Importance of better online collaboration

By Wayne Pope, below, Founder and CTO,  Glasscubes

The need for effective online team collaboration has never been greater. This has been necessitated by the millions of workers that were forced to switch to remote or hybrid working by the Covid-19 pandemic, and that trend shows no signs of slowing.

As a result, employers need to find a way to encourage greater teamwork between staff, regardless of where they are working. The key to this is through online collaboration, where employees can work on the same project at the same time, even if they are in different locations.

Successful online collaboration has been proven to boost employee engagement, productivity, efficiency and, above all, company results. Given the right tools they can achieve that, with 39% of business leaders agreeing that introducing digital collaboration platforms is key to making remote working sustainable, according to a Deloitte study.

There are essentially three main elements to effective online collaboration: having a clearly defined communications strategy, fostering the right company culture and maximising the use of technology. When successfully executed simultaneously, workers’ output will rise exponentially.

Communication is key

To implement an effective communications strategy, companies need to have the right platforms in place. That means using traditional methods such as face-to-face meetings, phones and emails, but also new technology such as video conferencing and messaging apps.

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By scheduling regular team meetings, managers can get teams to discuss projects, agree and make decisions, and keep updated on progress, as well as check up on employees’ well-being and productivity. This is particularly important when people are working in different locations or time zones to ensure that they are all on the same page.

The end result can be transformative. According to a McKinsey study, workers who feel more included in workplace communication are almost five times more likely to report increased productivity.

Fostering a company culture

A strong company culture is another vital component in ensuring that staff have the same set of shared values, targets, attitudes and practices. That’s evidenced by Deloitte, which found that 94% of executives say having a distinct corporate identity is key to a firm’s success.

Employee buy-in is critical to establishing a positive company culture, and that starts with recruitment and retention. When they are invested in the business, that breeds greater job satisfaction, and, thus, better collaboration, performance, loyalty and wellbeing.

Reflecting that sentiment, 67% of respondents to a PwC survey cited a company’s culture as more important than its strategy or operations. Added to that, 72% of senior leaders said that it also enables successful change initiatives to happen.

Leveraging technology

But the main driver of online collaboration is technology. Thanks to the latest advances, there’s an array of tools that can make remote teamwork easier and more effective. The main one is online workspaces. These virtual environments enable teams to collaborate, communicate and manage all their projects in the same place.

Such has been the speed of their take-up, that 79% of workers now use digital collaboration tools, up 44% from when the pandemic began, according to Gartner. In the future, Cisco found that 48% of chief information officers predict that more than half of their budget will be spent on enabling these technology investments to reach their full potential, according to Cisco.

Linking all of this together is the use of the cloud. Hosting multiple databases and software, this global network of servers enables teams to access and work on the same files and applications, no matter where they are.

Investment challenges

While online collaboration brings many benefits, there are also challenges involved. They range from the upfront investment cost and technology issues to resistance to change.

Despite budgetary constraints, companies must view online collaboration as a future investment. They can also get staff to buy into the new company culture by giving them greater autonomy as to how they are going to work together online.

With almost every company moving to this new way of working, employers need to have the right systems and practices in place for effective online team collaboration. If they don’t, they run the risk of getting left behind in this increasingly competitive marketplace for talent.

Wayne Pope is Founder and CTO of Glasscubes, which specialises in enabling companies to collaborate with people inside or outside their organisation, using a rich set of tools from client portals, online workspaces, intranets and information gathering. Glasscubes helps over 50,000 users in more than 100 countries to maximise their workforce’s potential through an online secure system

 

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024