C. Improve Teamwork with Technology

Simple Guide to Collaborative Technologies


In a remote work setting, coworkers and managers work thousands of miles away from each other and across time zones. Without being in the same physical space, exchanging ideas and coming up with high-impact decisions can be challenging. However, with remote collaboration, you can freely throw ideas around and come to an agreement on certain issues. You can collaborate anywhere and anytime. 

Remote collaboration refers to the ability of remote teams to interact and work together from anywhere in the world and at any time. It provides a solution to physical and temporal distance by way of collaborative technologies.  


Why Is Effective Remote Collaboration Important?

Collaboration, if done right, can give you a greater chance of making your remote work setup a success. Here are three main reasons why effective remote collaboration is essential to remote teams.

  1. Remote collaboration improves lines of communication.
    Ensuring clear and efficient communication with your remote contractors is imperative. Therefore, when collaborating with them, you tend to pay closer attention to the messages you send via email or instant messaging platforms and the tone you use to avoid misunderstandings. Your objective is to make sure that every message you convey is clear so that everyone can quickly figure things out and start collaborating.
  2. Remote collaboration helps your team agree on acceptable internal communication processes.
    As individuals, we have our personal preferences and styles when it comes to communicating. Some of us may value clarity over efficiency, spelling out each and every word in emails or instant messages. Others may value efficiency more than anything else, using shorthand and acronyms for a quicker response.In remote collaboration, internal communication processes, which include the use of acronyms, shorthand, slang, format, tone, and even word processors are all agreed upon beforehand. Doing so prevents potential issues from getting in the way of completing your tasks or projects.
  3. Remote collaboration encourages remote teams to come up with unique ideas.
    Working and collaborating remotely forces you to think for yourself and solve problems independently. You learn how to be creative in coming up with solutions to problems and perform better in a non-traditional work setup. This ability is further enhanced through remote collaboration. Brainstorming sessions become more fruitful because you have had time alone to really think things through, away from distractions and external influences.


The Role of Collaborative Technologies in the Success of Remote Teams

For remote collaboration to happen, remote teams need tools that allow for seamless communication, may it be in meetings or brainstorming sessions. Collaboration technologies in the market are able to make this happen to some degree as software developers and tech companies are working on enabling support for these software and applications to run across all platforms, such as the web, desktops, and mobile devices. 

Collaborative technologies that provide features that benefit remote teams can transform these teams into collaborative powerhouses. However, this does not mean cramming your tool stack with every collaboration tool you can find. The key is to find a few tools that work for your team and set some rules for using each one of them. It is also advisable to make sure that all the members of your team are familiar with how these tools work. Otherwise, no matter how advanced and sophisticated the collaboration tools you have are, you and your team will still find it difficult to hurdle challenges in communicating and collaborating remotely.


Things to Consider When Choosing Collaboration Tools

Before choosing collaboration tools for your team, consider the following: the main purpose of the collaboration tool, its developer, its cost, and adoptability. These four things will help you determine which collaboration tools will help set your remote team up for success.

1. Purpose.

  • What is the greatest strength of the collaboration tool? 
  • Does your team have a great need for what it has to offer? 
  • How can you optimise its use?  

The very first thing you need to figure out is the main function of the collaboration tool. Is it mainly a brainstorming, project management, communication, or file-sharing tool? 

Slack, for example, is more than just a chat platform. It also serves as a dashboard for ideas gathered during a brainstorming session. 

Trello is mainly a project management tool that has boards, lists, and cards that enable you to prioritise projects and organise them to your liking. Everyone in your team can update their progress on it. 

Zoom is one of the most popular communication tools for remote teams. It is a web video conferencing platform used to hold meetings. It can also record and store meetings. 

Google Drive is a file-sharing tool that allows teams to not only share files, but also edit them real-time or asynchronously. It also has the ability to keep file versions. 

Once you have learned what a collaboration tool is mainly built for, all you have to do is to figure out whether your team needs such a tool to work more efficiently and be more productive. Then, you can proceed to learning more about the other features of the tool to optimise its use. 


2. Developer.

  • How long has the developer of the collaboration tool been in the tech industry? 
  • How does the developer fare against its competitors? 
  • Is the developer continuously upgrading the collaboration tool? 

If you are serious about adopting a collaboration tool for your remote team, especially for the long-term, you need to know if the developer is capable of providing support for the tool for a long time. By support, we mean continuously upgrading the tool’s features and not showing signs of shutting it down anytime soon. 

You can do some research on the developer or the collaboration tool itself to check the credibility of the developer and what users think of the tool. User reviews can give you a lot of insight into the pros and cons of using the collaboration tool. 


3. Cost.

  • How much is the collaboration tool? 
  • Does it offer a free plan or a trial option? 
  • Is it of good value for money? 

Costs are always a factor in any purchase made by a company. Before picking out a collaboration tool to adopt, check if it offers a free plan, just so you can try out the collaboration tool before deciding to pay for a subscription. Just keep in mind that free plans will not give you full access to all of the features the tool has to offer. 

Conduct your research well as some collaboration tools charge less for the same features as others. You can also opt for a trial offer, which grants you full access to the features of the collaboration tool for a limited period of time. 

If budget is not so much of an issue, make sure that you are getting good value for your money before you splurge. Try to get as much information on the collaboration tool and compare it with other available tools in the market prior to making a decision to pay for a premium plan. 


4. Accountability

  • Does the collaboration tool have an intuitive interface? 
  • Does it work on multiple platforms? 
  • Is it fun to use? 

Try to find a collaboration tool that has a familiar and easy-to-use interface. However, do not choose one that is overly simple. It should be something that every person in your team can work with without difficulty. It would be best if the tool will allow you to drag and drop files or will give you an at-a-glance view of certain data such as your project status. Moreover, check if the tool is compatible with other programs you are currently using. 

Another feature that you should look for is the cross-platform capability of the collaboration tool. Can you use it on both your phone and desktop? Does it work both online and offline? Does it work on Mac OS, Windows, Android, or iOS? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you have a winner. Cross-platform capability of any tool can support your team anytime and anywhere they decide to work and help them meet deadlines.  

Apart from the intuitive quality, the entertainment factor also contributes to the adoptability of the tool. The more fun it is to use, the more your team will make use of it.


Key Features of an Ideal Collaboration Tool

Collaborative technologies are not created equal. There will always be collaboration tools that are a cut above the rest and offer key features that are ideal to collaborating remotely. Here are the ideal features you should look for: 

1. Allows real-time and asynchronous editing

An ideal collaboration tool should enable you to collaborate both in real-time and asynchronously. You and your team should be able to edit files and comment and give suggestions whenever and wherever you are. The tool should have the ability to manage and track changes to make sure that there is one current version regardless of who is making changes or when the changes are being made. 

Aside from providing you with the ability to collaborate real-time and asynchronously, the collaboration tool should allow multiple collaborators to work on the same document simultaneously, including those who are not part of your team or the company, such as your partners and customers. You should also be able to control the kind of access they have—allow them access to edit or only view the content. 

Tracking changes can be tricky and if a collaboration tool is not intelligent enough to handle this, then you will end up with an unrecognisable version of a document. Your collaboration tool should be able to let you see who is currently working on the file and what changes are being made real-time. If the changes were done offline, the tool should still be able to automatically identify them and sync them up to the latest version once the user goes back online. 

If you do not want anyone in your team to make changes to a file, an ideal collaboration tool should have a lock feature. This prevents anyone from overwriting changes.


2. Secure file-sharing features

A collaboration tool should have tight security features that can protect all of your shared assets. The first thing you should look into in terms of security is its alignment with your in-house security requirements as set by your IT team. 

Access to certain files should only be provided once permission has been granted. The online tool should give you the option to choose to allow access to certain people and not make your files public for just about anyone to view and download. 

Security also pertains to the ability of the collaboration tool to support any type of file, especially the ones you share most of the time. If it cannot do this, something might go wrong in the process of sharing the file. You may be at risk of causing damage to the file or losing it. 


3. Supports communication methods

Communication is the heart of collaboration. Therefore, it is imperative that a collaboration tool allows you and your team to communicate in a way that works best for all of you. 

Surely, there are times when some team members will not be present for any real-time collaboration. If you badly need their feedback, your collaboration tool should be able to provide them with the ability to leave comments and suggestions in the file itself once they get a chance to look at it. They should also be able to send their comments to selected individuals or to the rest of the group. 

An instant messaging feature should be integrated in the collaboration tool as it is one of the most common and efficient ways to communicate within a company. If you need to have a quick chat to talk about a certain document, your collaboration tool should have a feature that will allow you to do a video conference or even an audio call. These features will undeniably speed up your collaboration and decision-making process. 

Screen sharing is a must for collaboration tools. This feature will get everyone to be on the same page, literally. It will be easier for you and your team to point out and explain certain things if you can actually show and not just talk about what you are referring to. 


4. Has Project Management Features.

Scheduling is key to completing any project, and it is certainly one of the features an ideal collaboration tool should have. A scheduling feature will remind everyone in your team about deadlines, helping you manage your time and workload efficiently. 

An ideal collaboration tool should also promote accountability by allowing your team to update the status of their tasks. It should also enable you to create task lists and assign tasks and sub-tasks to the members of your team. Moreover, it must be able to indicate deadlines and attach files or materials, such as references and samples, which can be useful for the completion of the tasks. 

Having the ability to update the status of your tasks is not enough, though. Your collaboration tool should be able to automatically keep track of your progress so that it can send you reminders or alerts. This feature will definitely keep you and your team on your toes and motivate you to get things done.

It would be great if your collaboration tool can be integrated with your calendar apps as well. Once you have assigned tasks and set deadlines on the tool, it should be able to integrate with your team’s existing calendar apps, so that appointments and meetings about your projects can automatically be added there.


Final Thoughts

Perhaps you are thinking that it would be better to have one collaboration tool for every purpose you can think of. However, as ideal as that may sound, the ultimate collaboration tool has yet to be created. What you can do at the moment is to be clear on what purpose you want a collaboration tool to serve and find the one that is able to provide exactly that. Then make sure that it is compatible with the way your team works to ensure higher levels of productivity and efficiency.