third floor sign
Choosing the right tool for the job is half the battle: putting it to proper use is where you create real value PHOTO: Nicolas Vigier

Collaborative work tools come in many shapes and sizes, each equipped to assist users in accomplishing different sets of projects.

While collaborative systems are no stranger to the professional world, 2017 has been a great year in terms of completion rates. In fact, a recent study conducted by PMI (pdf) found nearly 70 percent of projects met original goals and business intent.

As great as this sounds, collaboration is merely a tool, not an end result. No software will guarantee success, only provide the means to succeed. The rest depends on your organization. 

Even though each tool brings its own qualities to the table, a number of universally-accepted strategies help define success throughout various team efforts. Let’s discuss three that will help you use your chosen tool for the best results.

Strategize Like There's No Tomorrow

Effective collaboration is built around open communication and transparency. In order to ensure goals are met, everyone needs to be on the same page. Prior to the beginning of a campaign or project, make it a point to get the entire crew to sit down and talk strategy.

Additionally, be sure everyone on the team has taken the time to familiarize themselves with the software and where exactly their responsibilities factor into the execution. You must clearly lay out expectations, as well as potential risks throughout the entirety of the project.

During these planning meetings is when each member needs to be upfront about any challenges they have found in the current process or questions they have.

Once you’ve gathered all this information, you can begin formulating your timelines and dependencies for different tasks. Collaboration tools can be of tremendous help here, keeping track of important deadlines and ensuring nothing slips through the cracks. Remember, success starts at the drawing board.

Build Your A-Team — and Keep Them Together

Dating back to ancient times, one of the common patterns during warfare is even though soldiers are dedicated to the mission, at the end of the day, they are fighting for the people next to them.

This concept applies well beyond the military. Essentially, for a team to function as an effective unit, they should possess the “all-for-one and one-for-all” mindset.

Your employees are your most valuable asset. No one likes feeling like an outsider at work. While traditional team building activities might seem silly, there are plenty of ways to bring your workers together and create a welcoming atmosphere for everyone.

At least once or twice a month, make it a point to set aside time outside of the professional mindset and gather people to get to know each other on a personal level. This can be as simple as a Friday evening happy hour or an afternoon activity away from the office.

If you want to get a little more specific, try surveying your employees to see what they want to do for a bonding activity. Using a survey tools, you can easily create polls and gauge preferences.

Regardless of the collaboration tool you use, your team needs to be fully committed to not just the projects at hand, but to not letting each other down. This is why the importance of team building cannot be stressed enough.

Scale Back Micromanagement

While there is a time and place for micromanagement, going too far can hinder your team and be a huge roadblock for productivity. Eventually, these problems will spill outwards and vital components like sales and marketing will suffer.

The beauty of collaboration tools is you still get full visibility on task completion and can monitor progress. However, if you are constantly watching over employees and being critical of their every move, what’s the point?

When you micromanage, you are essentially submitting to the idea that there is only ONE way to perform tasks and your subordinates are not trusted to take matters into their own hands. Doing this stifles learning and development. Even more, it can lead to a number of devastating effects down the road for both parties.

The very essence of collaboration is being open to the ideas and methods of others. If you want your chosen method of collaboration to function as an entity that fosters the growth of your team, it’s best to ditch micromanagement. Subordinates might even have a better way to execute tasks than you do.

Choose (and Use) Wisely 

Choosing the right collaborative work tool will be one of the most important business investments you will make. 

Even more, learning how to use it effectively will shape how your company functions in the long run. Take your time with this. Be extremely thorough in how you evaluate your team and the overarching needs of your operations. Once you get into a good rhythm, the results will be apparent both internally and externally.