Is it difficult to connect with your team? Learn new ways of working that help improve collaboration.
Anyone who has tried to manage a geographically dispersed work team knows how challenging it can be to keep the lines of communication open and efforts well-coordinated. Time-zone differences delay communications, different communication styles cause misunderstandings, and activities are difficult to schedule. To complicate matters, it’s not easy to make sure that everyone has the latest progress updates, project information, and changes to customer requirements.
Too many companies are still relying on phone calls, emails, and expensive on-site meetings to manage their team collaboration and keep projects on schedule. That’s unfortunate when current technology can help build a connected work team and make long-distance collaboration so much simpler.
Here are five tips for using online collaboration tools to build connected work teams:
1. Maintain one version of the truth
Many of the challenges in project management stem from individual team members not having the latest version of documents such as work orders, project status reports, or technical documentation. When team members don’t have the latest information, it’s easy for them to spend time doing project-related activities that are no longer called for or that have already been done.
With tools like Microsoft SharePoint, included in Office 365, you can maintain the latest versions of important project documentation, manage who can make changes to documents, and track those changes. There’s never a question of who has the latest version when SharePoint is used effectively. Having documents stored centrally on SharePoint also helps make documents easily accessible to every member of the team.
2. Schedule effectively
All project management teams need to hold meetings in order to be effective. The larger the team, the more difficult it can be to find a time that works for everyone. Companies using email to manage schedules will often send a round of emails asking everyone to send back the time that works best for them. It’s the meeting manager’s responsibility to sort through these emails and pick a time. This is a highly inefficient process, and by the time everyone has responded to the request, it’s likely that many schedules have changed. The scheduling process begins again, or the meeting proceeds with critical team members absent.
You can avoid the inefficiencies and irritations of scheduling meetings by making sure your team members understand how to share their Outlook Calendar. This will help the meeting manager schedule meetings at a time when those who absolutely must attend are available.
3. Hold effective online meetings
Meetings can be made even more effective by using tools like Microsoft Skype for Business which enables the team to share documents and presentations related to the status of the project. Running presentations online helps engage team members in the discussion and ensures that every team member is focused on the matter at hand and not skipping ahead.
4. Increase accessibility
When a one team member needs to contact another about a project detail, emails or texts are the usual route. But emails and texts can be ignored or overlooked, and a phone call often results in a lengthy game of phone tag.
Skype for Business can help team members contact each other quickly and avoid lengthy emails, phone tag, and untimely interruptions. With Lync Online, you can see which team members are online and available. A simple question such as “Got a minute?” can bring team members together at a moment’s notice and avert work-stopping interruptions.
5. Ensure 360-degree project management
Tools like Microsoft Project can help manage the progress of even the most complex projects. For simpler projects and everyday team work, easy-to-use tools like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online can help make sure everyone has visibility into project status and customer requirements.
Project teams have far more tools available in their toolbox today to build well-connected teams and to help keep projects on schedule.
This article originally appeared on Small Business Connection.