Poor communication is among the biggest challenges project managers face every day. It’s up there with undefined objectives, scope changes, and geographically dispersed teams. So how do you make sure everyone’s productive, on the same page, and working towards the same goal? The answer is simple: Collaboration tools.
The most productive teams rely on them to work together effectively. As noted in Forbes, companies that can afford to invest in the creation of new business processes with these new collaboration tools will gain a competitive edge.
One of the key issues when it comes to process is that individual team members within group projects are using different tools or software, which can create hiccups at the start and throughout a project. It’s better to have an agreed-upon set of tools that are sanctioned by IT and integrated into your digital workplace. This way, there aren’t any unnecessary interruptions when it comes to progress and productivity.
How to improve workplace collaboration with online tools
While having a standardized set of applications is a good start, you also need to think about what the purpose and use of each tool will be. By considering and planning how workers will interact with each tool, you’ll narrow it down to the most impactful and practical applications for improving teamwork and project collaboration.
With more and more employees dispersed and working remotely in a digital workplace, file sharing tools like OneDrive, Dropbox, and SharePoint are critical to team collaboration. To ensure a project runs smoothly, it goes without saying that team members need easy access to project-related files, especially when you’re working on documents that require input from multiple contributors.
Sending files back and forth via email isn’t a viable solution (think version control and time lag), not to mention the fact that sending large files can be a problem. That’s why it makes sense to host files in the cloud. With file-sharing tools, you can collaborate on documents in real-time, as any changes and edits can be seen and accessed by everyone involved in the project.
Instant messaging apps
It’s no surprise that email is slowly dying. More often than not, emails just don’t cut it. When you need to keep a project moving and get answers right away, instant messaging can help you get things done faster (but should be carefully and properly implemented).
With instant messaging apps – like Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, and Slack – work happens more efficiently because decision-making can happen immediately rather than waiting for an email back. You can instant message one-to-one or with the group if you need input from multiple team members.
Dedicated collaboration spaces
One surefire way to set up a project for success is by centralizing project-related activities – from scheduling meetings and delegating tasks to collaborative dialogue and file-sharing. Create a team or project room to bring together all team activities, including tasks, meetings, and calendars.
Dedicated collaboration spaces provide a destination for teamwork and eliminate the guesswork of who’s doing what, which boosts overall productivity.
Like email, forums enable asynchronous collaboration, which means collaboration can happen at any time, even when people aren’t in the same place or working at the same time. Where they differ is that forums are a place for active conversations that keep team members engaged.
They can also empower employees who are quiet around the meeting room table to spark discussions and solve problems. You can use them to propose ideas, discuss alternatives, attach mock-ups, and vote. If an idea’s approved, you can mark it as resolved and link to the next steps.
Wikis are a digital storehouse of information that’s searchable, trackable, and accessible. As such, they’re useful project collaboration tools. Team members can upload and edit documents and use the wiki to communicate with the group, post-meeting agendas, minutes, schedules, and more.
If employees have to spend time hunting down this information in multiple places, workflows stall or stop. With a wiki, documents and critical information are in a centralized location. You have the option to control privacy settings and make the wiki a private area or open it up to the public.
Audio & video-conferencing software
Collaboration relies on connection, and sometimes that means setting up a meeting via video call with the team. When you consider that 73% of meetings involve only two to four people, it often makes sense to jump on a call for some face-time. Plus, you can share screens, annotate presentations, and work together in real-time as if you’re all in the same room. This makes it crucial for collaboration, making sure everyone’s on the same page, and offset some of the lack of face-to-face opportunities in a remote environment.
Create a digital destination for collaboration
A successful digital workplace is one that unifies all of these tools and software and puts them in one place for employees to easily use and access the information they need, all within the environment of the project. Without a way to bring critical tools together, multiple platforms and apps can overwhelm people.
By making online collaboration tools integral to your overarching digital workplace strategy, you can keep projects running smoothly, ensure team members are productive, and create an organization that fosters true teamwork.