5 Ways to Use Google Wave for Business

Remember Google Wave? Clearly, Google Buzz has recently overshadowed Google’s other hotly anticipated social communication platform, but before you ditch your Wave account, give it a second try. There are many useful business applications for Wave, especially in situations that call for collaboration with a group or managing a project. Wave can easily allow users to dispense with the formalities (and expenses) of meetings, phone calls, travel, etc. and instead make it easy to collaborate across time and space.

Here are five examples of common workplace activities that Google Wave can support.

1. Conferences and Professional Development

This one probably seems obvious. Departments can set up Google Waves to discuss what’s happening at a particular event. A company with limited funds could send one person to a conference and use Google Wave as a reporting mechanism. Or if several people attend, they can divide/conquer the event and post their ideas and comments in one place.

For example Chris Hoyt, author of the blog The Recruiter Guy, set up a Wave for the human resources and recruiting community during last year’s Social Recruiting Summit. Both attendees and those of us who were interested but couldn’t make it in person were able to join the Wave. It was an opportunity to gain exposure to the content and learn more about the event so people could budget to attend the following year.

One thing I could see emerging from conference Waves are “back channel” discussions. Conference organizers in particular will want to pay particular attention to this and not necessarily view it as a bad thing. If managed properly, it could bring some opportunities for improvement to light during the event.

2. Decision Making and Problem Solving

Using Google Wave to discuss a company challenge could be very beneficial — especially when all of the players aren’t located in the same place. That’s exactly why Troy Peterson, CEO of Nibi Software, used Wave to get the company’s development plan finalized.  He brought everyone together in a Wave and let the conversation flow. “The real-time document functionality allowed us to have ‘arguments’ and solve problems together that might otherwise have resulted in ‘back and forth’ threads that went on forever.”

Peterson did mention that adoption was an initial challenge. “Although several of my contacts immediately had Wave accounts, they weren’t necessarily the people I was collaborating with on projects.  It required some arm wrestling to get people on board.” But the results were worth it. “In the end, we have a succinct document that we have all agreed on and that we can compare short-term objectives against.”

3. Project Management

The same decision making philosophy applies when you have a project and need to collaborate not only with internal stakeholders, but an external supplier. Google Wave provides an opportunity for collaboration. Hopefully, consultants and/or contractors are able to tap into that dialogue by sharing their Wave account info with client companies.

Rachel Levy, Founder/CEO of the startup website WebinarListings, is using Google Wave with her developer. “We have the list of open items in the Wave, so we can discuss each one. I add an open item, and he can ask me a question about it, or mark it as done.” The main advantage to using this application was being able to track conversations.

This could also be a valuable way to manage the dreaded “scope creep.” You can lay out the entire project in a single Wave once the parameters are agreed upon. Then, you can work through each facet with each side tracking progress and those pesky project deviations. And everything gets documented along the way. New project requirements can even be moved to a new Wave for later consideration.

4. Brainstorming and Idea Cultivation

Brendan Gill, with the firm Staircase3, said he and his partners use Google Wave as a medium to organize and facilitate conversations and feedback. “We are a team of entrepreneurs who like to have an idea and make it happen quickly. We use Google Wave to brainstorm our ideas for new business projects.  It’s a great tool for collecting a series of conversations, and we use a different Wave for each different idea.”

Gill explained they would have traditionally used group e-mails for this purpose, but found Wave has numerous advantages, including serving as a centralized repository, and the ability to use add-on features for enhanced productivity. This was especially useful since their management team is located around the globe. “The Ribbit conferencing feature is great for staging an ad hoc conference call. Furthermore, the simple voting widget is a useful way to end each of our Waves where we can stage a vote for a given idea — whether or not we want to put the idea in motion, or just cut it loose.”

5. Virtual Meetings and Reduced Travel

Let’s face it. Bringing groups of people together can be expensive. Depending on the project, Google Wave could help foster dialogue without a lot of travel, phone calls, etc. Gill mentioned using Wave to make edits and adjustments on business proposals without having people travel to a central location. “Using Wave definitely reduces the need for thousand-dollar transatlantic flights and many tons of carbon emissions. Obviously without Wave, we would still use e-mails and teleconferencing, but using a better communications platform has definitely cut a number of flights out of our schedule,” he said.

Gill added that, “Collaboration can be done in real-time, if required, which is useful if you’re trying to rush out a project that has to happen quickly or not at all. Or for longer-term projects, you can take your time to think about an idea and come back to the plan at any time you like.”

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a way to streamline communications on your next project, Peterson suggests that you “Sign up and use the tool. It may not revolutionize your company’s communications, but it is useful and worth the effort involved in figuring out how it works for your organization.”

Remember the success of a Wave is contingent upon the active participation of the individuals involved. Waves need engagement, attention and clarity. You can’t just ask a question and walk away for a couple days. According to Levy, “The bigger the Wave gets, the slower it gets.” Managing activity and open items becomes essential for productivity.

Via Mashable

How to Manage a Group Project in Google Wave

The mere promise of Google Wave inspired a rainbow of potential use cases, but Wave’s best real-world use boils down to this: it helps a group get things done together. Here’s how to manage a group project in Wave.

Note: If you haven’t gotten your Wave invite yet, check out our invitation donation thread first (or, better yet, keep an eye out for the same thread this Friday). If you have gotten into Wave, search for title:"Invite others to Google Wave" to find the wave with your invites. Wave’s only fun if your cohorts and workmates also have it, so give our your nominations to the people you want to wave with.

Wave’s invitations have been rolling out steadily over the last few weeks, so you and your co-workers might have already gotten some Wave love. If so, let’s take a look at how you can manage a project in the real world, even given Wave’s current unfinished state.

Background: Over the last two months, I’ve co-managed a large-scale group project with a team of six people in Wave: the production of Adam’s and my new book, The Complete Guide to Google Wave. We didn’t write the book in Wave, mind you—but we did manage the project in Wave, where we collaborated on everything behind the scenes, from the book’s style guide, to its pricing plan, and to iterations of its cover design. Whether you’re writing a book or planning a weekend trip, here are a few techniques you and your workgroup mates should know that make Wave a great project management tool.

Shared Tags and Saved Searches

To keep all the project-specific waves into a single bucket, the first thing all the members of your group should do is agree on a project-specific tag. Unlike email folders or Gmail’s labels, Wave’s tags are visible to all wave participants, like Flickr or Delicious tags. So if you decide your project’s tag is “Vacation plans,” everyone tags project waves the same and can find waves based on that tag.

To easily see if there are new updates on the project’s waves, save a search for the tag. In this case, search for tag:”Vacation plans” and click the “Save Search” button on the bottom of the search panel. (You can even assign a color to the saved search for some visual flair.) Once that’s done, you have a project-specific “inbox” (so to speak) in the Searches area of the Navigation panel.

In the screenshot at the top of this article, you can see that for the book project, the agreed-upon tag was “cwg,” and in my Wave client, it was colored gray.

You can even break down project tags even further by combining them. For example, you could tag waves specific to hotel research “Vacation plans” and “hotels.” Then, a search for tag:"Vacation plans" tag:hotels will narrow down the results further. Here’s more on saved searches and Wave filters.

Choose to Reply Below a Blip, Inline, or Edit the Blip

Unlike email, where you can either reply to an entire message or chop it up into quotes and reply inline (which is a tedious and manual process), in Wave you can do either of those things—OR just edit the message that someone else wrote, as if it were a Google Document. This ability to co-author a single message and see past revisions of that message in one place is what sets Wave apart.

In a public wave situation where anyone can edit anything that anyone else has written, it can be total chaos (see, for example, the Lifehacker public wave we tried out with readers). But within a trusted circle of co-editors, revising a single blip together—and having the option to have threaded inline conversations about that content as well—makes getting work done much easier.

For example, if someone asks a series of questions, others can reply inline like email (but more conveniently). But if someone’s drafting a document and needs help filling in the holes and keeping it updated, others can just dive in and hit the Edit button, like Wikipedia. In the screenshot here, you can see a message that has had two authors (Jon and me) but also contains inline replies.

Wave’s three modes of interacting with and editing content—replies, inline replies, and co-editing blips—makes its collaborative abilities in a single context very powerful. Here’s more on the three ways to update a wave.

Private Replies

Sometimes in a group conversation, you want to direct a private reply to a single member or subset of a group about a larger issue—and Wave makes that very easy. Inside the context of a single wave, you can click on the timestamp drop-down and choose “Private Reply” to say something to a subset of that wave’s participants that no one else can see. This ability comes in extremely handy whenever someone has something to add that’s only meant for a few people’s eyes. These private conversations with you appear inline on the wave that everyone else can see—so it can feel weird, like you’re talking behind the backs of others but right in front of them—however, not everyone can see the private back-and-forth in wave. Here’s more on how to send a reply only certain people can see in Wave.

Playback and Wave Forking

Since Wave is more a document collaboration tool than an email replacement, its contents are living things that go through a series of change and revisions over time. Wave’s playback feature lets you move forward and back through those revisions. If a wave has changed too much, and you want to restore an older version of it, Wave makes that possible. While you’re in playback mode, in an older revisions, from the timestamp drop-down, choose “Copy Wave” to create a new wave that contains that old revision. (Currently you can’t restore a wave itself to an older version of itself; you have to copy that version to a new wave.)

Here’s more on how to play back wave changes over time to catch up on a conversation or restore a past version.

Helpful Bots, Gadgets, and Add-ons

There are tons of Wave bots and gadgets out there, and the ones that will help with your project depend on what you’re doing. But there are a few that could help in almost any situation.

The XMPP Lite Bot: One of the issues with adopting Google Wave into your workflow is the whole “yet another inbox” problem. If you’re working on a project in Wave but forget to check it every day, you can get notifications of wave updates via IM. The XMPP Lite bot can GChat you as project waves get updated. To use it, add the bot to your contacts (its Wave ID is wave-xmpp@appspot.com), and then add that same contact to your GTalk contacts list. Add the bot to any wave you want IM notifications from, and click the Subscribe button.

The Yes/No/Maybe Gadget: One of the simplest and most useful Wave gadgets available, the Yes/No/Maybe gadget makes asking a simple question of a group and tallying responses dead-simple. To use it, type a question into your wave that have the possible answers, Yes, No, or Maybe. Then, click on the Yes/No/Maybe button on your Wave toolbar. (It’s got three small boxes—green, red, and yellow.) Then, wave participants can just click on their response and add a little note by clicking the “Set my status” link.

Here are a few more great gadgets and bots for Wave.

Google Gears and a modern browser (or a plug-in for IE): The advantage of using a web application is that you don’t have to install software other than a web browser onto your system to access it. That advantage comes with some caveats in Wave. Google Gears, the browser add-on that ships with Chrome but that you have to download and install for Firefox and Safari, isn’t required for Wave, but adds essential functionality: the ability to drag and drop files into Wave. The bad news for Mac users is that Gears is still(!) not available for Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard (why, Google, why?) and it doesn’t come with the Mac build of Chrome, either. However, if you’re on a PC and you want to easily share files in Wave, you need Gears. (In fact, Wave is speedier and more stable in Google Chrome than Firefox and Safari, so if you’re on a PC it’s worth using Chrome for Wave.)

Additionally, Wave doesn’t play nice with vanilla Internet Explorer. Since it relies on new and emerging web technologies that IE doesn’t support yet, if you try to access Wave in IE, you’ll get prompted to use another browser or use the Chrome Frame IE add-on. This might throw a wrench into your plans to collaborate with co-workers in IT lockdown, without the ability to install an alternate browser or IE add-on on their office computer.

While Wave doesn’t have classic project management tools like to-do lists or Gantt charts built-in, it’s great for a project-specific real-time messaging and collaborating. (Plus, to-do lists and more are no doubt on the way in the form of Wave extensions.)

Via lifehacker.com