In its latest study, the OECD predicts that global economic growth will be halved if the epidemic cannot be contained soon. We too are feeling the effects. Many trainings and workshops were cancelled at short notice, many companies have imposed travel and meeting bans, some of them until the end of April. 

Just what do you do in the meantime? The job to be done will not become irrelevant–unfortunately. 

Luckily in 2019, we started to work intensively with remote collaboration platforms such as Mural or Miro, because we firmly believe that modern work must be possible from anywhere–even without a corona epidemic. 

In this post, I like to open the curtain in front of digital collaboration and new ways to work: What does digital collaboration actually mean? How do we start and what’s in for us? Which digital tools have proven themselves in the daily work with our customers–whether for training, workshops or the documentation of results?

Remote Collaboration – WTF?

Let’s take a closer look at what we actually mean when we talk about ‘Remote Collaboration’. The simplest definition of this is: working together regardless of location. 

Our economy has grown ever closer together in recent decades. Globalization has ensured that companies have distributed production sites, development centers and service hubs all over the world. Some teams have never met in person, but know each other as a voice from the phone or a face in the last video conference. 

Office documents, construction plans or other data are laboriously sent back and forth by email. Organizations that already consider themselves modern send this data to each other via instant messaging services such as Slack or Teams or as a link to cloud services. 

Nevertheless, work is still often carried out asynchronously. This means that documents are processed individually and then sent to colleagues with a request for additions or feedback. This often leads to numerous versions that, in the worst case, only work on one computer and are not compatible with the software version of another. 

Frequently, new programs and apps are tried out in search of the ideal collaboration tool, with the result that ‘every year you have to learn new tools’.

But there is another way. Almost every modern office software today allows several users to edit content simultaneously. So there is only one version of a work file. Often the data is stored centrally in the cloud. So-called online whiteboards also allow the free design of work surfaces as in a normal meeting – for example, to structure content or work with templates. 

However, this work is more for advanced students. When working with teams, typical mistakes are made at the beginning of online cooperation. The following tips will help employees to overcome their shyness about new tools and avoid most pitfalls.  

Digital collaboration – Tips for the remote workforce 

  1. Led your employees New ways of working and digital tools are only as good as the skills of the people who work with them. Teams must be introduced and empowered step by step to new processes and methods. Trainings and first pilot projects, which are completely digital, are an excellent opportunity to inspire employees for this kind of ‘New Work(ing)’. 
  2. Show advantages and benefits for employees
    Trainings and pilots are great. But only when employees see clear advantages in the digitalization of their processes and work steps, they will adapt these digital tools and methods for themselves in the long term. A quick sense of achievement is the key. This is also the reason why we first identify with our clients which projects are suitable to be digitally mapped in a pilot. We want to generate results quickly, but we also want to leave room for experimentation and thus convince the teams step by step of how we work. 
  3. more structure = more results In the beginning it helps to identify a person as a ‘Remote Ambassador’ or ‘Remote Facilitator’. This person should be familiar with the tools and should have experience in how remote teams work together most effectively. Similar to a SCRUM master who ensures that the work process is running, that people are all focused, that the digital tools are running smoothly and that the structure of the produced content is maintained and supported if necessary. While a ‘digital whiteboard’ like Miro give users endless opportunities to be creative, this carries the risk of losing track of the content at some point. Here an external facilitators helps a lot to keep everything smoothly running. 

If such a person doesn’t exist in your company yet, get help from externs. And yes, we would be delighted to help you and your team becoming new-ways-of-working-fit. 

Benefits of remote work 

In einer Forrester Studie aus dem Jahre 2018 wurde über drei Jahre der Einfluss von Remote Collaboration Tools auf Unternehmen gemessen. Die Ergebnisse waren überzeugend:

  • Durchschnittlich amortisierten sich die Investitionskosten in weniger als 6 Monaten (Anschaffung der Plattform, Training der Mitarbeiter, Begleitung durch externe Berater bei der Durchführung von ersten Pilotprojekten)
  • 495 % ROI über drei Jahre
  • 71% Reisekostenersparnis für Workshops und Trainings
  • 12% Kostenvermeidung für Präsenzworkshops (Durchschnittlich reisen zwei Personen weniger pro Workshop-Session)

Auch weiche Faktoren spielten eine wichtige Rolle:

  • Strukturiertere und parallele Arbeitsweise erhöht das Tempo
  • Mehr Innovationsaktivitäten in kürzerer Zeit, schnellere Iterationszyklen und Verhinderung von Verzögerungen durch Reisen und Terminkoordinierung von viel beschäftigten Mitarbeitern
  • Mehr Ownership im Team

Diese Entwicklungen decken sich mit unseren eigenen Beobachtungen bei unseren Kunden und digitalen Projekten. Was wir über die Studienergebnisse hinaus feststellen konnten:

Remote Collaboration verändert Organisationen

  • Kürzere und weniger Meetings (wer möchte das nicht?!)
  • Mehr Transparenz innerhalb und außerhalb des Unternehmens
  • Alle Dokumente sind standardmäßig über Abteilungen hinaus verfügbar (das hilft Silos abzubauen)
  • Mehr offizielle Kommunikation, weniger informeller Austausch von Informationen

Remote Collaboration birgt Vorteile für Organisationen und ihre Mitarbeiter

  • Ermutigt zu einer ergebnisorientierten Arbeitsweise: weniger Meetings, mehr Output
  • Flexibilisiert den Alltag (Kinder, Eltern, Freunde, Sport, etc.)
  • Reduziert Unterbrechungen und Ablenkung: mehr Fokus, mehr Ergebnisse
  • Eröffnet Stellenbesetzungen unabhängig vom Wohn-/Arbeitsort

Remote Collaboration birgt Vorteile für die Welt

  • Reduzierung der Umwelt- und CO2-Belastung durch Pendelfahrten, Flugverkehr, etc.
  • Verringerung sozialer Ungleichheit durch die Schaffung besser bezahlter Arbeitsplätze in Regionen mit niedrigeren Lohnkosten

Welche Tools brauche ich, um ortsunabhängig zu arbeiten?

Es muss nicht immer gleich eine Reihe neuer Applikationen sein, um effektiv außerhalb des Büros arbeiten zu können. Schon die Standard-Tools, die im Office 365-Paket enthalten sind, reichen für den Anfang völlig aus: Teams zur Kommunikation mit Kollegen oder externen Kunden und die Kollaboration an geteilten Dokumenten in der Cloud über die klassischen Apps der Office 365-Suite.

Es gibt auch zahlreiche Alternativen zu den Klassikern aus dem Hause Microsoft oder Google. Teils sind es sinnvolle Insellösungen, teils Komplettangebote. Wie immer gilt, das Tool muss zur Anwendung passen:

Für die direkte Kommunikation: Slack, Zoom

Agiles Projektmanagement und agile Softwareentwicklung: Trello, Jira, Confluence, Asana, Notion

“Digitale Whiteboards” für Kollaboration, Workshops und Trainings: Miro, Mural

Übrigens haben die meisten der genannten Software-Anbieter endlich auf die verschärften Datenschutz-Bestimmungen in Europa reagiert. Sie speichern die Daten auf Servern in den jeweiligen Regionen, um sicherzustellen, dass auch sensible Daten sicher auf europäischem Boden gespeichert sind.

Photo by Jeff Sheldon on Unsplash

Alessandro Brandolisio Profile image

Alessandro Brandolisio

Innovation & AI Strategy

Alessandro joined us ages ago as an intern, then headed over to our sister company Tools of innovators and is now back equipped with in-depth knowledge about innovation management and artificial intelligence.

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