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6 things to consider before you start online collaboration

10.22.2013
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Online work collaboration has a lot in common with what we have already got used to when collaborating online for personal purposes: comments like on Facebook, file sharing like with DropBox or Google Docs. Yet it doesn’t matter if collaboration is online or offline, the key difference of work collaboration is that it should be aimed at delivering results. That’s what gives birth to online collaboration efficiency and productivity techniques.

Online collaboration skills and the ability to work in a team are great advantages. Basically, if you don’t have the first one, it’ll be hard for you to apply the second one as the use of collaborative work management software is quickly growing ground.


It’s not that hard to develop this skill. From one hand, we all regularly collaborate online by different means like social networks, sharing centers, file servers and personal pages. The same features are available in collaborative work management software with the difference being that they are all kept in a single place, on a corporate server or in the Cloud and you don’t need to transfer data form one system to another: you already have a working environment where you can collaborate on all levels: discussions, sharing work data, decision taking, monitoring, goal-setting, forecasting.


Here are 6 things that are similar with our personal online experience and what we can do with them in order to make our online work collaboration more efficient.


1. Make your Work Item Description sharp and clear


When you create a new online work item, you always have an option to give a description, a sort of explanation. This is similar to starting a topic on a social network or boards. The difference is that you don’t want a chat, you want to get your work done. Don’t take it as an option: if you want to collaborate online efficiently, this is a must. Here is where you place the first building block in the foundation of your future work context about tasks that will be generated around this work item. Articulate what needs to be done, what result this work item is aimed at. Express yourself. At the same time keep to the point so that others who will collaborate on this item don’t have to read “Peace and War” each time before they start work.


2. Thread tab: make your discussion focused and quickv


Social networks and boards sometimes have long conversation threads that are sometimes interesting to read. At work, you don’t have time for long reading. Work conversations have an aim to bring a solution, take a decision, and gather the information you need. When you have a lot to discuss, better make an appointment for a brief meeting. Add a comment as we’ve decided at the meeting… and briefly describe the decision taken.


3. Notifications: thou shalt not spam


Remember, when you take any action in your online work collaboration system, others on your team are notified that the work item status has been changed, or a comment has been added. The same applies to social networks. So be like a wise chess player: think first, then touch the chess figure – or hit save/post if we’re still speaking of work management software. When ignoring this simple rule, along with poor followers management, you may end up using an online collaboration system for the evil which should be avoided.


4. Manage followers


Each collaborative work item may have followers chosen automatically or assigned manually. In personal communication it’s similar to following topics and people on Linkedin or Twitter. In work correspondence this is a good alternative to putting relevant co-workers in CC (which used to create work chaos rather than collaboration). Before you save a newly-created work item, check that all those who should be notified will get email alerts about it, and exclude everybody else from the list.


5. File sharing and versioning


It often happens that when we need to share work files, we simply email them back and forth as attachments. The question is who has the latest version of the file? Or – Where is that email with that file? The answer to those questions takes time, time which won’t bring value to your activity at all. Collaborative work management systems keep files along with their versions attached to the work item along with all the other working context. Stored in the Cloud or on the corporate server, they are always available, even if someone on your team is away on vacation or business trip.


6. Outlook sync


Here I would add a couple of words about Comindware Tracker and Outlook. Apart from the fact that Comindware Tracker has the 5 collaborative features described above, it also synchronizes your tasks with your Outlook, automatically, with all the files and descriptions. This means, that after you collaborate efficiently and need to focus on what needs to be done, you already have the data from the collaborative system in your Outlook task list. You can prioritize it as simple tasks and start finishing them one by one using different productivity techniques such as GTD and others. This way, a team work – personal effort balance can be achieved. Your free Comindware Tracker 30-days trial is waiting for you – try it here!

Published at DZone with permission of its author, Comindware Inc..

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