The ability to collaborate with others may be one of the most important assets in any business. While evidence is clear that remote workers are by far more productive than their office-bound counterparts, some businesses seem to feel that workers who physically inhabit the same space create a synchronicity of sorts from which great ideas are born.
In 2017, IBM – a pioneer in the world of remote work – shocked the world by recalling thousands of employees back to centralized offices. This was a surprising move, especially with a growing global economy where remote work is not a future trend, but a present one. New technologies are emerging which are helping to bridge the gap between remote and office work, enabling the workforce to basically be in office when they are at home. Here are 5 collaboration trends that are changing the way we do business.
1. VR and AR meeting rooms
VR – or virtual reality – transports a user into an entirely digital world, generally using some type of goggles. Imagine 12 people all sitting in a conference room, able to look at each other and talk to each other, but being physically located in 12 different points around the globe. There are already early attempts to use VR not only for games or cool space videos but also in business. AR – or augmented reality – overlays digital imagery on real-world video. Imagine an avatar pointing out progress or even issues or challenges on a live feed of a construction site.
2. Cloud Computing
Not only is information stored on the cloud far more easily accessible, but modern cloud storage offers better security at a much lower cost than physical servers. There is more to the cloud than storage – modern cloud computing capabilities profoundly changed the way business is conducted, thanks to smart solutions and the influx of data that wasn’t accessible earlier.
In addition to easier access to efficient tools, the cloud data portals are being constantly tested for vulnerabilities, often making them more secure than traditional in-house data centers. Cloud storage services have round-the-clock personnel assigned to upgrade security patches the minute they are issued.
3. Visual Tools
Whiteboards have become as basic a staple in meeting rooms as staplers have been to desks. This is because our brains are far more image processors than they are anything else. We prefer to see things laid out in front of us because we process them much better this way.
Virtual whiteboards make it possible to collaborate from anywhere, without the need to be in the same meeting room. Kanban style task management platforms and other virtual visual tools are helping get an enhanced visual overview of all operations and each role within it in, and they fulfill this visual element need that makes collaboration more efficient.
4. Communication tools
While visuals play an important part in team collaboration, communication is just as important. While e-mail was a giant leap forward in instant communication, being able to have a good overview of all email conversations was complicated and unwieldy, especially for group communications.
Now, tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams are helping businesses create virtual teams that communicate as efficiently (if not more efficiently) as office teams. Creating separate channels for different topics also helps keep certain people in the loop while eliminating clutter that doesn’t pertain others. They also create a permanent digital record that can help newcomers get quickly up to speed on what’s already been discussed, and the search options make it easy to find relevant information quickly.
5. Big Data and AI
Gathering mass amounts of data has never been an issue. Analyzing that data to recognize helpful or useful patterns has been. Today, a computer algorithm can help you target your advertising by telling you which consumers are most likely to buy your product based on their visiting history. Computers will also be able to create high functioning teams based on personality types and personal habits and preferences.
Historically, collaboration has often been limited to a single department within a company. Today, collaboration tools and emerging methods make it possible to declutter email inboxes, connect all departments, create remote and virtual teams, connect companies and suppliers. Thanks to collaboration tools and solutions, you can have all relevant information in the same place, have great overview of all the data, customer journey, employee performance, satisfaction, even the whole value chain. This profoundly changes the way business is conducted.
Eric Gordon is an independent business development and marketing specialist for SMEs. He loves sharing his insights and experience to assist business owners in growing their revenues. You can find Eric on Twitter: @ericdavidgordon