Can Online Collaboration Tools Really Increase Efficiency?
Globalization has changed the face of traditional office environments. Corporations that once thrived off face-to-face meetings to delegate tasks and track projects are now faced with the challenge of connecting individuals and entire departments located oceans apart.
Due to this change in scenery, technological solutions that allow online collaboration, file sharing, project management, and communication are no longer luxuries – they are necessities.
Whether you are a graphic designer, sales professional or the head of marketing – you will face some sort of project management responsibility in this new age. Thankfully, there are new online collaboration tools available to help with the transition into a more global workplace.
The Evolution of Workplace Collaboration
Early innovations in digital collaboration technology were similar to older forms of communication. For example, e-mail mimicked the conventions of “snail mail” – it had to be opened and read, and a paperclip icon indicated the presence of attachments. Responding was common courtesy, even if the message was trivial.
However, once corporations became truly global, traditional forms of communication became obsolete. A company with offices in Hong Kong, New York, and London, could spend a fortune on face-to-face meetings and phone calls.
Additionally, as more and more women entered the workforce (and a growing environmental consciousness questioned the need for travel and commuting), flexible work arrangements like job sharing and remote work became popular. The rise of the “Gig Economy” of sub-contractors, vendors, and freelancers, fuelled the demand for project management tools that enable remote work.
Does Your Business Need Collaboration Software?
If your employees must regularly complete small tasks and projects by a specific deadline in order to reach a common goal, then yes, you will benefit from integrating online collaboration software into your daily business practices.
According to Business.com, a PGi survey conducted in 2017 determined 88 percent of professionals use online collaboration tools at least once per week. Mercedes-Benz USA, The Vantedge Group, and Shipman & Goodwin LLP are three major companies reported using online collaboration tools to streamline their workflow. The businesses adapted this technology for virtual training, webinars, focus groups, and client engagement.
Collaboration tools include, chat apps like Slack and Google Hangouts that allow for real-time sharing of documents, deadlines, and ideas.
As we turn to social networks more than ever to stay informed with friends, family, and world news, it only makes sense that our work relationships evolve in the same way. Software such as Asana, Basecamp and Project Central that integrates with Microsoft Office 365 offer modern alternatives to email, phone calls, post-its, and in-person meetings.
According to these statistics, team members lose valuable time checking emails, searching through lost attachments and sending edits back and forth. Also, an increasingly mobile workforce from 20% to 37.2% in 2015 demands more realistic ways to collaborate in real time.
How Does Online Collaboration Software Help?
By 2024, the size of the collaborative software market is estimated to hit $8.5 billion. But how does this technology meet the challenges we’ve been discussing?
Introducing one or more of these management tools to your workforce will improve communication, team collaboration, and productivity. According to Computerworld, these tools are a great way to increase transparency, develop problem-solving and reaction to crises. It is easier to catch an error within a project through real-time updates than it is by fishing through a sea of emails.
Many of these programs also give you the power to share project progress with prominent investors and stakeholders. Give yourself the option to reveal certain milestones and status updates with those who matter most.
If you’re set up to collaborate online, you can realize the promise of virtual presence. According to this infographic, you will be able to serve more clients, access company knowledge easier, draft documents faster and reduce email volume.
Companies benefit from providing their employees the option to work from home. Telecommuting gives staff the power to spend less time commuting and more time with family. This is a great way to boost company morale. In turn, companies spend less money on flights and phone calls.
Consider what happened when one British telecom company held a “Leave Your Staff at Home Day.”
- 1000 hours that would have been spent commuting were spent working instead.
- Over $11,000 of employee funds remained in their pockets, instead of gas tanks and fare boxes.
- 2 tons of CO2 did not enter the atmosphere.
- Electricity use in the corporate office went down 12%, while water use went down 53%.
Globalization in its purest form means borders are no barrier to talent and expertise. With the right online collaboration and task management tools, the best talent available can work for you, from anywhere.
Benefits of Online Collaboration Tools
Many businesses have been giving this subject considerable thought. Mostly because the payoffs are undeniable:
- Collaboration tools can reduce e-mail volume by up to 30%, and increase team members’ document drafting time by up to 33%.
- 97% of businesses using collaborative software said it had impacted service standards positively.
- Social collaboration has improved efficiency by 20%.
Anecdotally, users are reporting:
- A clear exchange of information when using online collaboration tools.
- Centralized and archived communications, files, and progress updates.
- Avoidance of miscommunication and access to records, so everybody knows who said what, when.
- Increased efficiency in file hand-offs and team feedback.
- Enhanced insight into progress on projects.
These tools create a centralized hub for all departments within your company to access critical information across multiple devices. Having this information readily accessible also makes it easier to recruit outside assistance for temporary projects. With a quality communication tool, companies that outsource specific projects can quickly train remote team members without falling behind schedule.
Permanent employees who want to diversify their skill set will benefit from having access to companywide knowledge as well.
What Type of Software Is Best For Your Needs?
The best collaborative platform for your business depends on the industry you serve, number of employees, amount of workflow and preferred style of communication (among other things).
Many programs allow you to customize the experience to fit your needs. Some software is more visually complex, while others lean on simplified message boards and organizational screens.
If you’re considering moving past the old e-mail and phone call model, here are some characteristics you ought to be looking for in an excellent online collaboration system:
- Your system must support all communication methods – E-mail, voice, text, instant messaging, and video. All have their uses, and your system needs to be capable of using them. File sharing and private conversation capability are critical. Bandwidth needs to be adequate to carry the demand.
- You need an easy, intuitive interface to encourage adoption. Your system needs to work on multiple platforms and allow for workflow management. And if it’s not mobile-friendly, forget it.
- Your system needs to be able to schedule and track various tasks, again with an intuitive interface like Gantt.
- A dynamic file-sharing capability is indispensable. Projects can demand multiple file types. Your collaboration software needs to be capable of working with all of them, particularly the file types you use the most. Feedback needs to be easy, as does interface with existing apps.
- Last but not least is the need for real-time collaboration. Your system needs to be able to track and add collaborators, track and authorize edits, and control who can overwrite changes.
Project Central is the optimal solution for project management, team collaboration, file sharing, and real-time communication.
If you consider that most businesses prioritize as follows:
- User-Friendly Features
Then you’d best not ignore Project Central. Built to interface with the powerful Office 365 suite, it incorporates a variety of task management, sharing, and communication tools with a simple and intuitive interface.
Project Central features help you:
- Facilitate task assignment.
- Improve communication among teams.
- Provide an overview of each job to promote transparency.
- Save time by organizing tasks and documents.
- Improved productivity as a result of better file sharing, messaging, and audio/video communications.
- Offering a cross-device solution that enables global reach.
- Integration of different tools into one platform to improve productivity.
- Reduce your operational costs.
To find out what we’re talking about, head over to www.projectcentral.com. By merely signing up with your Microsoft Work account, you can access all of Project Central’s great features, for free. Project Central’s features include:
- Status monitoring
- Goal tracking
- Visualized initiatives
- Progress tracking
- Coordination of effort
- Priority setting
- Communication tools
Project Central lets you involve everyone in a project, whether they’re down the hall, or across the ocean. And the approachable, intuitive, interface will get quick buy-in from your team members. If you’re using Office 365, your online collaboration effort is not complete until you bring in Project Central.
Overall, finding the right collaboration tool for your company results in more work completed without sacrificing quality. Empower your workforce by providing the tools to manage projects to all members of your organization – not just your executives who sit at the top of the ladder.