Collaboration has always been a big part of many jobs. Thankfully, we live in a time where technology makes it easier than ever to keep everyone on the same page and ensure a smooth workflow. Unfortunately, finding the right tool for the job can still be difficult. There are many disparate choices that each offer a piece of the puzzle, and a lot of collaboration processes have unnecessary friction as a result. In this post, we'll discuss how you can address those issues and facilitate better collaboration among your team members.
Collaboration is the process of working together with other team members to achieve a common goal. It involves sharing ideas, knowledge, and resources to complete a project as a group effort. For example, a large software project requires multiple designers, programmers, testers, and managers to all work together effectively on the same project.
Collaboration has always been an important part of many business tasks, but the recent shift towards remote work and increased focus on enabling effective collaboration have highlighted some of its major benefits:
Several tools are available to help teams work together more effectively. A company may require many different tools, each providing a specific feature they need to facilitate collaboration. Some of the most common are listed below:
Teleconferencing tools allow people to communicate in real time through video and audio. It allows team members to communicate face-to-face despite working remotely. It helps to build relationships, create a sense of belonging, and avoid misunderstandings that can often arise during text-based communication. This makes it ideally suited for team meetings, project updates, and brainstorming sessions.
The downside to teleconferencing is that it depends on everyone having a reliable and stable internet connection, and depends on everyone being available to dedicate all of their time for a potentially lengthy meeting at the same time of day.
Although video conferencing can be a great way to facilitate real-time communication, it shouldn't be the only tool in your arsenal. Instant messaging can be the better option in many cases, especially when only a few people need to collaborate. Instant messaging allows people to check in on the conversation and reply in real time without putting whatever else they may be doing on hold. It's the perfect solution for quick questions, updates, and informal communication.
The ability to more easily multitask while instant messaging can also be a downside. Keeping up with the conversation and performing the other task can distract from one another. Communication through text is also prone to misunderstandings. Text alone also lacks the sense of social connection that comes from talking through teleconferencing.
When team members are working remotely, they don't have access to the same physical infrastructure they would if they were in the office. Important files that were once stored on local drives in company computers must now be made available outside of the office. Cloud storage is the most common way this is accomplished. It allows for easy sharing and collaboration on files, often providing backup and recovery services as a core feature.
Unlike a local drive, the ability to store data on the cloud isn't automatic. In order to perform effectively, the cloud storage provider you choose must be able to easily integrate with the other remote software your employees will be working with.
Some cloud-based or online-capable editors offer collaboration features that allow multiple people to work on the same file at once. A commonly used example is Google Docs, which will show the changes that each person is making and track who made which change. This can be a great way to allow multiple team members to collaborate together on crafting a document or helping each other write source code for a software project.
Even with the modern tools available, businesses often struggle to make collaborative efforts run as smoothly as they can. As we'll see, many of these problems can be solved by using a tool like Almanac that focuses on identifying and solving the pain points most often experienced by collaborative teams.
So far, we've seen a lot of different tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Often, these tools are different products from entirely different companies. Their integration with each other may be lackluster, or may not exist at all. The result is decreased productivity as employees must switch between apps and transfer data from one to the other. This can also introduce human error into the process. Ideally, companies will find a single product that fills as many of the needed functions as possible.
Collaboration is only good as the processes are in place to support it. Often, this leads to disorganization, delays, errors, setbacks, and waste. Too many businesses jump right into using the tools available to them without much thought. When you design your collaborative processes, put a lot of thought into how those processes will work. Implement clear policies and workflows, establish accountability, and make sure everyone knows their own role and responsibilities.
Professionals often have to attend time-consuming meetings for routine tasks, such as getting feedback or approvals, sharing information, or ensuring task compliance. You can dramatically reduce the number of meetings required by using collaboration tools that allow your team to communicate in real time. With those tools in place, make it a matter of company culture to only hold meetings when they're necessary and keep them short when they are. Additionally, you should record the meeting so anyone who couldn't attend can be kept in the loop.
Collaboration can require team members to share links to work, copy and paste information across tools, and coordinate conflicting versions, leading to manual work that's time-consuming and prone to errors. A good collaboration tool can help with this in two ways: automation and centralization. Many manual tasks can be easily automated, reducing the time a human must spend performing them. With a collaboration tool that allows you to consolidate as much data as possible into a centralized location, the need to automate the movement of that data is eliminated entirely.
Collaboration can lead to confusion and lack of clarity around where work is, how things have changed, and who is accountable for specific tasks. To solve this, you need a tool that provides transparency and visibility into the status of tasks, projects, and workflows. Beyond simply tracking the progress of each task, the tool should make it clear who holds responsibility and what their role in the project at any particular point in time is. To further improve outcomes, ensure that clear communication protocols are in place for regular check-ins and updates so the information stays up-to-date and everyone stays on the same page.
In addition to finding the right tools for the job, increasing collaboration relies on shifting your managerial approach and the culture at your company. Here are some tips to help get people working together better.
Celebrate success - How well a team works together depends a lot on morale. When you celebrate even small successes, it lets the team and individual employees know that you respect and value their work.