Team Communication

  1. What does your team use for communication?

  2. How does it work for your team?

Internally we use Google Groups to set up several email listservs. That way the email addresses can be managed easily, and there’s a record of emails sent.

We use MailChimp to email to the community and sponsors.

We’ve used Mailman on a hosting account with cPanel for over a decade now.

Team 1305 uses Google Apps to manage internal team communication.

For example: We use Google Groups to manage multiple email groups such as the general Team Group, but we also have a Mentor group, as well as a group for each of our high schools.

We use Google Drive (Docs, Sheets) for our document management, essay writing, meeting minutes etc. Sharing a document with the entire team is made extremely simple just by sharing it through a Group.

We manage our schedule throughout the year via Google Calendars and we host our internal team Webshare through Google Sites.

At the centre of it all is a Google account that we use to manage all of our services and also hosts the Gmail account we use for external messages.

Team 3467 uses a Google Apps subscription plus Teamwork.com.

Members are given a team email address, and added to a group for their subteam(programming, Mechanical, design, etc.). We use groups to handle team email communication plus a main Google Drive folder for docs/spreadsheets. Then, they use their to login to Teamwork.com Projects, which handles project management and task tracking. Also, our subteam leaders use TeamworkDesk as a help desk/ticket tracking and help docs software to answer quesions when students need help.

We previously used google groups but moved to Groupspaces. Groupspaces provides better information tracking. We add contact information, year joined, year graduating, and many more data points to each member. You can maintain one person and add them to multiple groups (design, programming, etc). Each group has a listserve email address (anyone can use to communicate with a sub team or the whole team). Groupspaces also supports very professional looking email newsletters. It does not seem to be a thriving company and I hope to change to http://www.wildapricot.com/ as soon as the add list serve functionality (planned for September)

Google Groups is free, Groupspaces is more expensive, and WildApricot is considerably more, but includes many more features.

Our process starts with the team leaders planning meeting before one regular meeting each week. After announcements at the start of that meeting the email to parents and students is finalized with updates, key dates, and action items, and sent out.

Our team, due to the large spaces at championships, began to use Slack for team communications at events. It works well if all team members have, or are with someone who has a smartphone with notifications turned on. It was very useful in coordinating lunches, meeting places, and transportation in St. Louis. I would certainly recommend it for this use, and our programmers also enjoyed using it to help with code changes throughout the season.

Our team has trouble getting people to reply to emails.

How do you get your team to always reply, especially in the “Off-season”?

My team uses group emails and google surveys for the most part… we also see each other at school a lot, and communicate by word of mouth as well

We have a phpBB forum where most of our information sent out. Mentors and teachers post information on meetings, events, and assignments there. Often times we have Google Surveys posted here to collect information. Our head teacher has an app where he can broadcast text message alerts to us. This is used for reminders about upcoming events, what to wear, when to be there, etc. And lastly we have monthly emails sent out to parents which normally have details about what we have accomplished and what is coming up in the month ahead.

Google Groups for emails, Sites for an internal site (links to event information, signups, etc.), Docs/Sheets for collecting data or any collaborative work, and Forms for voting that happens outside meetings or to collect responses.

It works pretty well. I wouldn’t consider any of them the best available product in their area (e.g. the lack of formatting options in Docs is difficult after being used to Word), but the ease to link all of them is great. In generally they’re pretty easy to figure out, many people are already familiar with them, and the ability to work on the same document at the same time is great. Groups is nothing special, but it’s an easy way to set up an email group. There can be some minor issues if you don’t use a gmail account, but since most of our team does, in general it’s okay.

They’re also all free, which is a huge plus.

At some point we assume not everyone does. It’s almost impossible to get a reply from everyone. We try to set a deadline and then just go with whatever responses we have at that point. In some cases, we’ll directly email whoever it is that we need an answer from, but most of the time, it’s “if you don’t respond, your opinion doesn’t get counted.”

I also use remind to text students. It works very well.

We send out the emails for events like two months in advance, but don’t get any replies until like the week before or of the actual event.

The mentors on our team have never wanted to try a deadline. Everyone never uses direct wording, they always try to not “offend” people.(I can’t think of the correct words to use.) We’ve tried emailing directly and that never works either.

Our team struggled with the email thing too. For a while I was texting people to check their email after a particularly important one was sent out until they got into the habit of checking their email on their own.

Since our team was relatively small and split between 2 or 3 sites each Saturday, we created a GroupMe about halfway through build season which was an enormous help with reminders to check email and last minute changes of plan (except the mentors weren’t on it, which did cause a couple issues). GroupMe is also extremely useful at competitions for communicating between the pit and the stands to organize lunch and so on, but it can quickly turn to spamming and it’s useless once people turn off notifications because they’re sick of the spam.

Last summer some of our students and programming mentors developed our own team communication system. It sends out SMS text messages and emails to students, mentors, parents, and alumni. Team leaders can designate groups or individuals to receive messages and can even schedule messages to go out at a future time (like first thing the next morning).

The system was designed to host communications for more than one organization on the same server and keep them separate. Our team plans to offer to host for other teams and even outside organizations like scout troops or church groups.

We also plan to publish the source code so other teams or organizations can contribute or even host their own system. We plan to post a new thread to CD soon with more details and link to the source code.

Team 1257 uses Slack. It allows us to set up chat channels for sub teams and projects, and have private group/direct messages. The built in sharing is really convenient.

We use https://wiggio.com/ as a customizable listserv and free education account with http://www.wikispaces.com/ as an easy website to post schedules, updates, files, directions, etc. Instead of remind for text messages, we will try to use these with a special wiggio list when we need to send texts via the email listserv - http://www.emailtextmessages.com/. Slack looks useful too - more things to try!

So we break up our communication depending on who we are trying to reach.

Everyone including mentors, parents, sponsors, current team members, past team members and advisers get periodic emails when something is happening like a competition or a volunteer event. We also like to keep them updated as the season goes.

Then there are kiks and group txts for subgroups of the team like the programmers, the build people, fundraising, etc so that the respective team leader can talk to them and bounce ideas in the moment, as well as one group inclusive of all the student members to help get information out quickly.

It works for us because the email gets all of the information out and the group messaging insures everyone know when an email is sent. The main problem with emails is students don’t see it. Telling them that there is an email coming out makes sure that they look for it.

Hope this helps!

Our team uses twitter for communication. It is great because a smartphone is not needed because you can receive text notifications from twitter. Most of us just get the texts instead of getting on twitter. as soon as a tweet is sent, everyone gets a text, smartphone or not, so it works well for us.

You won’t. Only about 30-50% of people actually will read an email that you send out. I have worked with teams for 4 years now as a FIRST Senior Mentor and quite a few before that and those stats are about true in any situation.

What I suggest teams do is put the info out in many ways. Facebook is a good one, a SECRET FB Group is pretty secure, you control who is in it and who can post to it. Tweet out email updates as well. Let them know information is new and waiting for them in their email.