Making online collaboration work is critical to many of today’s small businesses, because outsourcing, partnering and remote working are becoming more and more commonplace. For many businesses, the organizational structure of getting work done involves a sole consultant or entrepreneur working with a wide variety of vendors online, with little to no in-person interaction.
But why is it so difficult to make online collaboration work smoothly and successfully on a consistent basis? Well, the key word in the phrase “online collaboration” is collaboration, with all its complicated structure in the face of different personality types, different challenges and different deadlines. (“Online” implies only that all these efforts take place on the Web.) Collaboration can take many forms, in many types of projects, with many types of deliverables.
For anyone required to collaborate online with remote teammates, partners, vendors or clients, though, you need a reliable system to ensure your online collaboration will bear fruit to support your business regardless of the complications. To that end, it would behoove you to consider these seven secrets to effective online collaboration:
Some people might argue with this point, but it is my opinion that to create and support effective collaboration – either offline or online – one needs a strong and charismatic leader. Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Marissa Mayer, and others. Talented managers are the ones who know whom they can rely on to get things done and to make things happen. Experienced team leaders know how important it is to build relationships with employees and partners, especially when they are miles away.
A good team is a collection of teammates, in the real meaning of the word. You have to be devoted to the idea, product or project, and committed to one another’s success. When assembling your team, be sure to select individuals with the right attitude, the right skills and the right commitment level.
Reliable Internet Connection
No Internet, no party, and no work nor collaboration. The use of web-based applications, project management platforms, email, instant messaging, online document editing and blogging are impossible if your Internet connection keeps going down. So be sure to find a reliable Internet provider.
You can exchange thousands of emails negotiating terms and conditions, and you can make dozens of angry calls screaming about expired deadlines. Or you can simply register an account and coordinate work online using project management software, aka groupware or collaboration software. There are many available applications, such as Basecamp, Zoho, ActiveCollab, CentralDesktop, TeamLab, DeskAway. Test them out and select one that fits your style. If you historically have relied on just email, put your seat belt on and get ready to turbo-charge your projects!
No team will be able to execute effective collaboration if the servers are dead. Be careful when choosing a hosting provider, as you should take into account security levels, downtime statistics, scalability, etc.
Ideally, your team has proprietary know-how which can be leveraged in your projects. And this brings us back to online collaboration software. Most of such solutions offer a Wiki, bookmarking, document management, internal blogging, etc. The software provides an environment in which to document, locate, share and collaborate on ideas and topics, and this environment simply cannot be replicated through email or phone.
When collaborating online, look to build diversity in your teams. Teammates from various parts of the world, even from various corners of the same office, can generate plenty of ideas even when just chatting over instant messenger. So be sure to build a team of individuals who each bring something special to the group.