Improving teamwork through visual collaboration tools

11 October 2022 Consultancy.com.au 5 min. read

Despite the rapid evolution of collaboration tools such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, too many organisations remain reliant on email or static documents as their core collaboration channel. Now is the time to adopt new – visually appealing – tools for supporting effective collaboration, writes James Harkin, Senior Director Sales for APAC at Lucid.

With many staff still in hybrid working mode, too many teams rarely venture beyond the written word. To solve this challenge, businesses need to deploy the tools that will most effectively support the next stage of collaboration.

These include: providing the ability to share knowledge and information from technical teams with non-technical workers; enabling workers with different personalities and from different generations to work together effectively; and ensuring that workers who are not in the office are not disadvantaged compared to those who go in more regularly.

James Harkin, Senior Director Sales for Asia Pacific, Lucid

Across all of these ambitions, there is one clear common denominator: visual collaboration.

Communicating between silos

Even within teams, sharing work can be complicated. For example, a typical software engineering process might involve customer-focused teams sharing insight with developers who turn that information into code. Testers then verify the software before passing it to production teams, and finally operations teams implement it.

Ensuring the next person in the chain knows what is happening, what needs to happen, and what priorities they need to work on is crucial if businesses want to avoid delays in projects. On top of this, while the process might be well understood by software developers, people sitting outside the team can struggle to understand where a project is in the development process and what they can do to help and share insight in a way that can be understood by technical workers.

A reaction over the last decade has been to try and break silos down to solve these issues -creating teams with different strengths to deliver projects. However, in a world of hybrid work this can be incredibly hard to manage.

This sounds counterintuitive, but businesses should instead work with silos. Silos can actually help workers become more skilled in their areas by learning from senior managers, and they remain a proven method for developing products quickly.

What needs to happen instead of breaking them down is for managers to focus on how information is then shared between teams and individuals–or across silos–while letting their workers work.

This is where visual collaboration tools can prove invaluable. They allow technical workers to share progress on projects with non-technical workers without the need to use complicated technical language that could be misunderstood. Likewise, by ensuring any status is automatically updated in real time, anyone can see the status of individual projects and what aspects still need to be worked on instead of manually printing out spreadsheets and timelines to share with team members.

Bringing personalities together

Within a workplace, very few people are the same – for example, some may be extroverts who relish being vocal in a meeting, others are introverts who prefer to share thoughts in a more understated way. There are also generational differences. Research from GoToMeeting found that 41% of baby boomers preferred working on their own, compared to 33% of millennials.

Similarly, a study by Creative Strategies found that people over 30 preferred email as their main form of communication, whereas those under 30 preferred Google Docs.

To accommodate these preferences and make the most of their workforce, businesses need to make collaboration a cornerstone of organisational culture and structure. By recognising that every persona and person has a contribution, companies can position themselves to get the best out of all their employees and bring on technology that most effectively enables greater collaboration.

For example, introverts might feel more comfortable working from home and sharing thoughts on a virtual whiteboard during a meeting instead of speaking up in a physical space. Likewise, employees who prefer working solo can still keep teams up to date on project statuses by updating online spreadsheets.

Hybrid or bust

Many businesses around the world are still debating what the future looks like for their offices.

While 57% of employees are in favour of hybrid work, many managers are still unsure if they will be able to remain productive and innovative under this system. This has been made extremely clear in a recent study from AT&T that found 72% of organisations still don’t have a plan for hybrid work, while 77% don’t even have the KPIs to measure its potential success.

Meanwhile, firms that have committed to getting workers back into the office full time are becoming victims of the ‘Great Resignation’ as talented employees either take time out or move to firms that are willing to give them the flexibility they want.

There has already been research that shows visual collaboration tools can help collaboration in digital environments. For example, many employees say that drawing is one of their preferred ways of explaining an idea, and is more often understood by the person they are speaking to.

On top of this, digital whiteboards keep better records than traditional formats, ensuring ideas are not lost. Their value is shown by how 83% of employees stated that an idea they considered great was not carried forward from a meeting

There is clear evidence that organisations need to improve the tools they have in place if they want to remain competitive in the new world of work. While platforms like Teams, Slack and Zoom have helped throughout the pandemic, it is now the time for managers to look for new methods of supporting effective collaboration.

Doing this will ensure that staff are able to effectively work together and share ideas and solutions to challenges. The result will be improved productivity and better outcomes for the business.