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September 30th, 2010

With today’s networking technologies you can collaborate on projects with people across the office or across the ocean. While the post-production pros that use CRE’s Xserve rentals and other server setups already know the score, 5 Steps to a Basic Collaborationthere are plenty of office newsletters and corporate projects being done without collaborative input. It is really not that difficult to do. Here are “5 Steps to a Basic Collaborative Workflow” that will truly harness the power of teamwork in your office.

Step 1: The central server

The first thing you need is a way to share the same documents, as well as access graphics and company art. If you do not have much, you can probably make do with a standard office network with sharing enabled. However, it is more efficient to use a central server, which can be connected via Ethernet to your router, whether wired or wireless. The principles are the same with Macintosh, Windows or mixed networks. If you have video or audio files (which are huge), CRE does a lot of Xserve RAID rentals and can help you with this.

Step 2: Permissions and preferences

Project managers will need to decide who has the authority to do what on the network. Some employees may need to read and write to the server, as well as delete, add or revise stored items. Others only need read and/or markup privileges (more on markup below). If you do not establish a clear structure and hierarchy of users, anything could happen – and it will.

Step 3: Collaboration method

The next decision has to do with the way in which you will do the work. If a number of people need to work on the same document, natively (that is, in PowerPoint, Word or a publishing program), then they will all need a licensed, legitimate installation of the software being used. You can get site licenses and multiple-user discounts to save money. Your document creators can output PDF files that can be annotated and returned to them. GoogleDocs is also a way to collaborate via the Web, and will be the subject of a future blog.

Step 4: Markup methods

All major software in Windows will save to PDF, and all Macs, like the workhorse iMac rentals at CRE, can save any document as a PDF, right from the print dialog box. Newer versions of Adobe Reader (from 7 up) and the freeware FoxitReader, as well as the Mac’s Preview application, have annotation capabilities. In this way, revisions can be made without too many hands mucking things up.

Step 5: Oversight and approvals

Whether you use a wall-mounted whiteboard, printed documents or a Web-based tool, you need some sort of timeline or chart to track the project. This should be strictly controlled by the project manager, of course, but all participants need to see it to stay on track. It would be up to the managers to approve the various changes and versions leading up to the final document. At this point, the document can be output to hard copy, Web formats or a specialized output (Press-Quality PDF) that will be used for printing.

These are basic steps that you can tailor to your unique needs. For other unique needs, like office equipment rentals or interactive technology tools, CRE is your premier source. Fill out the online Quick Rental Quote form, and we will gladly collaborate with you to solve any problems in your workflow.

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