Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How we use Google Docs at the Help Desk

We have been using and are crazy about Google Docs at the San Jose State University Help Desk. Why? Because Google Docs have greatly improved our ability to collaborate efficiently. Rather than e-mail copies of Word files from person to person and hope the end result is not mass confusion; we invite users to work together of the documents we have stored in Google's Web cloud.

We build right sized collaboration teams of subject matter experts (SMPs), staff users, writers and editors around a document based around the need to get the job done. In this post we will illustrate how we do this.

For any of this to make sense; you need to understand the concepts in the following video. This is how Google Docs works:

Understanding Google Docs Video

Sharing a document with others is very simple. Here is another video that shows you how to add people to collaborate on a Google Document.

As you follow the progress of a team around a document, you may want to view the revision history to see who did what to the document. It is easy to do this. Select "see revision history" from the file menu of the Google document.

See revision history in the File menu of Google Docs

After you make this selection you can see the work of the multiple editors of, or contributors to, the document and/or roll back to a previous version.

A view of the revision history of a help desk document.

Using Google Docs we have been able to create teams around on-line and training documents based of the expertise and the skill sets needed to create successful documentation. We have also been using this approach for several years for asset management. This work flow has significant potential also for group efforts like department newsletters. It is hard to imagine reverting to our old inefficient work flow of mailing Word files and tracking changes to those files.

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