Choosing the Right Online Collaboration Tool for the Task
There are endless benefits to taking a collaborative approach in accomplishing objectives. Collaboration leverages the strength of diverse perspectives to transform good ideas into great ones. It’s also a smart way to foster camaraderie and build team relationships, since the process of collaboration encourages people to join forces to reach a common goal. Fortunately, technology has gifted us with a variety of ways to engage in collaboration with people inside and outside the office. However, knowing which tool to use when can be tricky, which is why we’ve gathered the three most popular online collaboration tools of today, and explored benefits and best use cases for each.
Benefits of Video Collaboration
Accessible and Affordable: Less than a decade ago, people were trapped by cumbersome and expensive video conferencing legacy systems that promised much, but were difficult to use. Fast forward to today, and you can get a super sleek, user-friendly, video conferencing unit (like Highfive) with HD video and audio for a nominal price, which makes this tool as indispensable as it is ubiquitous.
Connection: Video collaboration creates the face-to-face connection between participants that is imperative to feeling like part of a team. Given that remote working is projected to increase, video offers an invaluable way to build and maintain personal and productive collaborative relationships.
Reduced Risk of Miscommunication: More than any other modern collaboration tool, video eliminates the risks of miscommunication by allowing people to be seen, heard and understood. Moreover, participants can interpret each other’s facial expressions and body language, and respond appropriately.
Enhanced Speed: Video increases the speed of collaboration by enabling people to engage in the rapid-fire exchanges that happen organically during a conversation or brainstorming session. It also eliminates time lost typing long messages that could become moot points by the time one hits enter.
Show & Tell: Sharing documents, visuals, and more through video screen sharing is quick and simple. It also allows everyone to be on the same page and quickly grasp exactly what the person sharing the information means.
Use Cases: Video is ideal for collaborative endeavors that benefit from the energy of immediate team input, such as: brainstorms; project reviews and updates; training and education; general and in-depth discussions; solution analysis, etc.
Benefits of Email Collaboration
Singular: Email is best for one-on-one collaborations that do not require face-to-face interactions or immediate feedback. It’s never a good idea to add multiple people to an email collaboration, because the volume of responses can drown participant’s inboxes and cause them to get lost in the email trail or give up following it altogether. Interestingly, this issue birthed the idea of using messaging platforms in lieu of email, although after the novelty of messaging platforms wore off, people realized email still had a valid place in their arsenal of online collaborative tools.
Timing: When a person is in a distant time zone (i.e. +/- 12 hours from your time zone), and scheduling a video collaboration has proved challenging, then you may want to try engaging in email collaboration. When attempting to collaborate via email, take extra time to describe the process to individuals so that it is easy to understand and follow, but keep the communication brief. For example, tell participants in as few words as possible what the goal of the email collaboration is, how you would like to receive answers (i.e. top three ideas), and dates that responses are due.
Archiving: Many people today use their email as a filing cabinet for collaborative docs. For example, after a video collaboration, it might be helpful to members of the team to receive a copy of individual documents discussed during the session.
Use Cases: Email is a good choice for collaborative processes that benefit from having information put in writing, such as confidential reviews; idea critiques; and other brief and direct forms of collaboration.
Benefits of Messaging Platforms
Brevity: Messaging platforms like Slack and Asana are best used for short and informal types of collaborations that are neither time sensitive or in need of immediate response. Because of the convenience of posting messages, some people actually defeat the purpose of the tool by posting too often, going into too much detail, etc. If you are using a messaging platform to lead a quick collaboration, be sure to monitor posts and redirect people who venture from chat to full-on discussion to hold onto those thoughts until everyone can meet face-to-face, either in-person or via video.
Anonymity: Conducting collaborative efforts that allow everyone to speak their mind without fear of alienating coworkers can be tough, but this is one area where messaging platforms can be helpful, in that channel moderators can allow people to submit answers, questions and comments anonymously. Some collaborators like to use messaging platforms during a video conference to vote ideas up or down.
File-Sharing: Messaging platforms are great for making sure everyone involved in a team collaboration has access to all the essential documents such as images, PDFs, spreadsheets etc. It is also possible to sync docs from archiving sources like Google Drive, Dropbox and Box.
Use Cases: Best collaborative use cases for messaging platforms include polls, questions, surveys, clarifications, updates and other quick information that does not require a longer discussion or meeting.
All Together Now
Now that you know which types of collaborations are best served by which tools, feel free to mix, match or use a combination of all three for your next team collaboration. If you haven’t added modern video conferencing to your collaborative efforts, you owe it to yourself to give Highfive a whirl. A team-building, productivity-boosting tool, Highfive is a lightweight all-in-one video conferencing device that makes getting together with folks and sharing screens and ideas a vivid and engaging experience — every time. Featuring HD video and audio, and a wide-angle lens that beautifully captures the subtle (and massively important) nuances of communication, Highfive is a tool that gives your team collaborations a real competitive advantage.