Nearly a century ago, historians started claiming that we’d entered the “information age.”
After the past year (which felt like a century), it’s probably more accurate to call it the communication age. That’s because we’ve witnessed just how essential effective collaboration has become to an organization’s success. Teams that can share ideas clearly and quickly are the ones that get ahead—while those that can’t are left facing delays across 44% of their projects, according to a 2018 survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit.
Fortunately, there are more tools than ever to help remote teams work together successfully. Learning how to get the most out of these tools can improve your team’s communication, increase productivity and promote transparency.
What are collaboration tools?
Collaboration involves teams from inside and outside your organization working together toward a common goal. Collaboration tools are specifically designed to help streamline cooperation among team members.
These solutions have become increasingly vital as the shift toward distributed work continues to gain momentum. Their ability to keep teams connected globally across borders and time zones has even empowered some companies to go completely remote.
Which collaboration tools are built for business?
Technically speaking, office mainstays like whiteboards and Post-its are collaborative tools. But these work only when teams occupy the same physical space, which is happening less and less in a post-pandemic world.
The best collaboration tools allow your team to effortlessly share information no matter where they are. If you’re in another time zone and miss an exchange, you can search for it later to catch up, or set your status to indicate when you’ll reply. Teams can also instantly share updates using file-sharing platforms like Box, time-management tools like Calendly and video-conferencing software like Zoom, to name a few.
Together, these tools help eliminate time- and location-based barriers to help your team collaborate anytime and anywhere.
Getting the most out of remote collaboration tools
It’s tough to imagine how we ever got things done without real-time collaboration tools. A recent IDC Market Spotlight found that organizations with six or more integrated applications saw a 75% increase in productivity. Can anyone honestly say that they’ve felt three times more productive waiting for an email to come through?
Leveraging multiple remote collaboration tools can make projects less of a waiting game and more of a real-time opportunity for better, more efficient work. Here’s how:
- Channel-based messaging platforms like Slack keep important conversations in shared spaces and out of communication silos. This provides transparency and keeps your entire team aligned, informed and up to date throughout each project.
- Project management boards take the guesswork out of collaboration by streamlining task assignments and making it easy for coworkers to give progress updates.
- File-sharing apps provide joint access to vital folders and data. Instead of waiting for documents to be sent, your team can keep things moving by making and sharing edits in real time.
- Time-management tools help your team stay on top of deliverables with automatic appointment scheduling and progress-tracking features.
- Video- and voice-conferencing apps create a shared virtual space for teams to gather face-to-face, making impromptu meetings and check-ins possible even from across the globe.
When should I use collaboration tools?
Some organizations communicate better than others, whether that’s because of proximity, personalities or performance. But even good communicators can benefit from most online collaboration tools. That’s because most companies experience at least some level of:
- Disconnect between employees and management due to a lack of transparency
- Fractures in workplace culture caused by miscommunication
- Diminished productivity as a result of messages, documents and other important information being lost or siloed
- Increased production costs caused by project delays and missed sales opportunities
Collaboration tools address and alleviate these problems by repairing communication and improving team cohesion.
Benefits of online collaboration tools for team communication
In our Future of Work Study, we uncovered the benefits that come with improving team communication:
- 87% of team members say that collaborative tools make them more productive
- 77% feel that improved communication makes their organization more transparent
- 88% feel that software solutions help keep them in the loop with coworkers
- 87% feel these platforms have a positive impact on their work relationships
If we’ve learned one thing from the past year, it’s the importance of connection in our lives, especially in the workplace. With the shift to remote work showing no signs of slowing down, companies can set their workers up for success by utilizing collaboration tools to keep teams working closely together, even from far away.