Today, you'll learn about which online collaboration tools are most effective for bringing team members together, no matter where they are in the world. But let’s start by uncovering a key practice to make online collaboration efficient and effective, so you can meet your goals faster.
With so many collaboration tools available, it can be easy to implement too many. You don't want to end up with collaboration overload — you won't get anything done or have time to work independently.
Find out what works for your team and stick to two or three tools that make things easier rather than create more work to keep up with. Limit activities like instant messaging and social media unless they are work-related. Remember, your collaboration tools should be more than a chat tool, they should improve your current collaboration process.
Here are our five favorite tools to streamline your online teamwork.
One of the easiest ways to collaborate in real-time with a simple tool is Google Drive. Imagine you have a leadership team spread hundreds or even thousands of miles apart. It's difficult to get together in the same room often and you're working in various time zones.
With Google Docs, you can see who is editing the document, spreadsheet or PowerPoint presentation and leave comments and suggestions. It's easy to set up and you don't even need to download any software to use it. Google Docs is a much easier way to collaborate than emailing a Microsoft Word document back and forth. You can also download Google Drive mobile app on your iPhone or Android phone to take projects on the go.
When team members can't have face-to-face meetings in person, they often turn to collaboration software that includes video calling. It's easy to misinterpret what someone is trying to communicate without seeing their body language.
It's also tempting to multi-task or start losing focus when you know that the other people in the meeting can't see you. There's no shortage of video conferencing tools available, including Lifesize, Google Hangouts, Skype, Zoom, Blue Jeans and more.
Not all communication tools need to have video features to be valuable for collaboration and task management. Smart companies use software and programs that simplify managing projects and goals across teams large and small.
Try using Samewave, a different kind of team collaboration tool called social performance management software. It allows team members to communicate about their progress on a project with multiple chat streams and has file sharing and document storage features. It can even generate automated, specialised reports delivered directly to your email inbox at the frequency of your choice.
Even better, Samewave's collaboration platform is free. Sign up today and download Samewave on your Mac, PC and mobile device to make online collaboration easier than ever.
Gone are the days where scheduling a meeting was as simple as picking up the phone or walking over to a colleague’s desk. Everyone has a cluttered calendar in our modern business world and it's a painful waste of time to send emails back and forth just to schedule a meeting.
Try using a program like Calendly or Acuity Scheduling to help manage your schedule. Programs like these can integrate and connect to your current calendars, such as Google Calendar or Outlook. You have your own meeting link and when someone wants to schedule a meeting with you, they simply click the link and can pick from the available times listed.
Once they pick a time, you are both sent a meeting invitation that goes on your calendar automatically, removing the hassle of back and forth messages. It's also handy to put your personal meeting link in your email signature for easy access.
One of the benefits of having your team in one place is the ability to gather in a room around a whiteboard, brainstorm ideas and map out plans. It's harder to do with remote teams, but it's certainly not impossible.
For nearly every problem or challenge that dispersed teams have, technology companies have created a viable solution for. Team members can meet online and use a virtual whiteboard the same way they can as if they were in a physical room.
Products like Realtime Board, Web Whiteboard and Ziteboard give teams the ability to collaborate about specific projects online beyond the written word by drawing out their ideas and plans in a creative way. Some programs even include voice and video chat, allow users to import PDFs, share files, and have mobile app versions and Google integrations.
Project management can be tricky for every organisation and there's no one right or wrong way to develop an effective online collaboration process. You might have to test out different tools and programs to discover what works best for your team.
Make sure your team members are on board and involve them in the decisions you made regarding which tools to use. No matter how great any program is, if there isn't widespread adoption or employees find difficult to use, it won't increase collaboration.
Whatever you choose, look for programs that are intuitive and have a simple user experience. Provide training and support when you implement a new program to help team members utilise it effectively and minimise pushback. Before long, you'll see your teams working together seamlessly and getting more done by collaborating effectively online.
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