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How the right software can increase collaboration

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In a previous series for SmartBrief, I laid out my five-step productivity process for leaders, which I then turned into a Productivity Blueprint. This post dives deeper into the second of my five steps, sharing for maximal productivity.

As helpful as meetings are for leaders to set and clarify expectations and build relationships, there still needs to be a communication system in place that allows whole, disparate teams to collaborate fluidly and in real time.

Even before COVID-19, remote employment was one of the most rapidly growing trends in the business world. In a post-COVID world, it is almost certain that this trend will continue.

Being remote increases the difficulty in managing all work processes and meeting all team members’ needs. While teamwork and communication have always been essential to running an effective business, in today’s digital environment, the way that people share and collaborate is changing. Employees, whether they’re sitting in the next cubicle or logging in from halfway across the world, need to be able to connect and work together on important projects. When everyone has access to the same tools and shared information, work gets done faster, and deadlines are more likely to be met.

Be honest. Typically, how many emails do you exchange with co-workers every day? How much time does it normally take to brief your team on goals or progress? If your answers are not to your liking, you should consider updating your collaboration tools.

Recent years have witnessed a rise in software tools specifically designed to aid collaboration through video meetings, real-time messaging and content sharing. Collaboration software, also known as groupware, can help any team, from the smallest startup to the largest enterprise, to share content quickly and easily through documents, messages, videos and other formats. Collaboration tools can, among other things:

  • Organize discussions into channels, making them easier to maintain and follow
  • Support voice and video calls, streamlining communication
  • Integrate with various popular apps (Google Drive, Trello, Dropbox, etc.)
  • Provide easy navigation through documents and other content

According to research by IDC, the cost of not being able to find the right information at the right time is around $3,300 per employee. Why does this happen? Often, it’s because information gets siloed across email threads and isolated communication environments. Collaboration tools address this by pulling disparate streams of information together into a single unified space, helping to improve ROI and eliminate lost time.

With collaboration software, coordinating project activities across different team members and teams is much easier. All information is available on the same page, all documents can be shared, and deadlines can be set conveniently so that the management process is error-free. To achieve long-term success, controlling the project’s progress is essential. Collaboration software plays a big role in monitoring project stages and helps to see that tasks are done on time.

Another benefit of collaboration software is improved scheduling. Lack of scheduling can waste large percentages of employees’ work time. Businesses that plan and schedule their goals and activities get more done and are more effective. Daily, weekly and monthly scheduling allows teams to organize their workflows efficiently.

With the right collaboration software, employees can share public or personal calendars to know all meetings and deadlines. They  can schedule daily meetings, planning meetings, conferences, brainstorm sessions and much more quickly and easily.

Online collaboration tools even make it easier to track the progress of a project. When administrators and supervisors want to make a status check, they can simply see what’s happening within a single software tool. People can also see when a document was last updated and who was responsible for making the most recent changes. This not only facilitates an organization’s workflow but also increases employee engagement, morale and satisfaction with the company.

In addition to basic communication tools (think messaging and chat,) there are a few other primary types of collaboration tools available. They are:

  1. Conferencing: Tools that allow for real-time collaboration of project members who are presented with a unified view screen. These include Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams (the latter offers other services like those found in Slack.) In most cases, one presenter controls the view screen, while others provide their inputs by talking or chatting.
  2. Project coordination and collaboration: Think of these as “conferencing plus.” They enable workers to create teams or sub-teams with the sole purpose of managing complex or big interdependent tasks with a common goal. Resources can be shared and reviewed both asynchronously (email, calendar, workflow) and synchronously (video and chat communication, shared whiteboards) so that other employees within the team can work on remotely and at the same time. Employees can set deadlines and communicate with fellow team members. Examples included Monday.com, Trello, and Zoho Projects.
  3. Knowledge sharing: Think Google Docs. Managers or others who are working on a procedural report to be shared with others commonly use these editable workplace program documents.

Here are some lists of the best tools and platforms out there from Workable, Finances Online and SpaceIQ.

Remember, your people can’t collaborate if they don’t communicate. From instant messaging to video conferencing to file sharing, there are many options for team collaboration tools. It’s the leader’s job to ensure that teams use effective tools that keep conversation and collaboration smooth and seamless.

 

Naphtali Hoff, PsyD, (@impactfulcoach) is president of Impactful Coaching & Consulting. Check out his leadership book, "Becoming the New Boss." Read his blog and listen to his leadership podcast. Download his free new productivity blueprint and his e-books, "Core Essentials of Leadership," "An E.P.I.C. Solution to Understaffing" and "How to Boost Your Leadership Impact."

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