Knowing how to use a technology’s features and ‘thinking digital collaboration’ are two entirely different things. Features can be taught quickly, but working with your teammates over a digital medium is a skill and mindset that takes time to develop.
Wikipedia tells us that ‘Digital Collaboration is using digital devices, open source data and cloud technology to share knowledge, manage information and contribute user-generated content to communities of people regardless of time or place. Dramatically different from traditional collaboration, it connects a broader network of participants who can accomplish much more than they would on their own’.
As I’m a fan of simplicity, I’ll shorten the definition of Digital Collaboration to “working with others over a digital platform.” The main point being that your communication, information sharing, decision making and indeed content generation is centered within a digital medium…you aren’t in a room with your team and the paper is gone. Sounds awesome right? Unfortunately most people continue to work using their old thinking, and bend the new tool set to fit the old ways. We get stuck in old habits that are slowing us down in a world where change is only increasing in speed.
It doesn’t have to be this way! There are better and newer ways to improve how we work. To help you better understand this more modern and efficient way to work, let’s move through an example of how to run a meeting with a ‘Digital Collaboration mind-set’:
We’re holding our Monday morning (weekly) meeting. Our project team is distributed among various locations, but that doesn’t matter, we’re using a video conferencing tool like Skype for Business or Hangouts to connect the people in the room with those calling in.
The meeting agenda was included in the meeting invite, so everyone is aware of the topics to be covered. We copy the meeting agenda into a common team workbook application – such as OneNote – so all team members have access to the meeting notes (past and present). Everyone sees this happening on the screen, as well as within the workbook they also have access to.
A Place to Track Tasks and Action Items
All of the sudden, an issue is raised. It appears there is no quick answer, so the meeting leader brings up the project site (a SharePoint site dedicated to this particular project) and records the issue in the Issues List. As Jeff is assigned the work (and a due date is set for completion), it appears automatically in Jeff’s personal Task List in Outlook and OneNote.
Given that the project has a number of major elements to it – software procurement, product configuration, infrastructure, testing and training – a visual Planning Board (such as Planner or Trello) is used so the team can see the ‘big rock’ work elements, as well as the sub-elements pertaining to each component.
Until the Next Time
As the meeting comes to a close, it’s determined an additional meeting is required this week in order to keep the project on track. A meeting is scheduled on the project site calendar, and all team members receive a notification directly in their personal calendars.
You’ll notice something unique happening here – something very important to the nature of efficient work these days. The meeting is not just a place to discuss things. A lot of work is actually getting done in the meeting! By the time the team leaves the room, the project has advanced and new work items are in flight.
Many of the tools mentioned, or practices used in our Digital Collaboration example, may be new and unfamiliar to you. That’s okay, they are to most people. It will all become clearer as we continue this journey in my next blog by combining the organizational techniques discussed here with some of the Digital Collaboration techniques outlined in this article.