More businesses are offering remote work to some extent or another, which introduces new opportunities and challenges alike. Alongside the importance of having the right people onboard, empowering them with the best tools and practices for your business can make all the difference in delighting your customers and growing your business.
In this piece we’ll walk you through some of the best practices and tools you can implement to streamline and empower better remote collaboration in your business.
The Pitfalls of Remote Collaboration
Remote collaboration amplifies some of the usual challenges that a business faces in its workflows and projects; there’s a greater chance of information gaps and miscommunication, team members can risk feeling disconnected from each other, while new challenges such as orchestrating collaboration across different personal needs or time zones can also present themselves.
To create best practices, you need to know what could be better. A good way to do this is to survey your data, people, and projects for risks and pain points in your collaboration efforts, which can inform the right solutions for driving better collaboration across the board.
First, let’s start with looking at some of the best tools around for remote collaboration – is your business using them? Are they working as intended? Could there be more features within your tools or in other apps that can further empower collaboration?
Your Helping Hands: Business Digital Collaboration Tools
You have probably heard of tools like Slack and Asana, as well as platforms like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace (formerly known as G-Suite). Using the right mix of these tools, integrating them together, and crafting them to work in alignment with your processes are some of the keys to squeezing the most value out of your collaboration technology.
Let’s start with some types of tools and their features, and then move on to a checklist of best practices that you can apply.
Types and Examples of Remote Collaboration Tools
Here are some common and less commonly known types of collaboration tools for remote working and some examples of software that you can explore for each.
Of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that the types and examples of tools can be more or less suitable for each specific business and industry. For example, digital asset management tools can be particularly beneficial to marketing, PR agencies and architecture firms, but less so for a consulting agency.
1. Project Management Software
Packed with features that enable businesses to create projects, tasks, assignments to people, task-dependencies, and workflows, these tools are a boon for any business working on projects.
Some examples: Asana, Trello, Height, Monday
2. Communication Platforms
Depending on how your business works, it may benefit most from standalone communication tools like Slack and Zoom, or bring them under the umbrella of a wider cloud workplace platform like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace. These tools offer features such as instant messaging, video conferencing, integrations with other collaboration software, post and file pinning, chats and channels, and more.
Some examples: Slack, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meets, Cisco Webex
3. Document Collaboration Tools
From word documents to presentation decks and spreadsheets, document collaboration tools enable your team to do the bulk of their work individually and together if these tools are cloud-based.
Some examples: Google workspace productivity apps, Microsoft 365 productivity apps, Dropbox paper, Zoho Officesuite
4. File Sharing and Storage
Does what it says on the tin! File sharing and storage tools enable the sharing and storing of files; cloud tools have the advantage of working in real time, making it easier to control document versions and to co-edit stored documents as well.
Some examples: Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive, Egnyte
5. Time Tracking and Management Apps
For businesses needing to track logs against projects, these apps can prove useful for gaining insightful productivity data and empowering accountability.
Some examples: Toggl Track, Harvest, Clockify
6. Task and Workflow Automation Apps
A powerful solution for driving improved collaboration and productivity, these apps enable businesses to link different apps and workflows together, streamlining collaboration, and mitigating the emergence of information and project gaps.
Some examples: Zapier, IFTTT (If This Then That), Automate.io
7. Brainstorming and Mind Mapping Tools
These tools can help teams to get creative and innovative using virtual whiteboards and virtual versions of whiteboard tools, serving as a substitute for physical meeting rooms.
Some examples: Miro, MindMeister, Lucidchart
8. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRMs are often a linchpin of business operations and they have a valuable role to play in empowering remote collaboration as well. By linking different business functions and their related data together like customer service, sales, finance and operations, they can save teams time, keep data and collaboration aligned, and yield data-driven insights.
Some examples: Salesforce, Hubspot CRM, Zoho CRM
9. Digital Asset Management Software
Digital asset management software is for businesses to store, organise, retrieve digital assets, and to manage licences and permissions around them more easily. They can be more or less specialised depending on the business:
Some examples: Adobe Experience Manager, Bynder, Widen Collective
10. Social Networking Platforms
Designed for businesses, these tools bring together familiar social media features, tailored to workplace goals and contexts. For larger businesses these tools can be useful for fostering community, encouraging ideation and innovation, and employee engagement.
Some examples: Yammer, Confluence Ryver, Chatter
We hope this can give you some food for thought about the types of collaboration solutions you can use to support better remote working in your business. It’s best to do some homework to find the right tools that can precisely fit your business’s unique needs and goals.
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Remote Best Practices for The Effective Use of Collaboration Tools
Now that we’ve looked at how collaboration tools can support better practices, we can flip the coin and look at best practices for getting the best from your collaboration tools! In no particular order, these are some of the best practices that can help your business to drive better remote collaboration:
Ensure Communication Is Clear and Consistent
You no doubt have heard the saying that it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate, which is particularly true for remote collaboration. Striking the right balance between the regularity and amount of communication is key for this.
Using regular meetings and encouraging teamwork can help you to do this, but also segmenting your communications appropriately into groups, channels, and individual chats can avoid overload and confusion. Consider how documents and processes can streamline the need to communicate, while providing clarity on tasks and processes.
Make Processes, Expectations and Goals Clear
Overarching goals, broken down tasks, clear workflows, metrics, defined responsibilities, as well as connecting them to an overarching vision and ‘why’ are all friends of businesses with solid collaboration practices.
Consider how crystal-clear these three key elements are in your business, and how clarity can be ensured and enshrined across your workflows and projects.
Take a Flexible but Disciplined Approach to Working Arrangements
A key benefit to remote work is that it unlocks more flexible working arrangements. At the same time, setting routines and expectations around availability and responsiveness will go a long way in creating efficient and coordinated collaboration processes in your business.
Encourage Collaboration and Team Building
Compared to being in the office, remote working can be more socially and operationally isolating and risks leaving team members out of the loop with small but important interactions and project details.
Whether its co-editing documents, using brainstorming tools, creating company events or team building activities, it goes a long way for empowering your people to coordinate together and build a sense of purpose and community in your team.
Setup Regular Updates and Feedback Loops
Keeping everyone in the loop is a key part of effective remote collaboration. There’s many forms this can take, including comprehensive enough notes in tasks and projects, regular meetings using automated tools to prompt updates, running appropriately segmented chats and channels, and assigning responsibilities around information gathering and sharing within the team.
Provide Comprehensive Onboarding & Support
The more that you put into enabling remote staff to hit the ground running in your business, the more it pays off! Consider reviewing your onboarding processes to find any gaps in the process, which can be looked at from a few different angles: workflows, expectation-setting, communicating cultural and operational norms in the company, encouraging ideation and creativity, and more.
Invite Feedback and Innovation
There’s always opportunity to drive improvements, and encouraging your team to discuss and solve pain points that crop up across your projects is a great way to drive better collaboration in your business. The more minds that are invested into improving your collaboration tools and processes, the more exponentially you can drive better collaboration over time.
When remote collaboration is done well it can drive gains in productivity, innovation, as well as customer and team satisfaction in your business. By understanding the pain points and challenges you face, using the right tools and applying best practices that work uniquely for your business, you’ll be able to drive profitable growth for your business and delight your customers.
Remember, the key to successful remote collaboration lies in the perfect blend of the right tools, clear communication, and a strong team culture. Embrace these practices, and watch your remote projects thrive!
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