September 21, 2011

Collaboration - Focus 15 Minutes on New Tools

This post is not for early adopters. It's for the late majority.

It doesn't take long to get overwhelmed by the advancement of technology, does it?  You hear about "the cloud" and "distance collaboration," but you're so busy, you shrug it off for another day. Well, if the tools you're using for collaboration are basically the same ones you were using one or two years ago, take a deep breath. Chances are, you're way behind your competition.

I can empathize. After all, time spent learning anything outside your core business is time away from it. Fair enough. The good news is that, as a late adopter, the time to learn should be reduced by improvements made, as tools have matured. Translation: It will take you less time to learn than the first users.

Try this rule of thumb. If you can't be convinced of the value of a new collaboration tool after 15 minutes of using it, move on. Try another.

Heads up!
Here's the catch: You actually have to pay attention when you're learning it. If you're multitasking—eating lunch or juggling windows between email and calendar, you won't learn it. 

So what tools am I talking about? Well, there are a million out there for a million reasons. But, here's some low hanging fruit that everyone with a collaborative team should at least understand:

Sharing documents & files:
  • Google Docs - Simultaneous work on one copy of a file, while viewing each other's edits in real time. Share with the world, or keep it private with limited rights.
  • Drop Box - Synchronize files across various computers.
Distance meetings:
  • WebEx - Nice audio and video integration. Advanced collaboration tools, like white-boarding, that most don't use. 
  • Adobe Connect - Similar.
  • Lync Online - Similar.
  • GoToMeeting - Simple desktop sharing.
Chat, SMS and voice communication:
  • GroupMe - A group chat app that works seamlessly between cell phones and computers. Instant group phone conference feature as well.
  • HipChat - Multiple rooms that log chats 
  • Google Voice - Can ring multiple phones, transcribes voicemails to SMS or email.
Secure Social Collaboration:
  • Chatter - Like Facebook for your company, with effective project management and document sharing features.
  • Google+ - Similar, but with the concept of "Circles" and "Communities," sharing can be expanded and contracted to your liking. IMHO, this sleeping giant will likely swallow the competition when it awakes.
  • Yammer - Also similar. Bought by Microsoft in 2012
Please feel free mention other tools you've had success with in the comments.


  1. Once you have taken 15 minutes and convinced yourself that a particular tool adds value, then you face another challenge, which is to convince your team to adopt it.
    My team spends a lot of time (in traditional meetings) _talking_ about how we might implement, for example, a video conferencing solution. We talk ("we gotta start using vc!"). We agree to do more research ("You take Webex, I'll take GoToMeeting"). And then...we continue to have traditional meetings.
    So perhaps a modified approach would be for a team to commit the first 15 minutes of their traditional donuts-and-coffee meeting to evaluating one collaboration solution, as a team. This could make the task less onerous for the technically trepidatious, and lead to a more complete commitment to the solution.

  2. Excellent idea, Chris! I've discovered the value of many of the tools above while on the phone with at least one other team member walking me through it. I think an important consideration is to standardize, but also remain agnostic to a certain degree. All the tools have their advantages and limitations, but that shouldn't keep a team from committing to a standard for each application.