You need to get your employees collaborating online right now

by Ron on July 26, 2013

Groups of workers collaborating.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made headlines last winter when she shut down telecommuting. She had her reasons of course, but I’ve always maintained with today’s online collaboration tools, you can get a lot done even when you’re not face to face.

Collaboration tools let people work together even when they’re not in the same room room, and even let people who work in the same building share ideas and project content when they’re not together, making the process more efficient.

Face to face meetings have their place, especially when the group gets so large that an online meeting becomes too unwieldy for a reasonable exchange of ideas, but collaboration tools can help foster lots of great behaviors, especially when it’s got enterprise social elements built in.

As this cartoon shows, even face to face to meetings don’t work right without the right tools.

Cartoon of four people sitting around a table that's a lazy susan turntable with partitions. When it turns everything is upended

Midsize businesses in particular have reached a size where finding ways to collaborate online more efficiently makes sense, and I’m not talking about the lazy susan in the cartoon. It’s entirely likely that people aren’t in the same room or building anymore.

It’s more likely that you have a development team in Eastern Europe and a QA team in India and your  headquarters in the US. This is not that unusual a scenario.

I have a friend who is up early every morning on the West Coast because her company has teams spread out across the world and she needs to communicate with them. She’s not alone.

She told me she uses some Microsoft tools like SharePoint and Skype to help make the world a little smaller, but there are tons of choice such as Box, Jive, Yammer and Salesforce.com’s Chatter.

It’s worth noting that IBM also has a suite of social business tools.

I’m mixing and matching social and collaboration tools because they very often have cross-over. Box is thought of mostly as a document sharing tool, but it also has social elements and companies often combine it with other social tools like Jive.

The idea though is to provide your employees with online tools that give them a way for them to share documents and ideas freely, and to give them access to those tools on any device at any time. When employees can share ideas and documents without friction, lots of good things happen.

You begin to build a community of sharing with lots of positive side effects including sharing and evaluating innovative ideas, breaking down communications silos in companies and flattening hierarchies. Suddenly, in the best situations you have C-level executives communicating with employees doing the work on the ground and you can have an honest exchange and learn what works and what doesn’t.

That’s why it’s so important to put this tools in place and let your employees communicate and share ideas and content –and make sure the tools are good ones that help them do their work more efficiently.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

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