Collaboration has long been a darling of project management and business leaders eager to drive team performance and greater organizational alignment.
And it’s no surprise why.
Research shows that even the mere perception of teamwork can boost motivation and performance among teams. In fact, one study found that companies that promoted collaborative working were 5 times as likely to be high performing.
With growing digitalization and remote and distributed workforces, finding new and effective ways to collaborate is more important than ever before.
Why is collaboration important?
Talent and motivation alone are not enough to boost productivity and alignment. For teams to succeed, stay on track, and deliver value on time and on brand, they need to be communicating and collaborating effectively.
Collaboration helps teams and organizations
- Save time
- Improve project management
- Create alignment
- Boost creativity and innovation
- Strengthen performance
Teamwork vs. collaboration
So what exactly is collaboration? And how is it different from teamwork?
Teamwork involves individual team members working together to complete a project or accomplish a goal. Each employee has their own assigned responsibilities and roles and they rely on a project manager or team lead to resolve any conflicts and keep everyone on track.
Collaboration, on the other hand, requires a deeper level of engagement and team interaction based on shared values. Collaborative teams work through problems together through trusted and transparent communication, relying on the team lead as a guide rather than a controller.
Effective collaboration depends heavily on good communication and building relationships of trust between team members.
Levels of collaboration in an organization
Collaboration isn’t just about two team members booking a conference room and brainstorming a new project feature. Collaboration can and should occur across multiple levels within an organization, including team, cross-functional, and company-wide collaboration. And for best results, businesses need tools that enable collaboration across all levels.
Team collaboration is probably the easiest to picture because it’s the most common form of internal collaboration. Employees on one team work together to communicate and accomplish tasks and meet project goals. The team is primarily recruited and led by team managers who determine what goals the team focuses on and who assign roles and responsibilities among the group.
Cross-functional team collaboration
Cross-functional team collaboration involves an added layer of complexity and coordination as employees with different skills and roles—often from different departments—work together on a project or goal, typically led by a project manager.
Cross-functional teams are especially common in disciplines like software development that depend on the input of multiple stakeholders to move a project forward.
Company-wide collaboration involves coordination and collaboration across an entire organization. This kind of collaboration typically occurs on higher-level business goals as teams and departments break down silos and work together to meet shared objectives.
5 reasons why teams need collaboration software
Over the past few years, most companies have turned to digital collaboration tools to help spur productive communication and performance.
A 2016 McKinsey Global Survey on social tools found that software that enabled collaboration was often the most valued among organizations.
Collaboration software empowers employees to discuss, brainstorm, and plan projects with each other regardless of their location. Not only does it provide an opportunity for teams to work together but it enables better documentation and helps teams solve problems quicker.
Here are five benefits of collaboration software.
1. Unites employees
At a time when more employees work from home than ever before, businesses need tools that help their teams stay connected to the organization and to each other.
Robust collaboration software can bridge that remote gap and help unite employees digitally in real time—no matter where they’re located. Features like messaging, goal tracking, document sharing, and even digital whiteboards for brainstorming ensure teams can communicate clearly and creatively to move towards common goals.
2. Drives efficiency
According to a report published by McKinsey, improving internal collaboration through social tools can help raise productivity by as much as 20 to 25 percent.
Team collaboration software helps minimize time spent on back-and-forth emails and searching for disconnected documentation. Collaboration software makes it easy for employees to track project details, share documents and notes, and communicate all in one platform—saving time, money, and frustration.
3. Provides a high-level view of progress to keep teams on track
People collaborate best when everyone is on the same page. This requires access to clear instructions and information, clarity on individual and team responsibilities, and ongoing awareness of team progress. In other words, if the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing, projects can get messy quickly.
Collaboration software solves this problem by not only keeping relevant information and assignments in one place, but by presenting that information in at-a-glance visuals so employees and project managers can quickly see how they are progressing.
Bonus points if your collaboration software offers powerful integrations your team can use to create and maintain documentation in an efficient way. For example, you can integrate Lucidchart and Lucidspark with Microsoft SharePoint and Confluence to keep team wikis up to date with visual context.
4. Strengthens company culture and employee relationships
Effective collaboration leads to stronger employee relationships and more engaged teams. As people work together closely toward a common goal, they develop greater trust and strengthen the shared values between them.
The right software helps organizations create this collaborative culture by facilitating clear communication and opportunities to coordinate plans and problem solve together.
5. Improves focus and structure
Organization is the foundation of efficiency and a strong collaborative culture. This is particularly important for remote teams that can’t coordinate in person. Collaboration software provides needed structure around project plans and communication channels so teams can focus on the work that matters most.
In summary, collaboration software enables teams to:
- Optimize their workflows.
- Break down silos between teams and departments.
- Visualize project plans and map stakeholder accountabilities.
- Make sure every voice is heard through real-time messaging and feedback capabilities.
Depending on your team and organizational needs, collaboration software can provide communication tools, task management tools, documentation and content management capabilities, and additional collaboration support through features like virtual whiteboards, brainstorming tools, and customizable templates.
3 keys to the success of your online collaboration software
Team collaboration software can’t magically transform your organization overnight. There are 3 main factors that impact the effectiveness of your software: people, process, and product.
A tool is only as good as the person using it. Team members need to be on board with adopting new collaboration software, know how to use it, and understand the shared goal or purpose behind the initiative.
Without broad buy-in from your employees, your software will be left under-utilized, making minimal impact on collaboration and performance.
It takes time to learn a new software and adapt to a new process. Help your team make a successful transition by establishing a clear strategy and communicating the key purpose and priorities for using the software.
When teams know how and why the collaboration software can benefit their work and contribute to the organization’s goals, they will be more likely to buy-in and adapt to the new system smoothly.
The kind of collaboration software your team needs comes down to what they will be using it for. Introducing a new tool just for the sake of it is a surefire way to waste time and money. Look for collaboration software that solves your specific problems and has the features and capabilities you need to accomplish your goals.
- What pain points are slowing your team down or creating friction between employees?
- What tools or support have your employees asked for or recommended?
- What capabilities are essential and what features are just nice to have?
And then research your options and pick the best collaboration software for your team.
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