Team collaboration is a key element of any successful enterprise, and yet employees, 39% in a recent survey, continue to feel that collaboration levels are too low at their place of work. The ability of team members to come together, work towards a common goal, and build off of each other’s ideas, goes a long way to determining the team’s long-term viability. There are many age old practices in this regard, from how to set up and run meetings to setting a common team vision, but every team could benefit from some extra support in this area.
Fortunately, in the age of apps and cloud computing, there are several tools that can help any team increase its collaboration. But before you jump in to testing the latest tool on your team, it’s necessary to take the following steps. This will help ensure that you make a choice that will truly put your team on a trajectory of higher collaboration, and not simply frustrate them with the latest trendy app.
When choosing the right tool for your team, it’s important to first diagnose the team’s needs. What’s inhibiting your team from collaborating to its fullest? Is it a lack of planning skills? Perhaps your team members are in separate locations? Depending on your diagnosis your collaboration tool choice will vary. Some are geared towards addressing certain types of needs, for example creating a virtual workplace for remote team members, while some provide you with a wider array of features that you can use as you see fit. Ensuring that the choice you make is based on your team’s real needs is the best way of ensuring success. And don’t forget to ask your team members themselves! They are your best source of information in this area.
Once you have a clear understanding of your team’s collaboration needs, it’s time to choose the right tool. Given the plethora of tools on the market, and new ones which are released continuously, it’s not a question of whether the right tool exists, but rather how best to find it. Most collaboration tools will allow for trial periods, giving you the opportunity to try them with your team and assess their usefulness.
As a general rule, unless you can pinpoint a specific need that’s holding your team’s collaboration back, it’s best not to choose a tool with a narrow focus. Instead, you could invest in your own hosted team IM network that would allow you to customize and administer the platform in a way that you see fit. This gives you the opportunity to test different approaches until you find the right collaboration formula for your team.
The best tools on the market are not necessarily free, so if you’re serious about increasing collaboration you need to be open to the idea of dedicating resources to the problem. This is easier said than done for many businesses, as it’s not always easy to see the payoff from investing in collaboration tools. This is the case because benefits from collaboration are often difficult to quantify. Of course this does not make them any less real.
When making your choice of collaboration tool be sure that you are weighing all of the potential benefits as well as the costs. One easy way to do so is to ask yourself the question, “What do I expect to be different after using this tool?” Your answer could focus on the speed with which your team finishes projects, a reduction in the amount of mistakes made in your team’s work, or any number of other potential benefits.
Increasing team collaboration is not as simple as trying the latest tool on the market. Without a proper diagnosis of your team’s needs, and willingness to commit resources to the problem, you will be unlikely to achieve lasting results. By thoroughly analyzing the situation, and basing your choice on this analysis, you can provide your team with the right tool to accelerate their teamwork and collaboration. Don’t be tricked by flashy apps and programs, but rather do your research and make the most informed choice for your team.
They’ll thank you for it.