During the Covid pandemic, remote working became a necessity, rather than choice for many organisations. The past couple of years have given businesses insighsts into the demonstrable benefits of introducing remote and hybrid working practices – from improving productivity to attracting and retaining the brightest and best talent.
For many organisations, this would not be possible without the development of online platforms to facilitate collaborative remote working. While Zoom has become ubiquitous during the pandemic out of the necessity to stay connected, it’s just one of numerous platforms that can support organisations.
With a dizzying number of alternative digital tools that can be utilised to support specific business functions, making a wrong decision can be costly. So how do you choose the ones that work best for your organisation?
- Remote collaboration tools can help teams to work effectively together, improving communications and daily working practices.
- Choosing the right collaborative tool is the key to success.
- By facilitating best practice in remote working, organisations can improve productivity and employee retention as well as attracting new talent.
Identify your strategic needs
Any collaborative digital tool should be introduced to address a business need rather than being seduced by the tech itself. What’s the driving force – are you looking to streamline project management, monitor performance, share documents to work on collaboratively, improve communications, boost productivity – or something else? By identifying your strategic needs, you will be able to assess whether you need to introduce new systems – and if so, what platform is fit for purpose and will bring tangible benefits to your business.
Do your research
There’s pros and cons to every collaboration tool, so making sure you thoroughly research any options you are considering is essential. You need to understand the functionality of any system and assess how it addresses your business needs. It’s also crucial to assess how it will integrate with existing working systems.
Consider the hardware required
Selecting the perfect platform is half the story; making sure your team has the appropriate hardware to access any system you introduce is of equal importance. Software solutions may seem perfect – but do they work with your current hardware provision? And if not, what hardware might need procuring; what are the cost implications and can required hardware be sourced and introduced when needed?
Think usability – about your employees’ tech levels
For any digital collaboration tool to be adopted organisation wide, it has to be easy to access. Any platform selected needs to take into account the digital skills of all employees. It needs to be quick and easy to pick up and use; if it’s complicated to use or not intuitive, you may find that your employees will actively avoid using it – especially if it exceeds their technical abilities. As such, you may also need to consider introducing user guides and any additional training required to maximise adoption.
Don’t forget potential costs and disruption
Rollout of any new systems can be both costly and disruptive, so careful planning and implementation needs to be considered. Although obvious costs, such as subscriptions and updating hardware can be easily measured in advance, you should also consider the implications of downtime for employees to undertake necessary training and time taken to familiarise themselves with new working processes. You will also need to assess the cost of tech support and how changes to the size of your team could impact on costs when paying subscriptions based on individual licences.
From project management to file sharing, streamlining communications and sparking creative thinking, there’s an endless range of remote collaboration tools to choose from. Here’s some of our top picks for 2022:
- Slack Slack is an online messaging platform that helps teams stay connected in a way that’s flexible and inclusive. It streamlines communications by making it easy to reach your colleagues and external contacts through its messaging function. Through the creation of Slack channels, teams can work together in dedicated spaces, sharing information and collaborating in a similar way to how they would ordinarily do so in person. Slack is great for teams that work internationally or across different time zones, as it doesn’t just work in real time, but asynchronously too. You can also switch easily between multiple Slack accounts, and customising individual accounts to look differently to help keep track of different projects. For some users, Slack may feel slightly chaotic – and potentially relies on teams having to agree informally on the rules of engagement, something that may not work for all.
- Google Drive Google Drive is a cloud based file sharing and syncing platform It allows employees to store, back up and create files, as well as share content with colleagues and work easily across multiple devices – great for employees working across multiple locations. With online versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, documents created in Google Drive will be familiar to many, making it easy to use. Files also automatically save, making it a practical way to avoid losing content. With 15GB free storage, it’s also potentially a cost effective way of sharing content. However, unlike other collaborative tools, Google Drive is a file based system, meaning that collaboration is based on written content, rather than more interactive ways of working with teammates.
- VISIONxR Future Visual’s VISIONxR platform takes team collaboration to the next level of innovation. This virtual reality (VR) based platform transports teams to a shared virtual space to work and learn together. Content can be customised to the individual needs of each client, recreating work spaces and accurate digital twins of products. This makes it a fantastic tool for R&D teams, as well as creative, design and tech based employees, allowing them to streamline prototyping processes and interrogate existing products to make improvements and problem solve. Although VISIONxR is VR-driven, content can also be accessed on laptops, tablets and mobile devices. For the full immersive experience, employees need access to VR hardware such as a HTC Vive or Oculus Quest. It also requires management buy-in as it requires an upfront financial commitment – however significant cost savings can be made in the long term.
- Zoom Familiar to millions of remote workers during lockdown, Zoom is a leading video conferencing platform that can help remote teams to stay connected and communicate effectively on a daily basis. Meetings can synchronise seamlessly with employees’ and external contacts’ diaries and the chat function enables teams to stay connected informally throughout the day. What’s more, it can be used to host and record events for larger audiences, including the potential to hold breakout rooms for more interactive sessions . Although Zoom is a subscription service, there are free functions that may support micro businesses working on shoestring budgets to keep connected and avoid additional financial commitments. Zoom is also easily accessed and simple to use, however one downside is a lack of user guides and online support.
- Miro Miro is one of the best online platforms for brainstorming and collaborative creative thinking. Miro includes a range of tools and templates – from virtual whiteboards, through to a space to create presentations and diagrams. You can also pull in content from other platforms, including Vimeo videos or Asana cards. It’s simple and intuitive to use, with plenty of online guides to help you to get started and make the most out of the platform. Miro’s strength lies in its ability to truly facilitate collaborative creative working. In addition to being able to edit work simultaneously with colleagues, it has video and audio calling built in, as well as screen sharing to stay connected. This means that you can discuss ideas while you’re working or easily present your creations. Miro runs in a web browser or in the Miro apps – and comes with its own storage, so you’re not using your own cloud storage. Although it has a monthly subscription rate, there are free options for you to try before you commit.
- Trello Trello helps teams to manage projects without strictly being a project management tool. It can help employees to keep projects on track as individual activities can be added as cards onto project boards that are sorted into numerous columns that can be customised. Tasks can be assigned to team members, who can receive alerts via email and where progress can be tracked. Trello is a great way to organise, coordinate, and track work, as well as monitor individual workloads and contributions. It’s also a great way to share activities with external contacts such as consultants. While it’s easy to use and visually appealing, it may not be entirely intuitive for all, and it isn’t a tool that could be utilised for large, complex projects.
Remote working offers employees flexibility, potentially improved work-life balance and an escape from punishing commutes. Moreover, for employers, it opens up new talent pools, helps to retain employees and skills within an organisation and improve productivity.
The potential downside of this is that employees can feel disconnected from colleagues and it has the potential to damage effective team working, and limit the development and sharing of ideas. By introducing the right remote collaboration tools, organisations can ensure that teams are well connected and work together in new and innovative ways.
Want to see how VISIONxR can help your business? Schedule a demo today!