Tag Archives: Distributed Team

About distributed teams.

Using Google Drive without Google Docs

If you are using Kerika with Google, you don’t have to convert your documents to the Google Docs format in order to use Google Drive.

Google Docs Format Preference
Google Docs Format Preference

You can use this preference setting to ensure that your Microsoft Office documents, for example, are retained in MS Office format even while they they are stored and shared using Google Drive.

 

Consolidating multiple accounts within an organization

With the implementation of our shiny, new and fully automated billing system, it’s become a little more important for our customers to make sure that all the users within their organization are working in the right accounts — preferably, a single account.

Working in a single account, rather than a bunch of separate accounts, has advantages:

  1. It makes it much easier to pay for subscriptions: if all the Kerika users within a  department are working on boards owned by a single account, then only that account needs to purchase subscriptions.  This means less invoicing and payment stuff for you to worry about.
  2. It also ensures that all project assets — boards, documents, canvases, etc. — are owned by a single entity. And ideally this single entity would be a service account rather than an individual.  Many of our customers are using service accounts, set up using emails like kerika@example.com.

We have done a ton of improvements to the new user sign-up process to help guide people to working with their coworkers, using accounts that the coworkers have already set up, instead of creating new accounts.

But, there are still situations where an organization may find that, across all of its Kerika users, there are too many different accounts.  If this is the case for you, we can help: we can consolidate multiple accounts into a single account if you ask us.

This consolidation preserves all the existing boards, content, and project teams: it just changes the ownership of everything to be a single user ID.

Let us know if we can help you with this.

A reminder: you don’t have to pay for Visitors

The rollout of our new billing system seems to have been smooth — so far, fingers crossed! — and with this you now get better controls over who is part of your Account Team:

Manage Users
Manage Users

Please note that you don’t get charged for Visitors: if someone is only a Visitor on your boards — i.e. is not a Team Member or Board Admin on any board you own — you don’t need to pay for this person.

It doesn’t matter how many boards this person “visits”.

Visitors do show up on your Manage My Team list in the Manage Users tab, so you are reminded that they have access to some, possibly all, of your boards, and you can remove a Visitor entirely from your Account in the same way that you might remove a Team Member or Board Admin.

 

An improved way of moving boards from one Account to another

As part of our next release, which will include a new billing system, we will make it easier for you to move boards that you own to another account.

This can help in several scenarios:

  • If someone is leaving a team, it’s good practice to have their boards transferred to someone who will remain, so that ownership of project assets — the boards and all the content in the boards, including documents — remains with the team.
  • More importantly, it is good practice to stay away from having individuals own boards, and instead use service accounts to be the single Account Owner in your organization.

A service account is an omnibus account, typically set up with an email address like kerika@example.org, that isn’t associated with a single individual.  A service account will never quit, never get fired, or take a vacation because a service account is not a real person — it is simply an account/ID used to be the permanent, omnipresent, owner of project assets so that team turnover doesn’t disrupt anyone.

If you own a board, you can move it to another account, i.e. effective change its ownership, by selecting the board on your Account’s Home, and clicking on the Board Actions button which appears on the top-right corner of the board card:

Board Actions Menu
Board Actions Menu

This will bring up a small menu of actions that are available to us as the board’s current owner:

Board Actions
Board Actions

(Note: this menu can also be accessed using the right mouse button.)

When you select the Move to another Account action from this menu, we will present you with this new dialog box:

Move Board dialog
Move Board dialog

A list of “known collaborators” is presented to you by Kerika to make it easy to select a coworker with a single mouse click, but you can also move the board to someone else, who isn’t part of your current Kerika collaboration network.

If you type in an email address, Kerika will immediately check to see whether this email address is that of a known Kerika user, before letting you proceed further:

Checking if new owner is a Kerika user
Checking if new owner is a Kerika user

We think these improvements will make it easier for our users to manage their organizations boards, and move towards consolidated ownership for easier asset management.

Managing the privacy of your Kerika boards

Kerika offers a great deal of control over how each board is shared:

  1. A board can be made public to everyone.  This makes sense for open-source projects and many nonprofit and advocacy groups, where the goal is to get maximum visibility and publicity rather than to hide the details of what the project is about.

    Making a board public means that anyone who has the URL of the board can view it, even people who are not Kerika users.  Note: we are talking about viewing the board; viewing doesn’t mean anyone who isn’t part of the board team can make changes.

    If a board is viewable by the public, it can be found by anyone using Kerika’s search function.

  2. A board can be viewable by everyone who is part of the account team. This is the default setting, and it makes a lot of sense for most organizations: you want your coworkers to be aware of what your team is doing, unless the project is particularly sensitive.

    An account team consists of everyone who is a Team Member or Visitor on any board owned by the account.

    As people get added to individual boards, they are also automatically added to the account team.  When someone is removed from every board owned by an account, they are automatically removed from the account team as well.

    As with public boards, described above, we are talking only about viewing, not changing: only people who are Board Admins or Team Members on a particular board’s team can make any changes to that board. (And, of course, the Account Owner who owns the board.)
    If you use Kerika’s search function, you can find boards that are being shared with the account team, provided you are part of that particular account team.

  3. A board can be kept private.  This means that only the people who are listed on the board’s team — as a Board Admin, Team Member or Visitor — can view the board.  (And, of course, the Account Owner who owns the board.)

    This is appropriate for any sensitive projects, e.g. stuff related to personnel matters or confidential contracts.

    Private boards can’t be found by Kerika’s search function either, and it doesn’t matter if you know the URL for the board: only the specific people listed on the board team can see anything related to that board.

For each board owned by an account, the Account Owner or Board Admins can manage the board’s team: decide who is part of the team, and what sort of role (Board Admin, Team Member, or Visitor) each person has.

  • Board Admins and Team Members can make changes to all the items on the board, including any documents attached to the board.
  • Visitors have read-only access to the board and all its documents.
  • A person’s role can be changed at any time by the Board Admin or Account Owner: the effect is immediate, and extends to all the documents associated with the board as well regardless of whether you are using Google or Box for your file storage, or whether you are storing your files with Kerika.

A board’s team and current privacy settings can be viewed by clicking on the Team button that appears on the top-right of the Kerika app, when viewing a board:

Board Team button
Board Team button

Clicking on this button brings up the Board Team dialog:

Board Team dialog
Board Team dialog

Each person who is part of the Board Team is listed in this dialog, in alphabetical order along with their role.

At the bottom of the dialog is the board’s current privacy setting: in the example shown above, the board is being shared with everyone who is part of this user’s account team. (We have obscured the URL in the screenshot for security reasons.)

If you are a Board Admin or the Account Owner, you can change the privacy of the board using the Change Privacy link that’s shown on the bottom of the dialog:

Board Privacy options
Board Privacy options

So, every board can have it’s own privacy settings: private, shared with account team, or public.

When you are viewing the boards in an account, Kerika shows clearly what the privacy setting is for each board:

Privacy settings, at a glance
Privacy settings, at a glance

If you are part of someone’s account, you will be able to create new boards in that account: you will automatically be a Board Admin on those new boards, but the owner will always be the account you are working in.

You can set your privacy preferences for each account; this will determine whether new boards you create are automatically shared with your coworkers or not:

Privacy preferences
Privacy preferences

All your preferences can be set at https://kerika.com/preferences.  The default setting is Share with Account Team, which works well for most people, most of the time.

 

Using Service Accounts to manage all your Kerika Users

For some segments of our users, e.g. college students using Kerika for their course projects, it makes sense to treat each user as an independent entity, since the relationships between these students will vary from class to class, from semester to semester.

These collaboration networks are very dynamic, and it’s impossible to predict whether a team that got together to work on a three-month class project will stick together after that project is over, or work as the same group of people on the next class project.

In business environments (companies, nonprofits and government agencies), however, the teams are more stable: people don’t change jobs every few months.  But, turnover can still be a problem: if Joe leaves your company, how can you be sure that all the boards and documents that Joe had created are not lost along when Joe is gone?

The simple solution to this is to use service accounts to own all the boards that are being used by a community of users, like a department or even the entire company (if the company is small enough).

A service account looks like any other Kerika account — it is associated with it’s own email, e.g. kerika@example.com — but it isn’t actually a real person: the email will have been set up by the organization’s IT staff or management, and the password is typically shared between a small handful of supervisory people.

Unlike real people, service accounts will always stick around: they won’t retire, resign, or get run over by a bus…

This means the organization has continuity and security with respect to it’s Kerika boards and documents: because the project assets are owned by kerika@example.com, rather than joe@example.com, it doesn’t matter whether Joe is still working at the company or not.

We encourage all our professional users — people working in companies, nonprofits and governments — to set up service accounts as a best practice, and we can help you: just email us at info@kerika.com and we will do all the account consolidation for you:

  • All the boards owned by the people in your organization will be transferred to the ownership of the service account instead.
  • Everything about each board is preserved as part of the transfer: all the cards, canvases, due dates, etc. remain the same after the transfer; it’s just that the boards are no longer owned by joe@example.com and susan@example.com, but instead are now owned by kerika@example.com
  • You can decide who to consolidate within the service account: typically it is everyone in the organization, but if you have different departments or cost centers, it will make sense to have more than one service account — one for each department or cost center.
  • After the consolidation, individual users within your organization will no longer have separate accounts: their Kerika identity, preferences, history, etc. are all preserved, but instead of working in several different accounts, they will all be working in a single service account, that’s under the control of your organization.
  • All this can be done by us, overnight: the next day your users can come into work and login as they did before, and have access to all the boards they had the previous day. All the boards will look the same, and your users can pick exactly where they left off.

When users have been consolidated within a service account, any new boards that they create will automatically be owned by that service account, rather than by the individual users.  This ensures that all current and all future project assets are owned by the service account, i.e. by the company, rather than by individual users.

It’s still possible for individual users to have privacy within the service account: for sensitive work (e.g. personnel matters) they can adjust the privacy of individual boards to be “share with board team only”.  When the privacy is set to board team only, the board will be visible only to the people who are specifically added by the Board Admins to the board’s team.

The Account Owner, i.e. the service account, will always have access to every board within that account, regardless of the board’s privacy settings. This is consistent with how other organizational assets are currently managed: if you have a work email, for example, you expect to have privacy from your coworkers, but you know that the company’s IT department will always have access to your email if they need it — and your email doesn’t really belong to you, but to your employer.