When it comes to solo projects, the benefits of working remotely or out of your home office are well documented. In many cases, productivity goes up as office distractions go down. Group and team projects, however, are a different beast altogether. Remote collaboration brings with it unique challenges, along with some unique technology solutions. If you or your business are embracing the principles of enterprise mobility, here are the three essential elements you’ll need to account for in order to collaborate effectively.
1. Document creation, access and management
Project files need to be accessible to all collaborators. Files should also be compatible across the various devices collaborators will be using access them on. There are any number of platforms that allow for online document sharing. Google Docs and Dropbox are two that come to mind immediately.
If your team has remote access to your company’s network server and drive, you may not need to set up any form of online file sharing system; just remember: Remote employees are usually mobile employees. They may need to access documents on their personal tablets or smart phones-- devices that are usually not set up with network access. As time goes on, remote collaboration will likely move to the web.
2. Team communication
Communication is essential -- it’s almost always one of the C’s of any business concept -- and it is even more critical the farther away your team members are from each other. Email, messaging, video and voice are all critical components of a comprehensive communication system, and they all have their place. As with most communication technologies, there are free apps/programs that will work on a surface level, and more functional programs that integrate better with your company’s office network (unified communications, for example).
What’s best for your team depends on several factors. Larger teams working cross-functionally will need a more robust system. Smaller groups may be able to get away with simple applications.
3. Process coordination/Project management
All projects are subject to a process. Generally speaking, it goes something like this: plan, create, review, revise, implement. Of course, no process is this simple, and projects rarely pass through the process perfectly the first time around. The process can include any number of people and any number of files and they all have to be working in sync with each other. Workflow management and creative project management systems have finally matured to the point where they actually help businesses overcome these challenges as opposed to adding to the headache, but they can also be pricey. The size of your team and the functionality of your communication system are key factors in assessing whether or not an automated system needs to be put in place.
As the workforce becomes more mobile, remote collaboration will become more prevalent, and businesses will have to address the needs it will generate. Technology has a lot to offer in overcoming these challenges, but make sure you weigh your needs with the functionality of the solutions you’re vetting.