Recently, a group of my colleagues was given the task of compiling a document. The problem was that there was only ten hours to do it in.
The document was an RFP so there were a number of questions that needed responses. Normally, for this task to get done, the team would need to first assess which questions each person would answer. Then, each would head off on their own and try their best to complete each of them. Later, one lucky person would have the added task of copying and pasting all the responses into a single master document, ensuring that each answer wasn’t replicated somewhere else in a slightly different way.
That just wasn’t going to cut it. There are far too many problem with this traditional approach. Not only is there too much time and energy spent assessing and dividing the questions at the beginning, but the logistics of it meant that it really wouldn’t take long at all for the documents to become out of sync – especially if one person sent through a couple of revisions for a question. It also means that the response are less of a collaboration, instead being a set of distinct blocks of text that don’t have any flow.
The team needed a way to work on the document concurrently; to pick the next question that made sense to them without going through each and every one; a way to avoid miscommunication and get the job done as quickly as possible and with the highest level of quality and consistency.
One person’s quick thinking lead to the original document (with the questions) being uploaded and imported to Google Docs. Google Docs was able to take the Microsoft Word document and load it so that all the formatting was kept. After quickly sharing the document to the other members of the group, everyone was able to log in to Google Docs and open the document.
All the members of the group could now communicate via a chat panel, asking questions about the document and discussing ideas for responses.
Google Docs allows everyone to edit the document at once, and you can see where in the document everyone else is and see them typing into the document in real-time! If that’s not the most amazing way to collaboratively work on a document, then I don’t know what is. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits used Google Docs to write a public eBook. He made the document publicly available while he was writing it, allowing anyone with the link to the document to contribute ideas and content - talk about mass collaboration!
With the deadline quickly approaching, Google Docs gave the group visibility into the document taking shape, right in front of their eyes. It meant that there was no need to assign the questions out beforehand – each person could read through the questions and pick one that suited their knowledge, skills and, what they felt like writing about at the time. Mark Forster takes a similar approach with SuperFocus - scan through your list until something jumps out at you, something that is “ready to be done”, then do that.
Once all the responses were completed, it was effortless to save the document out of Google Docs as a Microsoft Word document again. Then, without any further changes, it was ready to be sent in.
Google Docs really helped this team get a complex task done in the smallest amount of time. No fuss, no sending emails back and forth, just good productivity.
If you’ve never tried Google Docs, you owe it to yourself and your team to give it a go. If you already have a Google Account, then you can get into Google Docs from the Google Bar. If you don’t have a Google Account, head to the Google Docs page and register.
What’s been your experience with Google Docs? Leave your comments below.