No matter who you are, independent professional or career worker, it is inevitable that you’ll be working with teams – big and small – in development and humanitarian aid work. (They told you this in college, right?) One of the more difficult aspects for any project manager overseeing a team is keeping track of travel schedules and deliverables.
Some larger organizations offer the option of shared calendars across a corporate ERP system (e.g. Microsoft Outlook/SharePoint or similar). Others have adopted technology solutions like Basecamp from 37Signals.
For sure there are good solutions to be found, but I’ve found that many “simple” solutions end up creating more work and headaches then they solve. Small NGOs and independent consultants need to figure out solutions that are not only effective, but also cost-effective, i.e. cheap as hell! Some software vendors offer free or reduced rate products and services for non-profits, but you have to jump through a few hoops to prove you’re a legitimate NPO, and I think there’s a better (free) way.
The best way I have found to track scheduling is to provide a shared online calendar that is created in a Google Apps spreadsheet. Over at ISG, we’ve had great success with this format because:
- It’s Google: Everyone knows how to open a web browser and navigate to the tool.
- Its simple to use: Its an online environment everyone is familiar with – in this case a spreadsheet.
- Its free: Every Gmail account comes with enough storage space to create, literally, thousands and thousands of documents.
- Its accessible: One huge headache we’ve often run into is being able to have our clients and other access particular technologies from behind their corporate firewalls. With this tool this is never an issue.
- Its manageable: You have the ability to control access to the document and how others can edit and use it.
I’ve created a template calendar that can be used for scheduling team activities for 2014. Click on the button below to access it now: