Email and a shared calendar worked smoothly while you were a small team. Wherever anyone was — whether at the office or at home — your team stayed in touch, up-to-date, and productive.
But as you and your team have grown, finding ways to manage a remote or hybrid workforce has become more complex — especially so when handling important projects with multiple stakeholders. Emails get buried, and calendar slots are sometimes overbooked using different systems. Constantly playing catch-up can result in costly errors or delays.
Collaboration technologies have come a long way since the email inbox. From video conferencing to project management software, collaboration tools have evolved to simulate traditional office interactions for teams of hybrid or remote employees.
This article covers what collaborative technologies are and what they do, and it also forecasts trends you can expect to see going forward.
Collaborative technologies include apps or software that streamline and facilitate the collaborative process within virtual teams. Common examples of tools that support collaboration include:
Although employees who work at the same physical location stand to benefit from collaborative technologies, collaborative software is particularly crucial for hybrid and remote teams to function optimally.
The hybrid work model is here to stay in the post-pandemic world, with 68% of high-growth companies having adopted a hybrid workforce structure.
Collaborative technologies fall into three broad categories:
Communication platforms save on commute time by allowing employees to join meetings from anywhere, whereas task managers and project management suites streamline workflows to keep teams on track.
Collaborative tools aren’t meant to replace people, nor are they intended to micromanage or control how teams work together. Instead, automation is intended to reduce the time employees spend on repetitive, low-value tasks — leaving more time and energy to spend on more meaningful work.
In addition to helping hybrid teams collaborate more effectively, collaboration technologies also help employees realize the many perks and benefits of a hybrid work schedule, including:
Any team that uses the internet for work and collaborates as part of their success strategy can benefit from using collaborative software. It also plays a vital role in any digital transformation strategy.
Shared calendars, task managers, and project management software offer teams a centralized platform on which to sync workflows. Project managers can use collaboration technologies to monitor productivity and identify gaps that need to be filled.
The percentage of companies that use digital collaboration technology for productivity rose from 55% in 2019 to 79% in 2021. It’s easy to see why — collaborative tools have endless potential for hybrid organizations.
HR teams can use them to interview candidates and extend offers remotely, cutting costs while reaching a wider range of potential candidates. Learning management systems (LMSs) are accessible from anywhere at any time, enabling employees to learn new skills and stay up to date on the latest industry trends.
Collaboration is essential in the workplace — especially for hybrid teams.
Collaboration software provides more time for meaningful collaboration while cutting down on dead time, such as commuting to the office, digging for email attachments, or looking through multiple employee calendars to find a time for a team briefing that works for everyone. Companies can expect better employee retention when their employees are fully engaged on a daily basis.
Project management is crucial for any successful business, yet nearly 50% of project managers spend 24 hours annually entering data manually, and 47% of organizations don’t have access to key performance indicators (KPIs) as part of their digital collaboration cycle.
Collaboration tools not only help employees work together from a single point of reference but also allow project managers to analyze progress with more data than ever before.
Collaborative scheduling software lets teams allocate their time more effectively, and project management apps help avoid due to scope creep and missed deadlines.
Collaboration technology falls into two broad categories, depending on the type of communication they support: synchronous or asynchronous.
Synchronous communication occurs between participants at the same time, while asynchronous communication can happen at any time that’s convenient.
Synchronous team collaboration refers to two or more people collaborating with each other at the same time.
Examples of synchronous communication include:
Advantages: Synchronous collaboration uses real-time communication and face-to-face interaction (think video conferencing). This type of collaboration is necessary when instant feedback is required, either for input on a collaborative task or to ensure agreement or comprehension.
Disadvantages: Same-time communication requires scheduling and can be inconvenient for employees, depending on how they prefer to work.
Asynchronous technologies don’t require members to be present at the same time. And mastering them requires a different set of collaborative skills.
Email is the classic asynchronous example, though message boards and shared calendars also fall within this category.
Examples of asynchronous communication include:
Advantages: Asynchronous technology allows work to happen at any time while serving as a resource for tracking and guidance.
Disadvantages: This type of collaboration can feel impersonal or removed for some employees, as it doesn’t require immediate input or validation.
Collaboration technology comes in several forms. Some are tailored to a specific divisional or departmental function, while others can be adapted to a wide range of users. The following broad collaborative technology functions are useful for mid-level managers, facility managers, HR professionals, and team leads.
The fully remote workplace is expected to be replaced by hybrid models going forward, with the number of hybrid businesses projected to grow to 81% in 2024 from 42% in 2021. With remote work receding and hybrid on the rise, common pain points will include:
Collaborative software provides hybrid teams with a single platform to address these pain points by synching calendars, identifying which day(s) employees will be in the office, and managing office conference rooms or tables.
For example, OfficeRnD Hybrid’s collaborative scheduling feature uses asynchronous communication to manage synchronous meetings between team members. The platform allows hybrid teams to:
Learn more about how OfficeRnD Hybrid helps hybrid teams function at their best.
Giving your workforce access to a learning management system (LMS) not only reduces employee turnover but also fosters a more adaptive, effective employee base.
Unlike traditional, in-person training, LMSs allow employees to enroll in a course or training module and complete it on their own time, from wherever they’re comfortable (asynchronously).
Online learning allows learners to pause or rewind content as needed, and revisit a previous lesson without disrupting their teammates’ progress.
In addition to being more flexible and convenient for employees, an LMS saves time and space in the office. Plus, LMSs can automatically grade tests and track time.
Examples of LMS apps include the following:
While collaboration for collaboration’s sake isn’t always bad (insofar as engaged employees tend to be more productive and happy), it is most useful when each collaborative instance can be systematically tracked, measured, and aligned with the overall project or enterprise goals.
With shared schedules, documents, notes, and checklists, project managers can use collaborative technology to ensure project deadlines are met and remain within budget.
Task trackers and project management systems have a similar function but differ in their depth of features.
Task trackers are similar to online to-do lists, where team members can assign and rank tasks based on their importance and other dependencies.
Project management software is more in-depth, offering a more robust array of tools and features to help teams approach collaborative tasks and improve enterprise-level KPIs.
As you might expect, the latter has a steeper learning curve and thus requires more time and training.
Both task trackers and project management systems improve collaboration by allowing team members to assign roles, visualize dependencies (which tasks need to be completed before others can start), send messages to each other, and upload documents or other materials.
Examples of task trackers include the following:
The technology we use to work together has come a long way in the last few years, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s always a steep learning curve involved.
Cloud-computing, AI, and augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) tools are intuitive, efficient, and have a wide range of potential applications, giving them enormous potential for hybrid teams.
If you have a Gmail account, you’re already using the cloud. Unless you’re a software engineer or cloud architect, understanding the cloud and its benefits need not be complicated — think of it as low-cost, secure data hosting that you can access from any device, anywhere.
According to a Gartner report, global spending on end-user cloud applications in 2023 is expected to reach $600 billion.
AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform are the three largest cloud-based service providers, each with countless applications.
When choosing a collaborative technology for you or your team, a cloud-based solution stands to be more cost-effective, accessible, and secure than on-premises hosting.
A massive buzzword even before the debut of ChatGPT, AI for business will likely grow exponentially in the coming years.
Thirty-five percent of businesses integrated AI into their core business in 2022, with roughly half seeing a boost in IT automation, business, or workflow processes and greater efficiency with concurrent cost-savings.
AI can improve collaboration by automatically taking notes during meetings, automating routine or repetitive tasks, and distributing workloads evenly between team members based on their availability and individual output.
AI is also incredibly useful when scanning for errors or inaccuracies (in schedules, timelines, or reports).
Many collaborative technology platforms allow integrations with third-party applications for greater functionality and utility. Integrating with AI should enhance — not replace — your employees’ abilities.
AR and VR have been at the forefront of tech innovation for years but have yet to become mainstream in business as AI has. That said, it’s not hard to imagine a VR meeting between architects, designers, or city planners in the near future, with each member dialing in remotely via a VR headset.
Being able to collaborate by viewing and manipulating a 3D image offers powerful functionality relative to conventional screen sharing. While it is technically possible to host an entirely VR roundtable meeting to simulate face-to-face interaction in a digitally rendered office space, it seems less likely that the benefits in this scenario will justify the expense.
Read more about some current and upcoming trends in the digital transformation era.
Whether you’re a startup considering a hybrid structure or an established enterprise looking to integrate technology to support a remote or hybrid workforce, collaboration technology offers an opportunity for growth.
New collaborative technology goes beyond simple messages and announcement boards to allow hybrid teams to communicate policies, share collaborative schedules, plan meeting times and locations, and coordinate with colleagues on upcoming projects.
AI integrations and cloud-based hosting go a step further, promoting accuracy and time-savings while remaining accessible and cost-effective.
Book a live demo with OfficeRnD Hybrid and let our workplace experts show you how it can greatly benefit your workplace.
Major examples include video conferencing software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, collaborative document editors such as Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365, and project management tools like Trello and Slack. Want more? Check out some great digital transformation examples.
Collaborative technologies can be classified into three main types: asynchronous, synchronous, and collocated. Asynchronous technologies, like email and shared document platforms, allow users to collaborate without being online at the same time. Synchronous technologies, such as video conferencing tools and instant messaging, enable real-time communication and collaboration. Collocated technologies are designed for teams working in the same physical location, using tools like interactive whiteboards and local network collaboration software.
An example of collaborative technology is Google Docs, a cloud-based document editor that allows multiple users to edit and comment on a document simultaneously in real-time. This enables teams to work together seamlessly, regardless of their physical location, enhancing productivity and fostering collaboration.
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