Anything is possible when individuals work together toward a common goal, but times have changed. The shift toward remote work is keeping many of us from working together in the same physical space. Are remote teams at a disadvantage compared to their in-person counterparts? Not at all. Real-time collaboration software has been instrumental in helping teams adjust to distributed work. It’s also empowering them to go beyond the limits of traditional collaboration and accomplish more in less time. Here’s how.
What is real-time collaboration?
Emails and IMs have been accelerating office communication for nearly three decades now. And while both are lightning-fast compared to the tech they replaced (looking at you, fax machines), they still manage to gum up the works.
Emails go unanswered. Messages remain unread. Teammates are left hanging because important conversations are siloed. According to a 2019 study by Adobe, 20% of work emails never end up being opened.
True real-time collaboration is a relatively recent invention thanks to the introduction of:
- Channel-based communication
- Video conferencing and screen sharing
- Project management boards
- Cloud-based file sharing
- Digital whiteboards
- Time-management software
Together, these tools add flexibility to how and when teams communicate. Real-time updates keep valuable data on colleagues’ screens and out of silos. And asynchronous features help employees in different time zones stay in the loop.
Teamwork and collaboration
It’s easy to assume that terms like “teamwork” and “collaboration” are interchangeable. But there are several key differences, especially when it comes to team communication.
Teamwork is hierarchical. Individuals with similar skills look to leaders to direct them toward a common goal. These teams win or lose as a collective, regardless of the efforts of any one individual.
Collaboration, on the other hand, blends the unique strengths of each individual to produce results. The ability to collaborate in real time is essential. It keeps team members from being sidelined and ensures everyone has the opportunity to contribute.
Forms of real-time collaboration
Every project is different, which is why there are many different collaborative structures to achieve specific goals. Let’s look at some of the most relevant forms of real-time collaboration:
- Cross-functional collaboration happens when teams with distinct areas of expertise (e.g., marketing and customer service) work together. Since both groups have separate metrics for success, being able to partner in real time keeps everyone on the same page about their project’s progress.
- Open collaboration brings in contributors from outside your organization to help your team on something like crowdsourcing ideas for a new product design. This “open-forum” setting relies on real-time communication between groups to facilitate the free exchange of ideas.
- Closed collaboration limits your pool of contributors to only those with relevant expertise. The close-knit environment of a research lab is a great example. Utilizing real-time collaboration instead of email chains helps team members exchange critical information quickly without interference from outside the department.
Tips for successful collaboration
What does successful collaboration look like? Achieving a common goal is the result. But along the way, success means more efficient communication, higher-quality ideas and faster turnaround times.
Here’s how to set your team, and yourself, up for success:
- Get people on board. Collaboration doesn’t come naturally to everyone. A project can be DOA if key members of your project would rather work alone. Take the time to tout the very real benefits of real-time collaboration to your team before things get underway.
- Use the right tools. Constantly switching between apps eats up valuable time. Worse, it creates confusion. Bringing these tools together in one place using Slack’s integrations helps departments effortlessly share relevant info.
- Keep everyone on the same page. Successful collaboration is, by definition, a joint effort. Support your team and keep everyone on track by encouraging each individual to provide real-time updates at every opportunity.
Remember, experience is your greatest asset in helping your team work together more effectively. The more opportunities your team has to collaborate, the stronger the outcome you can expect with future projects.
Sharing information is easier than ever before. But it’s hard to turn great ideas into reality when they’re gathering dust in unread inboxes and chats. Help your team work smarter, together, by giving them the tools to collaborate in real time.
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