Is Real-Time Collaboration Realistic?

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    Back in the “old days” of office collaboration, the most effective way to get everyone’s ideas for a project was to gather everyone in one room and hash it out, out loud, in one long meeting. It wasn’t always the most pleasant way to get things done, but it was the only way.

    Now, the way we work has changed drastically thanks to the rise of remote workers, flexible schedules, and multiple office spaces. With workgroups often spread out across multiple physical locations, it’s not always effective to wait on collaborating until everyone can be in the same room.

    As remote and flexible workspaces have become more common, we’ve seen emails and phone calls replacing the boardroom brainstorm sessions. But even this proves ineffective. Email chains get long and cumbersome, and phone calls don’t get documented. In short, it just doesn’t work.

    That doesn’t mean it’s unrealistic to bring your team together in one space. It just means you have to redefine what that space is.

    As we continue to see the workplace transform into a multitasking, mobile organization, we need to rely on technology to address collaboration challenges. Real-time collaboration is still realistic if you have the right tools and processes in place.

    What Is Holding You Back?

    Implementing new digital tools and processes for more efficient real-time collaboration, whether bringing together talent from across the globe, the country, or even just the office, poses its own set of challenges. It could be the perceived time it will take to train teams to use the new systems. Maybe people aren’t sure of how to dive into the new way of communicating. Or, perhaps the tools you have aren’t the right ones.

    Here are a few potential roadblocks to real-time collaboration and strategies to overcome them:

    Lack of Strategy

    Your company won’t be able to successfully change its approach to real-time collaboration without first coming up with a coherent strategy. Without a clearly defined strategy that is communicated to the entire company, it will be difficult to align employees around the same goals and processes.

    Start by outlining the specific, measurable goals you want to achieve when you change the way your company collaborates. For example, you might set a goal to reduce the average time employees spend in meetings by 2 hours per week. Make sure the entire company knows and understands the goal.

    Next, assemble a team to lead the charge towards better collaboration. Your team will need to evaluate the company’s current collaboration processes, identify inefficiencies, and develop a plan for improvement. In a large organization, it’s best to initially test this plan within one department or team and measure the impact. If the plan helps the department reach the established goal, the strategy can be rolled out to the rest of the organization.

    Lack of Technology

    Your team’s change management plan will likely include building a tech stack to improve inefficient processes. Tools that may help ramp up real-time collaboration include:

    • Messaging Apps— These apps allow employees to chat one-on-one or in groups so that they can quickly exchange ideas and resolve problems. Communicating through a messaging app is often faster and more effective than sending emails back and forth.
    • Project Management Platforms— Project management and planning tools allow organizations to, among other things, assign tasks to team members, measure progress, and track time spent on deliverables.
    • Knowledge Sharing Platforms— Knowledge sharing software allows teams to share and search for information and ask questions in a cloud-based platform. Centralizing your company information can boost your collaboration efforts by eliminating problems such as version control, employee engagement, and repetitive questions. Everyone can access the latest version of every project document and comment in real time, avoiding confusion and streamlining projects.

    As the workplace continues to evolve and teams are increasingly comprised of remote workers, it is essential to rely on technology to facilitate real-time collaboration. Organizing your collaboration process within a tech stack is an effective way to increase productivity and alleviate the stress of trying to keep all documents, conversations, and ideas organized.

    Lack of Time

    Although the right technology should ultimately improve collaboration and save your team time, your team will need to dedicate a certain amount of time to learning and adopting the new tools.

    The lack of time your team has to learn new systems and processes may be a common complaint, but it’s also an easy one to get around.

    Demonstrate that your new system means less meeting and more doing. For instance, you could show team members that using a cloud-based knowledge sharing system allows them to find information from their desks at any time, whenever an idea pops into their heads, whenever they have time in their day. Or you could show them that a project management platform allows them to automatically generate an email to a co-worker to notify them of a new task, rather than requiring them to manually write a new email or walk across the building to their co-worker’s desk.

    It’s also worth making sure your change management leaders are evaluating new collaboration tools based on their ease of use. The more intuitive a new tool is, the less time it will take employees to become comfortable with it, and the less resistance you’ll encounter.

    Lack of Role Clarity

    All projects need structure to outline who is leading the charge, who is responsible for which tasks, and what the expectations of the project are. When employing a new strategy for digital real-time collaboration, it’s easy to forget that the basics of project management still need to be in play.

    Just because you aren’t in the same room doesn’t mean reporting and roles change. Without team leaders and assigned tasks, things get missed, your new system will be deemed ineffective, and it will be back to the old way.

    When collaborating, whether digitally or in a conference room, you always need a project manager, as well as team leaders, depending on the scale and scope of the product. Assign team members specific roles, or instruct them to work together and allow access to all information, conversations, and knowledge they need to effectively communicate and collaborate.

    Digital collaboration makes defining roles easy, with the ability to provide documentation outlining responsibilities, tasks, and due dates. Create and share timelines and milestones, budget management, task lists, and anything else that is essential in the collaboration process to ensure you are staying on track.

    Real-Time Collaboration Isn’t Dead

    While 43% of US employees spend at least some time working off-site, real-time collaboration is far from dead: it has just evolved to better fit the modern workplace. If your team members have been struggling to work together efficiently, you just haven’t found the right processes and tools to facilitate collaboration. Take the time to establish goals for collaboration improvements, build your change management team, and start implementing the systems that will help your team get in sync.

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