Employing collaboration tools can not only help team members work together easily—they can also lead to more business innovation. Companies committed to long-term growth can benefit from creating intentional physical and virtual places where employees can easily collaborate. Collaboration tools can help boost workplace efficiency and ultimately cash flow. (Since most of these tools are cloud based, the company only pays for their current users, and the cost can be put on business credit cards.)
As more teams don't have permanent office space or even work remotely, effective collaboration tools have become critical. The best ones for your business to use will vary based on what tasks need to be accomplished and who is involved. You can to choose from:
1. Team Chat
Many companies use an instant messaging application. Employees throughout the business can send short messages to each other on their desktop or mobile devices, or communication can be split into a series of sub groups by department or project. When someone wants to discuss something, the message pops up on their device. There are options to create one-on-one chats or form small specialized groups within the company.
2. AI Chat
When used inside a company, these tools can answer common employee questions. Instead of using a live person, an AI bot can help answer common issues that come up every day. It is designed to have a narrow conversation with a team member on specific company policies.
Using AI chat is like having an interactive employee manual that can cover topics ranging from asking for vacation time to using business credit cards.
3. Video Screen Sharing
A video screen sharing platform provides a shared space where everyone can see the same screen—and each other, if desired.
This tool is especially helpful for remote teams that need to collaborate on a project but are not geographically located in the same place. Some of the most popular free tools in this area are Zoom and Screenleap.
4. File Sharing
These collaboration tools give team members the ability to edit the same documents simultaneously and manage version control, as well as access files, documents, videos and more, all in one place. The files are saved on the cloud and access can be given to specific team members. For file sharing, many companies use Google Docs and Dropbox.
5. Calendar Sharing
One of the biggest issues in a company is coordinating calendars. Calendar sharing collaboration tools organize appointments and meetings without the need to consult all participants or go back and forth on email trying to find the best date.
By using this type of collaboration tool, the person scheduling the meeting finds a time that everyone is free on their calendar and sends an invitation. This works because every team member's calendar is already on one updated system for easy reference.
6. Project Management
Project management applications track people working on a series of tasks from beginning to end. The project tasks are determined by the team leader and assigned to individuals to meet within an agreed upon time frame. The team members then know which task needs to be completed next and record when each task is done.
Using tools that do many of the collaboration functions your company needs can help you save precious working capital.
These tools have been used for a long time in the area of programming, but are now used in any department where there are process-oriented processes. Popular tools in this area included Basecamp and Trello.
7. Internal Social Networks
Companies can set up their own internal social network as a collaboration tool that is only available to their employees. Similar to broader social media tools, it helps build specific communities of interest inside the company to bring employees together around shared areas of expertise.
This can be used to gather and share ideas across the company. For example, team members can suggest how to control expenses or the best places to stay where employees frequently travel. Tools like Yammer and Workplace by Facebook are utilized to create these types of internal social networks.
8. Huddle Rooms
Most modern office spaces these days consists of an open plan where team members work at long tables or in more casual spaces. One of the collaboration tools that is commonly used for teams physically working together is special huddle rooms.
Huddle rooms are small enclosed spaces set aside from the main office where a team can talk with minimal distractions. They can accommodate up to five people, and include technology solutions like video conferencing, presentation monitors and whiteboards. (Chairs are optional.) They are typically not booked in advance.
Huddle rooms are effective for quick and many times spontaneous collaboration that needs a quiet and private space.
9. Visual Collaboration Tools
These tools provide a visual and expansive canvas for collaboration. It gives the ability to map out ideas and plans with templates, and share screens for people in the same room or in other parts of the world.
Instead of using a series of sticky notes, these collaboration tools are used to share a broad canvas of images that can be manipulated to explain ideas visually. This can be helpful for mapping out processes, showing data analysis and using kanban boards.
10. Augmented or Virtual Reality
These new collaboration tools allow team members in different places to immerse themselves virtually in the same place. Users can virtually enter a room with other participants and work on a project in three dimensions. This may work best for creating and changing something that requires three dimensions like development or repair of physical products. Doghead Simulations and Spatial are creating revolutionary solutions for this type of collaboration,
There are also tools that combine many collaboration functions in one application. These include Nextiva's Collaboration Suite or Zoho, which facilitate team communication, video conferencing, file sharing, and task management. Using tools that do many of the collaboration functions your company needs can help you save precious working capital.
That said, it's probably best to not implement all of these at once! Choose the ideal collaboration tools that can best leverage your team and boost your cash flow.
Read more articles on organizational productivity.
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