Michael Foucher

Director of Product - 14 Dec, 2017

The Best Tips and Tools for Team Collaboration

Keeping your team synergized, day after day and week after week, has its challenges.

It’s one thing to motivate team members, but it’s a whole other thing to get them to perform.

That’s why collaboration is so important to the fabric of teams.

Collaboration is one of those things that separate productive teams from not-so-productive ones. This is mainly because there are countless ways of going about it and, as a result, countless possible outcomes.

What is consistent, though, is that nearly every team experiences the pain points that accompany the journey to great collaboration.

Based on our experiences speaking with our Shift for Teams partners and even managing our own internal team here at Shift, I’ve identified 5 of the most common pain areas to be:  

  •        Communication, and transparency
  •        Coordinating feedback and follow-up to meet everyone’s needs
  •        Finding common ground when it comes to workflow
  •        Optimizing team management and planning
  •        Accommodating varying expertise, and empowering all team members

These areas can be especially painful for remote teams, distributed teams, and the highly desired cross-functional teams that span tech, product, sales, marketing, and everything in between.

But it doesn’t matter what kind of team you’re leading (or are a part of), all of these areas are important. Even with the best colleagues in the world, your team won’t get far if it doesn’t know how to collaborate and work together.

To help remove the guesswork out of your team’s survival, I’m going to focus on several tips and tools we’ve learned along the way for achieving and optimizing collaboration.

 

10 Resources for Team Collaboration

There are many elements of effective collaboration.

That’s why it would be silly to ignore the trends out there that help with just that.

A major part of the equation is employing the right tools and practices that promote and preserve collaboration.

Here are a few:

Man writing on a white board.

TIP: Daily Stand-Ups

Standing up is one of the best ways to put your mind and body in an active state of readiness.

This is exactly why daily stand-up meetings work wonders for both collaboration and productivity.

Daily stand-ups engage team members in ways not easily achieved when they’re sitting at a desk, in front of a computer screen.

Instead, the collaboration of members is intentional, efficient, and valuable because of the nature in which it is taking place.

What’s more, standing up helps keep the meeting short and focused.

TOOL: Slack

Slack is one of those tools that can be customized to and for the way your team works.

It is based on real-time collaboration, making team productivity easy to achieve and even easier to get on board with.

Team collaboration and communication takes place in what are called Slack Channels. These channels serve as the basis of workflow control and can be set up according to your team’s needs.

There are public channels (the ones open to everyone), private channels (the confidential ones for invited members), and shared channels (company-to-company workspaces).

This awesome tool helps refine team collaboration and keep everyone on one accord.

 

TIP: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs)  

OKR is a goal-setting methodology that boosts collaboration by using team-established metrics to accomplish realistic productivity.

The goal of OKRs is to untangle expectations and re-deliver them to your team in a way that allows for shared understanding and appreciation.

OKRs are best established with your team, not for your team. If team members feel as though they have a say in the standards by which productivity/success will be measured, they will be more ambitious in their approach and excited about collaborating.

 

TOOL: Asana

Asana is a project management tool designed to simplify workflow and communication between teams.

Not only does Asana make collaboration super easy, it takes it to the next level by combining what teams say with what they do.

What I mean is this: collaborative efforts are a combination of team communication and team action. This helps make progress uniform and purposeful.

The Shift-moji spreading some love towards Asana.

 

TIP: Kick-Off  & Follow Up

The energy put into the start of a project is generally carried through to the completion of the project.

With this being the case, it should be your foremost goal to make sure every project is kicked-off the right way (you know where I’m going with this).  

As the name implies, kick-off meetings set the stage for how a project will go.  

But this gathering includes more than just your team…it also includes your client, whether that is someone internal, or external.

With this one, the goal is to make sure everyone understands what the project will entail, what needs to be done, what each step will look like, and the role each member will assume, client included.

These meetings really get the juices flowing for many team members. Not to mention, being in the presence of the client in which they are serving (an opportunity not always afforded to team members), will help with stirring up the energy necessary for amazing collaboration.

 

TOOL: Jira

Sometimes, setting up the project to-do list is the easy part. It is staying on track where the challenges come in.

If this is the case for you and your team, Jira is the collaboration tool you need. If you are part of a company and team that does report in to a client regularly, Jira will also help make those check-ins more effective. All tasks, workflows, projects, and obstacles are right in front of you, after all.

Jira has become industry-standard for technical teams like ours. Why? It is packed with all the best features for keeping collaboration and productivity organized and consistent with the plans and priorities you’ve established for your team project. The agile framework is widely respected around the world, and one that we rely on heavily.

 

TIP: Social Gatherings

Teamwork is all about working and thinking together cohesively so that a common goal can be reached.

But sometimes great inspiration and idea sharing comes from those who aren’t your immediate team members.

For this reason, social gatherings are key to effective team collaboration, across all divisions.

Moving your team members across various social functions gives them the opportunity to come into different types of creativity and insight that they can bring back to the team, thereby strengthening collaboration.

Here at Shift, we like to schedule regular social events, from Beer Friday, to group kayaking around the Inner Harbour, run club, and ping pong tournaments to keep everyone engaged, and productive.

Two co-workers playing ping pong to take a work break.

 

TOOL: Invision

Just as important as the team behind your projects and products are the customers they will be put in front of.

That being said, the majority of your team’s collaboration will be centered on discussing what’s necessary to deliver on customers’ needs and expectations and design is critical.

Invision is a team collaboration tool keeps teams from straying away from that primary focus. Invision is a product design platform that moves your team’s collaborative effort through every stage, including ideation and presentation.

 

TOOL: Google Drive

Google Drive is currently one of the most popular file-sharing platforms used by teams today. With multi-device accessibility, this tool makes sure the workflow can keep going no matter where the team may be.

This one is also great for real-time updates, making collaboration at a distance as simple and easy as working side-by-side.

Plus, you can literally upload any type of file.

 

TOOL: Shift for Teams

If your team is all about Google (its email and many extensions), then Shift for Teams is a must-have.

As a collaboration tool, you’ll be able to completely streamline your team’s Google experience and access all of your Gmail accounts in one place.

A dedicated Account Manager will manage your team’s account and your team will have access to all of the perks, discounts, and support our platform has to offer.

Also—and perhaps most importantly—you’ll have a front-row seat to some of the best productivity apps for improving team collaboration.

 

Summing It Up

However you decide to go about increasing your team’s collaboration, just keep in mind that the more synergy that is created, the more productive team members tend to be.

In many cases, the objective to promote collaboration is usually underpinned by the need to meet aggressive growth, sales, or operational plans.

But the best efforts will be those that are put in place well before the “Oh shoot, we really need to get this done” moments.

Take it from someone who has managed several successful teams over the years.

It is more about making sure your team is working well together, having fun, and creating authentic relationships with one another all the time, than it is about performing well on one or two projects.