Improve your business collaboration over email, IM, phone or video

Your company may already be using technology for business collaboration, but how can you do so more effectively?

Smart Business spoke with Stephan J. Cico, managing director at All Covered Pittsburgh, IT services from Konica Minolta, about ideas for enhancing the way your company collaborates.

What do you recommend to foster better collaboration over email?

The secret to improving collaboration through email is simple — reduce, reduce and reduce. Use email as it was intended: primarily as a one-to-one tool for fast and simple communication, especially with customers and others outside your organization. To put email to work in its rightful place among collaborative tools:

  • Stop using emails to arrange meetings; utilize shared calendars instead.
  • Ease server load by using a cloud-hosted email archiving service.
  • Get email attachments transferred into a document management application and then delete the emails.
  • Stop using email for task assignment and status updates; utilize project management software instead.
  • Shift complex, multi-participant conversations to discussion forums. Use email only for notifying participants when the conversation is updated.
  • Stop using email for one-to-one conversations and switch to chat or instant messaging (IM).

While it might seem counterintuitive, IM is less intrusive than email. Employees don’t need to constantly check their inboxes, which often leads to distractions and workflow interruptions. Chat also removes the ‘impatience effect’ — when participants await responses to email messages. Arriving at conclusions tends to be quicker with IM.

The takeaway, then, is this: To improve collaboration with chat and IM, simply use it more. It might be better, however, to replace the ‘social’ chat applications with specialized team or project-oriented chat tools, which are inexpensive and offer a wider range of features that contribute to team productivity.

How can telephony aid collaboration?

If your organization still uses telephone conferencing services, you may be frustrated by poor phone signals, conference participants dropping out and missed information as participants talk over one another. The lack of visual contact can be a drawback, too, as employees may need face-to-face communication to be fully engaged.

Your collaboration can be improved with internet protocol (IP) telephony, which more easily manages and controls conferences where participants use a combination of mobile and landlines to dial into meetings. IP telephony is also inexpensive, helping your company save, especially for international collaboration.

What’s important to know about video and how meeting content is shared?

Accessible tools can bring telephony and video together. These tools are becoming increasingly sophisticated and offer higher quality communication for professional collaboration.

Enterprise video, as this technology is often called, can help you transition from a partial solution, where teams gather in conference rooms to view and speak with remote teams on large screens and speaker phones, to fully unified communications, where individuals meet virtually from their workstations with sound and video integrated on desktop or mobile devices.

Whether you use voice communication or integrate voice and video, you can improve the way meeting content is recalled and shared by utilizing technology to record conversations and take notes.

With note-taking software, the note taker no longer has to type up handwritten notes after meetings. It also helps to reduce email traffic. Further, unified communications solutions allow notes to be displayed on users’ screens. This gives participants an opportunity to correct the note-taker or request extra information be added, which results in a more accurate record.

Another application that captures meeting information is software that records conference calls. With this, you don’t even need a notetaker, meaning that all attendees can fully participate. Users can review the recorded conferences at any time and, if you still want written notes, they can be compiled from the recordings.

Insights Technology is brought to you by All Covered Pittsburgh