Once upon a time we used letters to communicate. Times changed and technology had an impact. We started with Emails and continue to use them as our primary communication platform, whilst embracing overflowing anxiety inducing inboxes. Our need for speed accelerated and then came Instant Messaging, enabling realtime communication hand in hand with noisy chat marathons.
Now, when emails and chats are just not enough, here comes a new animal – COLLABORATION PLATFORMS- that often used (and abused) buzzword. The last few years have seen the rise of many tools. Numerous softwares with varied benefits. Promising? Yes. Effective? Depends.
So how to ensure that this experience does not turn sour? And what should you do before putting your stamp on a tool! Lets look at it closely-
Collaboration is defined as a set of people working together for a common goal.
Collaboration software is an application allowing collaboration by bringing people and work in a single workspace providing add-ons for a seamless experience.
Collaboration software umbrella is wide. Different tools take different forms- some focus on communication, some on an operation while others provide a bit of both. Choices are difficult to make- just like waffles or crepes! With a plethora of choices available, it is important to consider some points before making a choice:
Explore: Curiosity enhances learning. So don’t be afraid of breaking the inertia. All companies boast of a forward looking mission statement but will be wary of change! Companies benefit from exploration and so will you. Be open to new technologies and give them a chance – they are there to solve real world problems. It’s true you need a compelling reason to pick up a tool but without exploration you might suffer in silence or just pick a wrong one.
See the real thing: See a working solution, don’t count on sales pitches and marketing articles. Insist on one and watch a live demo.
Experience: Try before committing. Use it, Make your team use it. Pick up a free trial and make a conscious effort to incorporate it in daily work. Just like our supermarket taster tests. Remember, we can never know the power of a tool till we experience it first hand.
Need analysis: What is your goal? For management group, it might be to oversee team contributions; for a business development team, the goal might be efficient target management; and for a product development team the focus could be smooth roll out. The possibilities are endless, where people are involved and each have their own responsibilities to achieve a common result. ‘Experience’ will aid need analysis and help you in accumulating requirements and case studies to understand right fitment.
Consider diversity: Pick a tool which offers host of capabilities to support need of multiple departments for overall adoption. Going for different tools for different departments for a similar purpose eventually burdens integration and create silos in a company which may hurt the overall performance.
Some of the features to look for:
Task Management: A collaboration tool should not only address team work but also task management. It is not just about bringing people together, true value is by creating task based focus which emails and IMs lack. Tool should offer creation and splitting of tasks which will not only help in breaking down project but also mapping your processes.
User Assignment: Any chat tool would let you invite people and start a chat group. Assigning right people to right task is key to an efficient system. E.g. Assigning project board at task level and respective team members at each sub task level.
Due date set up and tracking capabilities: All assignees should be on same page where approaching deadlines are concerned. At the same time provision for reminders and notifications play an important role to be at it.
Repetitive processes: More than often departments have standard workflows for certain processes say employee on-boarding. Research if tool has provision to create, save and share templates to manage recurrent jobs to save time and standardise processes.
Integrations: A collaboration app cannot do everything. But it can surely provide you integrations with utility applications which you use day in day out to get work done. Say your company uses cloud storage like Google drive and Dropbox and while you having an active discussion on a task, you support it by attachments from these apps for a complete picture! No separate emails or touch-points.
Searchable: As your workload grows on the tool, you will find it more and more crucial for work to be easily located. Make sure tool provide you with great sorting, filtering and priority setting capabilities. Picture this- in one click you can see list of all tasks assigned to a particular employee!
Consider multi platform, multi device support: More work- more people- multiple platforms- multiple devices. Make sure to find out compatibility and scalability of the tool with different devices and platforms- Macs or PCs; for mobile support whether it’s iOS or Android.
Ask for training: A solution is a win when its well adopted. Its well adopted when users feel empowered. Exploit solution’s strength by involving the makers. Beware of companies which just sell you solution without right handholding- and a web tutorial is not a training!
Set rules of collaboration: Collaboration tools can be overwhelming with notifications buzzing day in day out. Consider a tool which provides you a switch off time while inculcating the P’s and Q’s of usage within team.
We hope this article helps you in your search for collaboration tools. When you evaluate, consider SamayLa. SamayLa is successfully solving task management, product development, project tracking and multiple other collaboration needs for teams, departments and companies across many industries. SamayLa is all of the above and more!