Digital collaboration – master cooperation with digital tools!
WhatsApp, Doodle, Dropbox – everyone knows these digital collaboration tools and a life without them is hardly imaginable. The tools facilitate our communication with our friends and family, we use them to organise our spare time or to share and exchange photos. If digital collaboration tools facilitate our private lives, why shouldn’t we use them professionally? Digital collaboration enables flexible cooperation as well as effective communication with our business partners.
The current coronavirus pandemic forces many employers as well as employees to work from home. In this situation digital tools can help us to keep in touch and work together successfully even when separated. We at ICON have already used digital collaboration tools before the coronavirus crisis: We used them to distribute tasks and to quickly achieve optimal results. Nevertheless, digital collaboration with everyone being in different locations is new to us and we learn to appreciate the tools in a whole new way. In this article you will get to know the advantages of digital collaboration tools. I will share our experiences with the tools and explain why you shouldn’t do without them even after the coronavirus crisis.
Which tools you need and what you should consider when using them
There are three groups of digital collaboration tools: communication tools, team organisation tools and tools for file sharing. You can use communication tools for the coordination within a team or between different teams as well as for the coordination with customers or business partners. Team organisation tools will help you to distribute tasks to different team members and to keep an overview where you are in the project. Tools for file sharing allow to exchange documents and to work on the content together – this can be done simultaneously or consecutively.
For a successful planning, organisation, communication and sharing of information and files you should select a suitable tool from each group. In the following, I will present some of the tools and our experiences with them. For each tool you will also find some useful tips on how we integrate them in our daily work schedule and how this makes our work efficient.
This video taken from our web-based training on digital collaboration gives you a good overview on the advantages of communication tools:
What tools do we use at ICON? To get in direct contact with each other, whether one to one or with several people, Slack is our tool of choice. By building channels all people involved get the same level of information on the progress and new developments at any time. You can collectively discuss problems, everyone can contribute their ideas. This way, you can talk to each other directly and informally – almost like you were in the office.
Tips for using Slack
- Whenever you are immersed in a task that requires your full attention and you don’t have to coordinate with your colleagues, you should mute your chats or log out. In doing so, you ensure that you won’t get disturbed by incoming messages. Instead, you can later read through the chat record in one go.
- Make sure that you write your messages comprehensible and complete. Whenever you realise that a written message is complicated or might get misunderstood, you should prefer a phone call – you may even use a video call.
Apart from Slack you may also use Microsoft Teams for video calls. This tool is better suited for video calls with several people than Slack. Using video calls helps to reduce misunderstandings as you can see facial expressions and gestures from your conversation partner.
Tips for using Microsoft Teams:
- Always define an objective before starting a group call. This helps to increase productivity and prevents ending a meeting without results.
- If necessary, share your screen. Your conversation partners can then see where you and what you are talking about. This clearly avoids misunderstandings.
Team organisation tools
The following graphic shows the advantages of team organisation tools:
At ICON we use Jira to organise our tasks. This team organisation tool helps us to plan projects, tasks, responsibilities as well as project budgets. Furthermore, with the help of Jira we always keep an eye on the timeline of our projects. Jira assigns all projects and tasks to one person. This makes transparent who works on a specific task and who ist responsible for what part of the project. It’s impossible to forget tasks or to assign one task several times to different people.
Tips for working with Jira:
- Map and organise all tasks of a project on a kanban board. We at ICON tailored this board to our workflow so that all team members can see the current status as well as the phases of the project at any time.
- Update the processing status regularly. This is important in order to maintain an overview on the processing states and to be able to react adequately to changes.
Tools for file sharing
The benefits of file sharing tools are explained in the following section taken from our WBT on digital collaboration:
At ICON we have made very good experiences with the collaboration tool Confluence. The tool allows to edit articles together. In the articles files and links can be included. Confluence is closely related to Jira. This means that it is possible to integrate the status of a task from Jira into Confluence. This gives you an optimal overview of the projects and the work processes. As Confluence allows to edit articles simultaneously by several persons, we are able to collect project content from different disciplines such as design, authoring or development. This ensures that no information is lost and we can quickly come to a project result.
Tips for working with Confluence:
- Agree on a useful and clear structure. Only then the collaboration in Confluence will be successful. Similar to the folder structure on the server, you should define main sections to which you assign related articles. This will help you to find pages again without having to search for a long time.
- Name your articles clearly. This facilitates to find them again later.
What is the future of digital collaboration?
Many companies and organisations have already made use of digital collaboration before the coronavirus crisis. We notice this in the exchange with our customers. During the coronavirus crisis challenges that come along with home office can be overcome using digital tools as they help to structure and organise working from home. However, the challenges of constantly changing collaboration will remain after the crisis. Apart from effective communication and distribution of tasks, companies must and want to meet requirements such as equal opportunities for example. To ensure this an open exchange and flexible work organisation are essential. Digital collaboration tools facilitate this. Consequently, its use will be meaningful also in the long term.
Do you use digital communication tools when working from home? Which ones are particularly helpful to you? We are looking forward to your messages on this topic. We also support you in training measures for digital collaboration – for example employee trainings in the use of the tools or awareness campaigns.