How To Improve Collaboration In An Organisation With Online Toolson 13 September 2018
Effective collaboration is essential to organisational success. If you hope to achieve your organisational goals, you must give people modern, efficient ways to communicate, share files, and work with internal and external teams to complete projects. Communication, file sharing, and project management are all important areas of collaboration that have evolved as technology has improved. For instance:
- Communication with team members and managers evolved from face-to-face meetings in conference rooms to email and chat.
- File sharing went from physical handouts to sending digital documents to team members via email or a shared network drive.
- Projects with internal and external teams went from being managed with lot of phone calls and paperwork to software.
But even these evolutions had some limitations. Sure, email was a quick way to send a message to multiple people without having to leave your desk, but for real-time or lengthy discussions—forget it. And shared network drives were intended to be file repositories, not file-sharing tools. Even tools like Microsoft Project—which were relatively robust feature-wise—were too overwhelming for all but the largest and most complex projects.
Today’s more sophisticated online collaboration tools—the next collaboration evolution—help teams get the job done, better than email or shared network drives ever could.
Web-based collaboration tools make collaboration easier.
In particular, they:
- Minimise the physical disconnect between team members across geographies and time zones by providing chat, voice, and video communication. These real-time communication methods speed up decision making, and sometimes even improve it thanks to features like online polling.
- Ensure all relevant team members are notified of news, updates, project statuses, new files, and ongoing discussions.
- Provide greater accessibility to information on demand. And when this information is organised or centralised, there’s also a reduction in onboarding time of new team members.
- Increase transparency with information and file sharing, including seeing who’s viewed, shared, and/or discussed a file (and when).
It’s pretty clear that corporate teams need online collaboration tools; what’s not always as clear is how to use these tools to improve collaboration.
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3 Ways To Improve Collaboration Using Online Tools
While the specific online collaboration tools you employ may vary, there are several ways you can use these types of tools to improve collaboration in your organisation.
1. Incorporate the tools into your workflow.
Better yet, adjust your workflow to take advantage of the tools. These tools are meant to not only connect team members but also make them more productive. So integrating them into your team’s daily workflow will ensure you get the intended value.
For example, you could bring in a chat tool like Slack for everyday communications between team members. This could work for both real-time chatting and asynchronous messages, such as when two team members don’t have overlapping work hours. Additionally, a video-conference tool like Zoom could work for scheduled meetings.
Google Drive is a popular file-sharing service for many businesses, both small and large. You could provide your team and external parties varying levels of access to files and folders, as well as link directly to files when communicating through Slack. And collaborating on files in Drive ensures your team is always working off the latest version.
Project management tools like Asana and Trello can help your team keep projects on track. Instead of checking in with each team member to see their progress, you can use these tools to check progress of assigned tasks instead. This reduces reporting time for both you and your team and ensures you’re always kept up to date. A quick glance at the dashboard will let you know what areas of the project may require your attention.
2. Encourage usage of the online tools you deploy.
A tool is only valuable if it’s used. Oftentimes, people resist change and opt to use the tools they know best, such as email. And while there’s still a place for email, online collaboration tools make life easier for every member of the team, especially remote ones.
Additionally, you want to avoid the problems that inspired you to seek out these collaboration tools in the first place. Remember that information easily gets lost or forgotten when not kept in a centralised location.
That’s why it’s imperative you encourage (or even require) that all team members use the tools you’ve selected. Here’s a useful line you can use to get everyone on board: “Remember, team: Information outside of these tools doesn’t exist.”
Also, most online collaboration tools need little to no training, which is one less barrier to user adoption. So if a team member is still turning back to older tools, ask them what they’re having trouble with and either send them links to help resources or give them a one-on-one refresher.
3. Use your collaboration tools for fun activities.
Sometimes your team just needs a mental break from the serious stuff. And you have the tools to make that happen without having to send everyone on a two-week vacation.
For example, try using your communication, file sharing, and project management tools for planning a fun work event (i.e., the “project”), such as an office party. For fully remote teams, you could organise a meetup.
Using the tools we called out earlier, you could create a channel in Slack to brainstorm and talk about party themes. Google Drive could keep associated files organised. And you could use Asana or Trello to assign tasks to people, like getting supplies, ordering food and drinks, and selecting a venue.
Taking this approach has three benefits:
- It gives team members a much-needed distraction to focus on in between more serious work activities.
- It encourages the team to use the tools for personal benefit (i.e., they don’t feel as “forced”), increasing their familiarity with them.
- It fosters collaboration toward a goal that benefits the whole team, which will carry over into other collaborative activities.
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