Collaboration is a crucial cornerstone for business success. It allows you to exploit synergy effects, mix creative approaches, and find collective solutions to the challenges that you’re facing.
However, for collaboration to be effective rather than frustrating, you’ve got to harness the right tools and strategies.
The right communication and collaboration strategies will help you create a climate among your team that nurtures productivity and individual motivation – and avoid friction losses and personal resentment.
Meanwhile, the right tools will allow your team to collaborate smoothly and to seamlessly integrate workflows, without any of them having to gnash their teeth at technical issues.
To help your business’ team collaboration thrive in 2022, here are the best tips and tools to boost your performance.
How to Structure Successful Collaboration in 2022
As we’ve all learned throughout 2020 and 2021, remote, hybrid and in-person collaboration all offer different challenges to individual teams. However, there are several tactics to facilitate collaboration in all kinds of teamwork.
1 – Assign Roles to Team Members
To start with, you need to assign clear roles to all your team members. Make sure that every single person on the team knows what they ought to do and when. Clarify the scope of their role, and outline who they can turn to for help.
If your collaboration is between larger teams, ensure that the hierarchy is understood by everyone. Each person on your team should understand who they report to, which issues are within their own authority, and what they should refer to a higher level.
This will help you avoid friction due to miscommunication. Too often, it happens that individual team members don’t understand what their responsibilities are in collaboration. As a result, tasks may remain incomplete because the person responsible thought someone else was in charge.
2 – Set Clear Expectations – And Define Success
Next up, you need to define your expectations for a collaboration – and what success means in your case. When you start a collaboration, it’s easy to define lofty goals.
Then, life happens. Unforeseen circumstances interfere. And the nature of your collaboration might change. Many of your initial goals could end up never being reached. Frustration results – and then hamper the remainder of your collaboration.
Instead of falling into this trap, set clear, realistic expectations from the start. Define a timeline with milestone goals. This lets your team feel that they’ve actually achieved something along the way, which increases individual and collective motivation.
Finally, prioritize your goals. Instead of listing a number of general aims, a state which ones are the most important to achieve. Anything beyond that can count as a nice-to-have. This will help you focus your collaboration on its most important aspects, and allow team members to celebrate additional victories.
3 – Establish Communication Guidelines
In the course of 2020 and 2021, we have all sat through mind-numbing meetings, thinking: “This could have been an email!”
To avoid communication missteps from bogging down your project, make sure to establish clear communication guidelines from the start.
These guidelines should include a framework to help team members understand who should be contacted when, and through what channels.
What sort of problem merits an email to their immediate supervisors? And what kind of issue actually does require a Zoom meeting with the entire team?
Who should be copied on what sort of email?
When doing different channels on your messaging platform get used?
What documents need to be shared with the entire team – and, crucially, which ones must remain confidential?
All of these questions should be answered from the start in your communication guidelines. This will allow the relevant people to stay in the loop, while others won’t be inundated with emails that don’t concern them.
Another way in which communication guidelines are important is for the mental health of your team members. Communication, while important, is also one of the most stressful aspects of collaborations.
Meetings swallow up huge amounts of work time that individuals could instead use productively.
Notifications from different apps and channels break team members’ concentration.
If someone is in a different time zone, badly-timed messages could disturb their sleep, or the time they need to relax with their loved ones.
Your communication guidelines can help you avoid these issues, and boost the concentration, productivity, and mental health of every individual team member.
4 – Nurture Cohesion: Share Documents, Work Side-by-Side
If your business’ collaboration is via hybrid or remote means, it’s essential that you implement strategies to foster team cohesion.
This doesn’t mean urging people to participate in cringe-worthy icebreaker games. Yikes.
There are more organic ways of doing this. Encourage team members to work on joint documents, for instance, or to work side-by-side sessions. This will allow people to get to know the rhythm of each other’s workflows and to ask questions directly.
This type of social understanding is crucial when it comes to effective collaboration, especially in the early stages of working together.
5 – Create the Right Climate – Show Appreciation
A final, crucial tip for successful team collaboration is to create the right climate. Especially in hybrid and remote teams, it’s easy to become detached, feel isolated, and develop feelings of resentment.
It’s essential for team leaders to take steps to avoid this from the start – and nurture a positive, motivating climate instead.
One of the fundamental aspects of this is giving competent feedback, and showing appreciation in interactions with team members.
Too many remote team members wake up in the mornings to curt messages from their superiors from different time zones. “Do this ASAP.” With no greeting, few details, and certainly without thanks once the task is completed. But plenty of criticism if they get something wrong.
To ensure an effective collaboration, set the right tone. Show appreciation for the work your team members do – and encourage them to do the same with each other.
Make sure that instructions are clear, and that team members are always free to ask if they need further help. If someone is struggling, find out why – then work out a way to help them.
Collaborations can feel daunting to individual team members. They are suddenly being thrust into a new work environment, with unknown colleagues. However, establishing an open, positive, and grateful climate will help your collaboration flourish from the start.
The Best Tools For Team Collaboration in 2022
Even if you pursue the best collaboration strategies, it’s necessary to also use the right tools to ensure success. Otherwise, your collaboration can easily get bogged down in technical issues, duplicate communication, and misunderstandings.
Here are eight tools to help you ensure that your collaboration runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
1 – Project Management Tools: monday.com and Hive
First, you need to pick the right project management system for your collaboration. These tools will help your team plan, coordinate, and execute every part of your collaboration.
Among the project management options that are currently on the market, Monday.com and Hive are the most versatile platforms.
Both come with a wide array of features for project and product planning, as well as simple task management.
Monday.com offers hundreds of ready-made templates for different types of projects. You can keep track of the progress of your collaboration in several views, including Gantt charts. In addition, over 40 integrations help you connect this platform to other business management tools.
Another plus point is Monday.com’s extensive capacity for automation. Instead of having your team handle routine tasks during your collaboration, you can deploy an algorithm to take care of them – without writing a single line of code.
Hive offers features for budget management, time and expense tracking, analytics, and workflow configuration.
If you’re not sure which platform best suits the needs of your collaboration: both offer free trials (and free plans).
2 – Universal Communication: Nextiva’s cloud phone system
Next, communication is at the core of every successful collaboration. Nextiva provides a pathway to universal communication that eliminates friction losses.
At its most basic, Nextiva is a provider of virtual business phone services. It harnesses Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to shift business communications entirely to the cloud.
As a result, it offers all the necessary channels to make your collaboration a success: voice and video chats, messaging, live chat, email, document sharing, and team collaboration tools.
The major advantage of this is that you have all your communication in one place. Team members can finally stop monitoring a dozen different apps for updates from colleagues. This will help improve their focus and boost their productivity during your collaboration.
3 – Collaborative Document Sharing – Google Workspace
Collaborations involve sharing documents. That is an irrefutable fact.
Whether it’s interim reports, presentations for the next team meeting, or drafts for campaigns, there will always be files that multiple people need to contribute to, review, and comment on.
Unfortunately, many teams still handle this process by bouncing drafts back and forth via email. Q2_Report_final_V5_with_annotations.docx, anyone?
The easiest way to avoid this dilemma is by harnessing collaborative document-sharing platforms. And in 2022, there is still no easier and more widely available way of doing this than using Google Workspace.
You can set up a Google Drive folder for your collaboration and manage access for different users. Then, people can create documents in Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Forms. All the most important document formats businesses typically need are available.
Subsequently, all team members involved in the collaboration can add to the documents, edit them and leave comments and suggestions. Plus, the document owner can easily track the different versions.
Ultimately, this eliminates the need for sending around an unnecessary amount of files and ensures that everyone is up-to-date with the latest draft of the document.
4 – Customer Service Software – Help Scout
If your business collaboration includes a customer-facing aspect, having customer service software is indispensable. This type of platform, such as Help Scout, helps you collect, organize, and report on customer support requests.
If your team works in isolation, they might organize their communication very idiosyncratically. Once you start to collaborate on issues that involve customer support, the right software can help you keep track of different communication channels and tools.
Consequently, you’ll be able to provide better and faster support to customers and integrate the lessons learned from that support better into your collaboration.
5 – Customer Collaboration Software – Acquire.io
Your collaboration isn’t between different teams in your own business, but with customers or clients? In that case, customer collaboration software is a fantastic way to make sure that everything runs as smoothly as possible.
Software such as Acquire.io helps you collaborate with customers anywhere on your business’ website, as well as on mobile apps. They make it easy for you to solve issues, complete forms, and work out solutions to any problems your customers might be facing.
A feature like co-browsing, for instance, can help you do real-time troubleshooting – without either you or your customer having to download any additional collaboration tools.
6 – Productivity Tracking Apps: Todoist
Next up, it’s important for your team members to harness apps to keep track of their own jobs during a collaboration. Productivity tracking apps such as Todoist offer convenient solutions for that.
Using these tools, every person involved in your collaboration can keep on top of their tasks and deadlines, ensuring that your workflows run smoothly.
7- Time Tracking Apps: Time Doctor
Once you’ve distributed tasks, clarified everyone’s roles, and set up communication guidelines, you can sit back and see how your collaboration evolves, right?
During the entirety of your collaboration, it’s important to keep track of how every team member is spending their time.
That will help you pinpoint processes that need to be optimized, spot tasks that take longer than expected, and see which team members could use some additional help with their to-do list.
Time-tracking tools like Time Doctor help you do just that.
These tools keep on top of what each of your team members is doing, from project sub-managers to virtual assistants. They will log their daily activities, and then provide you with insights on demand.
This lets you constantly optimize the way your team works, and make your entire collaboration more efficient.
8 – Sales Process Tracking Software: HubSpot CRM
Finally, if your collaboration involves anything to do with sales – as many business collaborations tend to – using sales tracking software is vital.
These platforms, such as HubSpot, help you streamline and analyze sales processes, assign tasks to different team members, and track the journey of individual customers as they move through your sales pipeline.
This is incredibly helpful for collaborations in multiple ways. First, it provides everyone who has access to the platform with a common knowledge basis. People can collectively gain insights into the current state of your sales process – and how you can improve it.
And: Important data is no longer siloed in separate systems. Instead, everyone who is involved in the collaboration has access.
Conclusion – Establishing Effective Collaboration
Collaboration is a fantastic opportunity for any business. Done right, they allow you to tap into your team’s full, interdisciplinary creativity, and to enhance your productivity.
However, to ensure successful collaboration, it’s necessary to employ the right strategies and use the right tools.
Assigning clear roles, defining your goals, and establishing communication guidelines provide your team with a solid framework and eliminate friction losses. At the same time, nurturing cohesion and a positive work climate allows your team members to reach their full potential.
In terms of tools, project management, communication, document sharing, time- and productivity tracking apps allow you to stay on top of any type of collaboration. Depending on what your particular project involves, sales process tracking software, customer service software, and customer collaboration software are fantastic additions to help your team share insights and optimize workflows.
With these strategies and tools at your disposal, you’ll be able to make the most of every collaboration opportunity – and help both your team and your business thrive.