By: Leslie Stevens-Huffman

If you’re still using paper forms and conference calls to manage your staff, you might be a little behind the times. Modern engineering managers are using web tools, mobile apps and cloud-based software to communicate, invigorate and improve their team’s performance.

Best of all, replacing outdated systems and paper intensive processes with high-tech tools can lower operating costs, improve morale and make your job easier. Here’s a look at some old-fashioned management practices and their contemporary replacements.

Out-of-Date: Face-to-Face Discussions

Up-to-Date: Video Chat

Face time is important, but why summon everyone to the conference room when your entire team can see each other, communicate and even share documents from their smartphones, tablets or computer screens? And best of all, many web-based tools are free for small teams. Popular web conferencing features include video chat, audio conferencing, collaboration and document sharing. Moreover, video chat apps like Google Hangouts and Skype allow teammates to communicate with each other on-the-go.

Out-of-Date: Annual Reviews

Up-to-Date: Continuous Feedback

Waiting until year-end to review your team’s performance is too late when projects happen in real time. Engineers want and need continuous feedback from peers, managers, subordinates and other key individuals to achieve their objectives and continuously improve. Ditch the paper and switch to an automated performance feedback tool. Some provide 360-degree feedback, which means engineers are not just hearing from their supervisors, but also from their subordinates, internal and/or external clients, and colleagues. Popular features include individual and team reports, rating tracking, automated reminders and reporting. There are dozens of web-based systems to choose from, but if you’d rather start small, consider a mobile app.

Out-of-Date: Spreadsheet Scorecards and Dashboards

Up-to-Date: Digital Dashboards

The balanced scorecard was rated one of the top five management tools by Bain & Company because it “translates mission and vision statements into a comprehensive set of objectives and performance measures that can be quantified and appraised.” Replace your cumbersome spreadsheet with a business dashboard web tool or app. Popular features include cascading and/or consolidated scorecards, dashboards, key performance indicators, real-time tracking and the ability to share and visualize your results.

Out-of-Date: MS Office

Up-to-Date: Cloud Documents

Emailing Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets or saving them on a network server is passé. Contemporary engineering teams create, share and save their work in the cloud. Cloud-based services support collaborative, real-time editing and anytime, anywhere access to documents, presentations, spreadsheets and more. Google Docsis a popular option, but here are some alternatives.

Out-of-Date: Disparate Project Management

Up-to-Date: Open Source Tools and Apps

Disparate processes, inconsistent tools and separate reporting systems make it difficult to manage multiple projects and engineering teams spread across multiple sites. Free and open source project management software puts an affordable, consolidated project management tool within every firm’s reach. For on-the-go teams, consider a mobile project management app that will let you communicate and manage tasks and deadlines when you’re away from the office.

Out-of-Date: MS Outlook

Up-to-Date: Low-Cost Email Clients

Email is here to stay, at least for the time being. But there are a host of email clients that are more cost-effective than Outlook. Some even synch multiple email accounts. Here are five alternatives to Outlook and five free email clients for your Windows PC.

You don’t have to settle for old-fashioned pencil and paper or yesterday’s technology while there are plenty of modern tools that make it a whole lot easier to manage a contemporary engineering team.

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