As Google is issuing Wave invites in a steady trickle, those fortunate enough to have an account are trying to figure out how this new tool might fit into their workflow and help them better communicate and collaborate with their teams and clients.
While the small number of people who actually have an account right now is probably going to be the first hurdle for many teams who would like to try it out on a live project, I count myself among the lucky ones who got a Google Wave invite early and spread my nominations amongst some colleagues and clients.
One of my clients to whom I sent a nomination wanted to try it out on our current project, so I thought I would share some of the early lessons we learned and some tips from my initial dip into using Google Wave for a real client project.
- Set suitable expectations. Despite the months of buzz, and blogosphere- and Twitterverse-wide clamoring for Google Wave invites, the product is still in preview and has some rough edges. Therefore, it does all parties good to be realistic, even if everybody is psyched to be the first kid on their block to use it on a live project. If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll also encounter bouts of slowness, messages to refresh Google Wave, and perhaps even the random browser crash. Your project team’s level of tolerance for such things might vary.
- Do a dry run with a Wave. The Wave concept is definitely a new model for many. It took me an impromptu “dry run” with my client for us to truly grasp the Wave concept and see how it could shape our online collaboration. For example, I could see how Wave could be used to keep all project information and communications online and out of our already cluttered inboxes, and it was great to able to see my client paste text as well as type into a Wave in real-time.
- Take control of your Waves. It’s easy to get a little excited and end up creating Waves for all sorts of things, but you need to take control of the conversation in Google Wave, instead of letting Google Wave take charge of your conversations. For my project, we decided on one Wave per project document, for the sake of organization.
- Use folders and tags. While the Inbox Zero and GTD crowd have yet to full plant their stakes in Google Wave, I must say that the use of folders and tags is prudent, especially because while the Wave platform breaks so much new ground, but folders and tags are concepts are familiar to many. I ended up creating a project-specific folder for all the Waves associated with the client project. My use of tags also came further into play as a tool to fine-tune my own organization. A simple tip is to remember you can resize the navigation pane to accommodate your folder list as it grows. By default, your folder list may not fully appear in the navigation pane.
- Consider whether to use live editing or attachments. Google Wave melds email and word processing together. Thus, it is important to decide whether you want to collaborate on documents directly in Google Wave or via file attachments. Unfortunately, at this time Google Wave lacks version control for file attachments (thus putting the feature at the top of my wish list for a Google Wave extension). My client and I decided to work with file attachments for the project documents and write directly in Google Wave for direct communications with each other.
- Have a Plan B. It’s cool to get jazzed as an early adopter, but if Google Wave isn’t enhancing productivity and communications, be sure that you have a fall back plan in case it end up causing more problems than it is worth.
While my initial entry into Google Wave on a real client project was really just scratching the surface of this new collaboration platform, I do see a lot of potential. However, with its rough edges, it may not be the collaboration platform for everyone just yet. Personally, I am looking towards more Google Wave extensions and gadgets going live, because my initial experience tells me that they are going to be key providers of critical functionality and user experience.
If you’re looking for more info on Wave, check out the report “Google Wave Explained” over on our subscription research service, GigaOM Pro.
Have you tried using Google Wave on any of your current projects? Share your experience below.