By Peter Braithwaite, COO at Kit Online
The idea of collaboration in the workplace is not new. Cloud computing and fast internet have enabled employees to work together far more efficiently and collaboratively than ever before. One of the most important elements to success is whether or not colleagues can perform together and work well in a team.
And it’s not just about output either – companies which communicate effectively are 4.5x more likely to retain employees and healthy internal relationships are core for enhancing business processes.
Sometimes, work needs to be done in a siloed approach. And with so many people working from home, it can be easy to fall back into an isolated way of working. But more often, working in teams helps colleagues to leverage each other’s skills, delivering work which often positively impacts the outcome of the project.
Collaboration isn’t automatic, no matter what you implement. First and foremost, it’s about changing the way people work. But there are thousands of tools out there, all promising to make your team work smarter, not harder.
Once you’ve committed to changing your company culture, it can be hard to get the best use out of tools and use them to their fullest potential. Which ones actually stand out, and are the most cost effective for growing teams?
The giant of collaboration systems, Microsoft Office 365 has a whole host of benefits for teams and businesses. You can mix and match apps in order to create your own tailored solutions for different users depending on their needs. Apps include Exchange Online, a one-stop-shops for emails, calendars contacts and tasks. There’s also SharePoint Online, a hub for accessing information internally and externally. Any employee can create a project and decide who can participate in it, unlike many systems where only certain employees have access.
People can work on Excel, Word and Powerpoint documents at the same time, without the hassle of having to save documents and check to make sure you’re amending the right version. Instead, all work immediately becomes a team effort. Everyone who needs to have their eyes on a document can work on it, and get real-time changes. IT also includes multi-party HD video, shared calendars and a team chat to ensure that everyone is in sync.
Talking of team chat, Microsoft Teams can enrich your communication and help to humanise your workforce during remote working. The fastest growing app in Microsoft’s history, more than 330,000 companies in the world use it. While the chat function is useful, there are many other features which can help cross-functional collaboration from different teams in a business.
You can have specific channels for teams, based on tasks and projects they’re working on, as opposed to specific departments which can often encourage siloed working. The chat function also acts as a simplified way of communicating with people if you’re in a smaller group where a new channel isn’t necessary. Teams allows for fewer emails, and you can integrate it with office 365 so you don’t need to switch apps when you want to collaborate on a document.
Another free tool, and one which you can use to save multiple emails with external people, is Dropbox. The file-sharing service helps your team to share and access files, but you can also go one step further and coordinate projects with co-workers and communicate, just as Teams lets you.
You can password protect files too, so only those who are supposed to have access to files can download them to work on the file with you, incase it falls into the wrong hands.
Many companies don’t have formal project management processes, especially for start ups where it’s not highest on the list of priorities.
But project management is key to collaboration. It acts as the puppet master in team environments, pulling the strings to ensure that everyone completes their work by the deadline, to the highest quality possible.
Tools like Asana structure all the projects into different shells. The tasks of the project and all information, such as due dates and responsibility is included in each location, so you can all be held accountable. Best of all, it’s free.
Another project management tool, Trello allows you to plan and track projects in a virtual task manager. Small and mid-sized businesses can easily navigate specific kanban boards for each project. You can create specific lists to place tasks into, such as ‘backlog’, ‘development’, ‘in review’, ‘completed’ etc so the project manager can easily see the status of the work. One of its strengths is its ability to keep everything compartmentalised and visible, so all co-workers can have a shared perspective of the project.
OneDrive for Business
OneDrive for Business increases the flexibility of working together. More and more people want to work flexibly from any device. OneDrive makes this possible, lessening the burden of not being able to work on a file as you don’t have your work laptop with you. It also means people don’t have to log onto specific servers when working from home to access files.
When people are on their commute, waiting in the dentist office or just at home, they can jump right into the document and make edits or suggestions.
Great collaboration challenges opinions, creates new ideas and encourages people to articulate their work. Tools which facilitate good collaboration simply and efficiently encourage people to leave behind the isolated approach. As opposed to working through rose-tinted glasses, it gives a far better insight into your strengths and weaknesses, and enables you to create the best work you can.