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Your writer is in New York, your marketing team is in Chicago, your information technology (IT) staff is in India and you’re, well, more or less living at the airport. In today’s business environment — where employees, contractors, consultants and partners are spread across locations — it’s crucial to have online communications and collaboration tools. They boost worker productivity and save time that’s usually spent in tons of meetings.

The following five Web tools and services are changing the way we work.


There are several popular subscription Web services for tracking projects, posting updates, assigning tasks, sharing files and managing a mobile workforce. Some of the best-known are Basecamp@TaskWorkZone and ProjectSpaces.

Here are some of the most common features of these online project management and collaboration tools:

  • No requirements for special software, just a Web browser and Internet connection
  • Allow employees, managers and executives to clearly track the progress of projects, seeing which ones are completed, on track or running behind schedule
  • Allow managers to easily assign different tasks to different team members and for team members to report back on their progress
  • Everyone has access to a group calendar with important dates and deadlines
  • Team members receive e-mail or RSS (Really Simple Syndication) alerts when changes or comments are made on their project
  • Users can easily share documents of any file type and collaborate on changes
  • Managers and executives can print reports on employee productivity, on-time project completion rates, et cetera
  • Freelance and contract employees can track how many hours they’ve worked on a given project
  • Several of these programs allow you to update project status from a mobile device like a Web-enabled PDAor cell phone
  • Some programs can plug into other popular business management Web services like Oracle, SAP, PeopleSoft and Salesforce.com

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