If you were trying to organize a family day out, it would be relatively easy. You would chat to your partner and children about where to go, make the arrangements and you’re off! Some project teams are like that – with everyone working in close proximity. But these days, many project teams don’t work in the same office, and that’s where the communication and collaboration starts to break down.
It doesn’t have to be difficult. Collaboration in virtual teams is something that you can learn to be better at, and help your team with. Here are 3 tips to help your team work better together, even if they don’t work geographically together.
1. Make use of collaboration tools
There’s a stack of project management software available to help project teams collaborate, so you’ll need to find a product that meets your needs. Look out for something that enables everyone to have the same view of the project schedule. This is important as you’ll be updating the schedule a lot and you really only want one view of the truth. If everyone stores a copy of the plan on their local computer there is a huge risk that they will be working from out of date information.
Some collaboration tools allow you to automatically assign work to team members and create personalized To Do lists. Again, if this functionality would be useful to your team make sure that your software can do it. This type of work allocation can save a lot of time (and a lot of back-and-forth email traffic).
2. Host discussions
You can use Skype or other software to host online discussions. They can be real time, using instant chat applications, or on an asynchronous basis. This is where team members join the discussion at a time that suits them, so it isn’t real time and you’ll have to wait for responses, especially if your team is spread out across different time zones.
If you can, add photos to the profiles of your team members. It’s it a lot easier to collaborate if you know what the person at the other end of the broadband connection looks like. In fact, make full use of personal staff profiles, by encouraging each team member to share a couple of pieces of information about themselves, such as their hobbies or favourite food.
3. Share documents online
Sharing documents is as important as making sure that everyone has the same view of the project schedule. Upload important documents such as your Project Charter and meeting minutes to either an online document repository or a shared network drive. This is to prevent people storing large files in their email inbox or having out of date copies on their own computers.
Everyone can easily access the most recent version of the document, so you don’t have to worry about the team spending time working on something that is no longer part of the plan.
Collaboration isn’t rocket science, but it is easier to talk about than to do. Start with these three tips and go from there. What you are really aiming for is a project team that is comfortable about working together and happy to share information. Good luck!