Effective collaboration between team members has always been a critical factor in developing a productive environment for any organization. In the past few years, with the boom in work-from-home culture and innovative concepts of remote working teams, need for having a smooth communication and collaboration among the team members has become a necessity for an organization to carry over its operations efficiently. And this becomes all the more important when people from different domains are working together, like the members from the development and operations team. Any organization having such team structures need to ensure quick and effective communication between team members while ensuring strict monitoring of the project progress and quality to meet the client expectations. Fortunately, such effective coordination and management have been made possible with the help of technology. There are a large number of tools available that can help you establish better coordination and overcome the difficulties involved in such tasks. Here are a few tools that you can try out to help you enhance the collaboration within your DevOps teams.
Slack, the near-universal collaboration platform developed by the U.S. software company Slack Technologies, provides a set of tools like direct messaging, audio/video calls, and document sharing to help enhance the team collaboration. Besides group and individual chats, Slack offers some attractive capabilities like inline replies, mobile versatility, and integration with a large number of third-party services like GitHub, Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Heroku, IBM Bluemix, Zendesk, Trello, Crashlytics, Runscope, and Zapier. Slack is a freemium product. This means that you can use several of its features for free, while some enhanced features like support for an unlimited number of users and application integrations can be enjoyed at a premium price. For this reason, Slack has gained good popularity among teams of all sizes, be it enterprises, small organizations, or individuals.
Microsoft Teams is the unified communications platform that offers a wide range of collaborative features for teams of all sizes. It is available with the Microsoft Office 365 subscription as well as an independent application for Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows Phone 8.1 Web App. Being part of the Office 365 productivity suite, it has native support for all the productivity apps, including Skype voice and video calls. Additional extensions allow integration with other non-Microsoft products as well.
Story of the evolution of this product is as interesting as its features. In 2016, Microsoft’s $8 billion bid to acquire Slack didn’t turn out well, as Bill Gates was in favor of making improvements to Skype for Business. Gradually, Microsoft Teams grew into a unified platform, combining the product lines Office 365 for Education (in May 2017) and then Skype for Business (in September 2017). While Microsoft Teams kept growing by having tighter integration with Microsoft products, its competitor Slack kept making enhancements towards tighter integration with Google’s collaboration product suite. The Microsoft Teams vs. Slack battle will only get hotter this year.
GitHub is the largest online open-source code repository, with several collaboration capabilities like task management, bug tracking, and dedicated project wikis, etc. GitHub, the US-based multinational organization, was acquired by Microsoft in 2018 for $7.5 billion. It provides excellent support for different kinds of project collaboration activities. It leverages Git (a distributed version control system) to provide a hosted environment for tracking changes to any set of files, including documents and program codes. In addition to all the core version control functionalities of Git such as distributed version control and source code management (SCM), GitHub also offers its features like access control for added security. GitHub offers its services in three subscription offers: free, professional, and enterprise. While the content of free subscription is shared publicly, private repositories with managed permissions are available with professional and enterprise accounts.
Basecamp is a project management tool that helps teams collaborate and communicate over project milestones. Launched in 2004, the Basecamp tool allows the team leaders to create to-do lists, file sharing, forum-like collaboration with threaded message boards, schedule management, file sharing, and time tracking. It is also supported by a chat capability (formerly known as Campfire, later merged into the core product with version Basecamp 3 onwards). Initially launched as a web-based tool, Basecamp apps are now available for web, iOS, Android, Mac, and PC. It is popular among freelancers, small shops, midsized companies, as well as multinational organizations. It is not available as a freemium product, although you can check it out using the free trial.
Jira, the project management and tracking tool developed by the Australian Software company Atlassian, can be a good way to keep good coordination between the developers, testers, project managers, and other stakeholders. Teams of all sizes can use Jira to collaborate on various project management tasks like bug tracking, issue tracking, and build management. Jira can be used to develop custom workflows and project matrix tracking. It can be integrated with a variety of source control programs, like Git, Perforce, Clearcase, and Team Foundation Server. Atlassian has made available the full source code of Jira for academic and commercial customers under a developer source license. It also provides a free version to some organizations that meet certain criteria (non-profit, non-political, non-governmental, and non-academic organizations).
Workplace by Facebook
Workplace by Facebook is an enterprise-level collaborative platform developed by the social media titan. It comes with a unique combination of user experience of Facebook (the social media platform) with support for additional enterprise-grade collaboration and management features like project groups and teams, administrative support and dedicated storage space for the projects. Workplace also allows your employees to collaborate with external teams, like clients, partners, and suppliers (having their Workplace accounts) using private chats and secure video calls. It also offers integration with a wide variety of authentication services and platforms, including Active Directory, Windows Azure AS, and Okta.
Besides the usual features like group chats, instant messaging and news feed, it also offers additional attractive features like Live Video broadcast directly using mobile phones and real-time feedback in the form of comments and reactions. It is available in two pricing options, Workplace Standard (free) and Workplace Premium.
Trello is a to-do list-based collaboration tool that allows DevOps teams to use shared lists, groups, and cards in an easy to use fashion. It offers a single view of the entire project status, including the activities that in-progress, already completed, and yet to start, in the form of a single manageable whiteboard. Each individual task can have attached files or images, and they can also be directly linked to other data sources like BitBucket or Salesforce, along with capabilities to comment and collaborate with all the team members. The Trello boards are also equipped with “power-ups” (application integration and development capability) that allows the team to use code-repository, bug tracking, and time-tracking for Trello projects. It is available in two licensing options, a free version for individuals, and the paid subscription version for enterprises, having advanced teams functions and app integrations.
Besides the above list of tools, there are several additional tools available in the market that you can try, like Yammer (a chat-based collaboration system), Zendesk (a customer support tool), If This Then That (web-based service to create automated chains of simple conditional activities), WebEx (IM and chat service), GoToMeeting (online meetings). Each of these tools serves a specific capability and its own set of advantages and limitations. While keeping these advantages and limitations, you can try out these tools to see how they fit in within your environment. Identifying the right one, or a combination of several right ones can take the DevOps implementation in your organization to the next level.
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