Forever gone is the era when workers assembled each day at the office. Today, they’re just as likely to be working from home or spread across the globe. Collaboration has always been important among teams. But with team members no longer literally sitting side by side, collaboration tools are vital to preventing ineffective silos.
Business leaders are increasingly aware of the value of modern collaboration tools in ensuring teams stay connected. A recent survey from GoTo by LogMeIn found that 73% of businesses plan to increase spending on collaboration tools. Artificial intelligence plays a big role in these tools’ streamlining and efficiency, enabling digital assistants and automated administrative work. Put another way, AI-empowered collaboration tools are improving modern workers’ daily lives.
New Technology for a New Way of Working
Remote work doesn’t appear to be a passing trend, and it’s not just Millennials who desire flexibility. Recent surveys by Deloitte and FlexJobs found that workers of all ages appreciate autonomy in how, when, and where they complete their tasks.
The rise in remote work is occurring at precisely the same time that businesses are grappling with a talent gap. A lack of available talent is a top threat to business growth, according to a survey of CEOs by PwC. This gap is also feeding an uptick in remote workers: To attract and retain top people, companies are embracing remote or flexible arrangements.
This new way of working calls for new technology and new ways of forging connections among colleagues. Collaboration tools like Google Drive and Slack are as essential to success as the coffee machine and the copier were. These tools seamlessly connect remote workers to each other and their in-office counterparts. They increase productivity, lower costs, and even increase ROI. Collaboration tools also help companies maintain a strong culture — a keystone of success — in the absence of physical proximity.
Finally, collaboration tools can keep employees happier and free them up to focus on important work. An ICP studyfound that companies using Slack cut their email volume in half and held 25% fewer meetings. These companies experienced a 32% boost in productivity — probably because workers weren’t sifting through emails or sitting in pointless meetings.
Smart Technology Requires a Smart Strategy
Simply introducing new technology won’t immediately result in effective collaboration, which Slack’s 2018 International Work Perceptions Report defines as a melding of easy communication, mutual trust, and clearly outlined responsibilities.
Culture absolutely must inform the choice of technology and its integration into the workplace. If you haphazardly introduce new tech solutions without understanding the problems or hurdles your team faces, you could end up exacerbating issues.
Companies also make the mistake of confusing high usage of a tool with being a marker of its success. For example, many collaboration tool vendors, such as IBM and Salesforce, have copied features from social media platforms. This could mean workers are communicating more smoothly, or it could mean they’re spending a lot of time chatting. After all, sites like Facebook are designed to suck you in and never let go. The lesson here is to pay attention to how certain features are used and how they’re truly contributing to productivity and collaboration.
3 Ways to Use Tech for Enhanced Collaboration
Better collaboration equals better results. Much better results, in fact: A survey by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that companies with collaborative environments are five times as likely to be high performers. To help your team perform stellar work, consider these tactics:
1. Make use of social tools.
Social tools can facilitate communication and streamline operations. According to “The Digitization of Collaboration” survey by Harvard Business Review, 76% of companies now employ social tools. What’s more, employees say these tools are causing notable improvements in productivity, the speed of problem-solving, and employee engagement. “Social applications allow people to work not just faster and cheaper, but also in ways they simply couldn’t have done before,” explains Heidi Gardner, distinguished fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession and author of “Smart Collaboration.”
International aid organization Oxfam, for example, used a social platform to destroy email silos and improve collaboration and communication. Without the social tool, communication among Oxfam’s coalition of 20 independent charities was arduous.
2. Mix up reality.
Virtual and augmented reality are reshaping team collaboration, facilitating remote team project discussions, and providing virtual workrooms. “While the latest AR/VR and 3D technologies have been applied to the worlds of gaming and entertainment for years, the opportunity for more immersive experiences within enterprise learning, training, and workflow management is now, for the first time, on the verge of global adoption,” says James Henry, chief technology officer at PureWeb, an interactive 3D streaming service.
One such tool is Microsoft’s HoloLens, a mixed-reality headset by Xbox that represents the entertainment brand’s foray into business applications. HoloLens users can see 360-degree views of virtual spaces, create 3D items, and see holograms during video calls.
3. Unburden workflows with AI.
AI is key to honing and automating workflows. It can streamline workflows by handling repetitive tasks, eliminating human error, analyzing risks, and tracking schedules and budgets. Chatbots, for instance, can schedule and transcribe meetings, proofread content, and automate communication when project steps are completed. Chatbot technology has already been integrated with platforms such as Slack, Cisco Spark, Microsoft Teams, and others.
AI can also help filter and organize information, protecting workers from the constant and overwhelming stream of interruptions and data that modern collaboration tools sometimes produce. Slack, for example, uses collaborative filtering to free up workers to do what they do best: lead teams and dream up creative ideas.
Technology has rescued us from the days of “butts in seats,” and it’s providing the means to ensure that remote work really works. New collaboration tools incorporating AI, VR, and other cutting-edge tech are improving the way we collaborate and communicate, making virtual teams an asset instead of a liability.