Modern organizations often work across wide spaces, with offices in several cities or even countries. Even relatively small tech companies often have offices in several countries, largely relating to the lowered cost of outsourcing to other areas.
However, multi-office operations create complexities in communication and collaboration.
Digital or online collaboration tools help to bridge these gaps by creating easy communication tools, standardized work methods, and easier ways to share work across offices.
This is especially relevant when different office members may have their own culture, work hours, and even language, meaning that good communication and collaboration tools become that much more important.
These online collaboration tools for multi-office operations will help you to boost productivity and efficiency.
While face-to-face communication is often where the magic happens in terms of collaboration and creativity, it’s difficult to set up between offices. Video conferencing is an easy compromise, where individuals can see and hear each other, conduct meetings together, and even brainstorm together.
Here, your biggest concern should be ensuring you have quality technology in place to prevent frustrations with sound quality and headsets. You also want to ensure you have policy in place so that everyone is prepared for the call when it actually starts and everyone gets enough screen time to share their ideas and input.
Creating efficient video conferencing also means scheduling regular calls, where teams are able to interact as a whole and where individuals can simply call each other at scheduled times.
For example, if two developers are working on a project together, they should be having conversations on a semi-regular basis, and scheduling those into the work process will ensure they happen.
While talking face-to-face is important, simply being able to share screens and tasks across offices is hugely important, especially in the development world.
Screen sharing and broadcasting can allow you to give multi-office presentations and updates with minimal investment and setup, so everyone stays up to speed.
At the same time, screen sharing allows teams to collaborate across design and code tasks, where seeing code or a visual design is crucial to having input.
Here, you may want to use dedicated tools set up for the purpose, or multi-purpose video-calling and conferencing solutions, which are either developed for your network or a tool like Hangouts.
Everyone should work using the same processes and procedures, and a single, office-wide project management tool.
Here, options like Basecamp, Asana, Trello, and other PM tools can use Kanban boards, scheduling, task assignment, to-do lists, and Gantt charts so that everyone gets a clear picture of work. You should be able to share the steps in a process, who is responsible, when it is due, and how far along it is.
Most PM tools also support check-ins and updates, so that every member involved with a project can remain accountable, reduce dependencies and wait times, and move projects to the next stage as quickly as possible.
Here, it’s crucial that everyone have access to the same platform, the same tooling, and the same work methods, so that everyone stays on the same page.
Whether you use a chat and communication tool like Slack or your own secure intranet, online communication tools are a valuable way to create a quick and easy communication option.
With chat options, individuals can quickly send a message, ask a question, share information, or otherwise talk to each other with very little effort and almost no disruption. The only caveat is that chat tools can make communication too easy, which can result in distractions and disruption, or difficulty finding the right messaging.
Tools like Slack work to overcome this by creating channels for specific teams and conversations. Most intranet will allow similar filtering through hashtags and rooms or groups, which will be important to ensure that messaging stays on track.
While it’s not always necessary, file sharing tools are often crucial for inter-office collaboration. This becomes even more crucial when working with sensitive material and documents, such as when sharing client files, when creating confidential documents, and when transferring brand or company materials back and forth.
File sharing may be built into your project management tool, but no matter how you implement it, it should be available.
Here, an internal network where all files and important documents remain on the same server is the easiest and most secure way to go. This is also helpful when changing team members and when scaling up, because everything is always in the same place, even when individuals move to a different office.
Even integrating tools like DropBox and Google Drive can be helpful, if you use security protocols and access management for confidential documents.
Why is file sharing necessary? Most organizations use files for design, development, marketing, and even copy and you will need access to them. Creating efficient ways to securely share files will speed up collaboration.
A knowledge base, established through either a central network or a tool like a Wiki, is an important addition to any multi-office operation. Knowledge bases give you a central repository for information, ranging from business processes and tooling to change logs and work completed.
Most importantly, having a central knowledge base will allow any member to step into a project because they can easily see change and progress logs, easily pick up processes where they were left off, and quickly see what has to be done and why.
While this does require creating processes to ensure knowledge bases are updated as part of work, it will greatly boost the efficiency and efficacy of communication between offices.
Whether your offices are across the state, in multiple countries, or spread across the globe, digital tools will greatly boost efficiency in collaboration and communication. McKinsey shows that fostering online collaboration between offices can boost productivity anywhere from 20-30%.
Collaboration tools work to ensure that individuals can cleanly communicate across distances, that strong communication protocols are in place, and that individuals can quickly and easily access files and information as needed. However, improving collaboration with tooling means integrating strong tooling, ensuring individuals know how to use it, and ensuring adoption across every team involved.
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