales director, for example, may use CommitKeeper to send a request to an analyst for a set of sales projections by Friday at 5 p.m. The analyst receives an email with a big “respond” button that takes him or her to the CommitKeeper site. From there, the analyst accepts, declines or counteroffers—perhaps suggesting Monday at 10 a.m.

By making the terms explicit and allowing members to negotiate alternatives, the tool makes it more likely that they will follow through on assignments as promised.

Dr. Griffith is a professor at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business in Santa Clara, Calif. She can be reached at

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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