Productivity

5 types of collaboration tools that improve productivity

Every business can benefit from great teamwork. Collaboration is key, whether you’re selling floral designs or building the next smartphone app. But excellent collaboration requires excellent communication. And the quality of that communication, studies show, is far more valuable than the quantity. 

Unfortunately, team collaboration often goes poorly. This is especially likely if team members: 

  • Don’t have a shared vision or shared goals
  • Don’t understand or agree on their responsibilities, leading to confusion or doubling up on tasks
  • Lack communication or don’t trust each other (a definite possibility if they don’t meet face-to-face) 
  • Don’t get a chance to weigh in on decisions or changes to a project 
  • Aren’t encouraged to innovate or discuss new ideas (too much groupthink can lead to roadblocks).

Not only will everyone be happier if they work together well, but research shows that companies who promote collaboration are five times more likely to be high-performing. That’s especially true if employees work toward a shared purpose or goal. 

How can you make that happen for your business?

These days, there are all kinds of online collaboration tools to help your team communicate well and stay in sync. The right tools for you are out there. It all depends on your business needs. Here are a few tools that can help.

1. Project management tools keep things on track 

Whether you’re planning weddings or building websites, chances are you’ve got a big project that requires a lot of people to do their part. Luckily, there are project management tools out there to help effectively manage all the bits and pieces. 

Pros:

  • Keeps the project lead organized while keeping everyone else on task in a timely fashion

Example: An event planning company is putting together a major party. Instead of having to dig through numerous emails and ping all the various contractors, the project lead can use a central platform to create timelines, assign tasks, measure costs, and produce visual representations of the overall status of each moving part.

How working online can help

Asking team members to log in to a central virtual location to check off their task or give feedback of some kind keeps everything running smoothly and quickly. 

2. Video conferencing builds relationships

Let’s say you need to have an important meeting, but half your team is traveling or working remotely. Video conferencing is a way to get all the research-based benefits of meeting face-to-face without the expense and hassle of planning something in person. 

Pros:

  • Improves teamwork
  • Builds better relationships in remote teams
  • Saves travel expenses

Example: A software development firm has several sizable projects to discuss, but the team members are in three different offices across the country. Rather than create long email chains or launch a conference call, both of which are easy to tune out, the team can get together in a virtual room. Namely, seeing your colleagues face-to-face increases engagement and productivity.

How working online can help

With video conferencing, you can also share data, documents and presentations with team members in real-time. You can easily record the meeting, too, to share with those who couldn’t make it. 

3. Office chat gets things done 

Sometimes, just firing off a quick question and getting a prompt response is genuinely useful. With instant messaging tools built for your office, that means people can check-in and problem-solve quickly.

Pros:

  • Reduces email
  • Speeds up the communication process
  • Leads to quicker signoffs 

Example: A small law firm suddenly has many new clients. Attorneys need to quickly hand off some of their work to paralegals and other team members. Instead of letting information get lost in email archives, the firm can chat one-on-one or with a group to get things done immediately.

How working online can help

The team can chat with each other from anywhere, anytime. Instant messaging tools also allow for screen sharing for fast decision-making. Saving chat history helps hold onto the thinking that went into a decision. 

4. Real-time document revision reduces delays

Forget those email chains filled with attachments and confusing edits that no one told you about. With real-time document collaboration, your team can work together on the same document at the same time, whether it’s a text document, a spreadsheet or a PowerPoint presentation.

Pros:

  • Reduces confusion
  • Speeds up the feedback process
  • Reduces email

Example: An ad agency is working on a pitch, which involves lots of brainstorming, editing and revision. Storing the pitch online and working on it together means that they can see what everyone’s doing, track suggested changes and work with instantaneous feedback. 

How working online can help 

Team members might work out of different offices, but they can still edit the document together at the same time. Cloud computing cuts down on lag time and helps everyone easily contribute to the project.  

5. Cloud storage with version control keeps things organized

Storing a project or document in the cloud is the easiest way to know that everyone who needs it has access to it at all times, from anywhere in the world. The advantage is real-time collaboration, but it also means everyone can jump online at the drop of a hat, find a specific version and save a copy if necessary, before adding feedback. 

Pros:

  • Saves time
  • Reduces email
  • Preserves all versions of a file in a central location 

Example: A nonprofit organization is working on a presentation involving all the latest research on hunger in America. Team members can contribute to the document while they’re on the go, without erasing each other’s work or struggling to find a specific version. 

How working online can help 

Having the presentation in a central location enables quicker feedback and helps keep versions organized.

Using one or more of these team collaboration tools can dramatically improve productivity, no matter what you’re working on. And when interacting together is uncomplicated, it’s also much easier to build rapport, leading to better outcomes for everyone. 

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Business Insights and Ideas does not constitute professional tax or financial advice. You should contact your own tax or financial professional to discuss your situation.