Spokesperson, Rita Lutikova, Chief Project Manager/ Business Analyst at software development and systems integration specialist, IDS Group:
What collaboration solutions are most in demand right now?
Though collaborative solutions have been increasing in popularity for some time, 2020 brought about the urgent need for these tools —not only for digital companies and early adopters — but also for a much larger audience.
With these platforms rapidly becoming mainstream, they are no longer used primarily by tech professionals meaning the features that users want to see has shifted. Ease of set-up is now essential, with colleagues from a variety of backgrounds adopting these platforms as their main method of workplace communication.
Though a PC or Mac is still a top choice for work purposes, the flexibility to use a specific solution on a range of devices is becoming a must for those wishing to lead in the collaboration space.
In many cases people lack the feeling of connection that they once had, so elements which replicate those informal conversations by the water cooler are in demand. As is the option to access multiple features in one place. With employees now using a whole host of tools, adding just one more into the mix may prove tiresome — therefore, an all-in-one tool is a great fit for today’s users.
We’re really lucky to have some amazing options already available within the market. In terms of whiteboard tools with collaboration functions, Miro and Mural are great. Whereas Parabol is a really popular agile meetings hub.
While all three are excellent technologies, for our teams and purposes we needed a fun, engaging and easy-to-set-up tool for conducting meetings, especially retrospectives online — and there wasn’t something that worked well enough for us. We started with Google Sheets —which is great for pretty much everything. But we faced a major problem with team engagement. Being online and going through almost the same questions on each retro just wasn’t interesting enough.
This is why we designed and developed Timbo – our own all-in-one agile collaboration tool for conducting engaging remote daily stand-ups, online retrospectives and sprint planning.
What emerging solutions could come to the fore?
While remote work was the trend of 2020, 2021 brings us hybrid working — a new and flexible approach to the workplace. And with fresh opportunities come additional challenges. Ensuring meetings remain effective when people are attending from various locations is certainly one of them.
Making remote work a more immersive experience is sure to become an area of significant interest — with everything from the creation of virtual office spaces, to conducting calls in VR glasses up for discussion.
But with so many new tools and techniques emerging to both unite and engage people, it can become overwhelming. Simplifying current collaborative solutions so that they become clearer and easier-to-use would be an attractive option for many users, while also ensuring that people in a variety of roles can master them.
We developed Timbo to address this gap and provide an all-in-one solution. Easy to set-up and navigate by people in all areas of the business, we’ve created an engaging environment for everyone. Addressing some of the drawbacks of other technologies, with Timbo we’ve included tips and prompts which mean that any team member can conduct a retro if necessary.
In the absence of some of the more human aspects that feature in ‘real life’ meetings, we’ve included functions which improve the efficiency and ‘flow’ of meetings, making them clearer and more transparent.
And recognising that even an engaging, user-friendly interface might get ‘usual’, we’ve devised insights which ensure the team remain motivated by fresh techniques, helping to remove some of the inevitable monotony that creeps in with many of these tools. With different templates for scrum meetings, there’s a new and exciting format to try every time.
As we move forward in this new era of hybrid work, people will want variety and something which closely replicates a face-to-face experience – that’s what Timbo provides.
Are there any notable differences between what SMBs and larger organisations require?
The initial requirements are usually the same for SMBs and larger organisations — put simply, they should solve the problems they were ‘hired’ for.
But some factors may be more or less important, depending on the size of the company. Price, for example, is likely to be less important for a large company than for an SMB. Whereas security requirements, while important for all organisations, may be more formalised within a bigger business.
Scalability is another factor which comes into play within a larger firm. Whether adopted company-wide or by just one team, it should be possible to scale a tool to fit changing requirements.
How will these technologies aid hybrid working? Are there any other workforce trends (in addition to hybrid working) that go hand in hand with collaboration technologies?
Most of the collaborative solutions emerging right now are dedicated to helping employees work remotely — those same features will also aid hybrid working.
And as these new working patterns becoming the norm, collaboration technologies will need to address the emerging trends that are important to employees. Work-life balance is one area which has been affected by a year of working/living/doing practically everything from home — so helping employees stay focused on their tasks, avoiding multiple distractions (from family/work and life messengers) would be a fantastic feature.
The toll of the past year has left workers around the world feeling tired, stressed and, in some cases, burned out. Employees will seek support and clear goals in their current workplaces but tend to switch firms if they don’t receive this. An ability to keep things interesting and allow teams to visualise ‘the bigger picture’ via access to company goals may help with this, while promoting deeper engagement and loyalty too.
What impact will analytics tools have?
Data is power. And making any decision based on relevant and reliable information is always a good idea. As we continue to collaborate more and more online, tools which track a team’s effectiveness will be invaluable when it comes to identifying action points for future.
As many teams are still relatively new to remote working, it’s important that target metrics are set and monitored if organisations are to remain abreast of employee engagement and productivity.
In a standard retrospective conducted online, we might want to set some target metrics. For example, that every member has added a minimum of three notes during a meeting, or that at least 60% of actionable points from a previous session have been completed.
Working out goals together, defining target metrics for these and tracking progress is a vital part of a team’s effectiveness. And considering that different objectives or smaller actions might be planned in different areas of performance — keeping them visual, easy-to-access and automatically updated would be an important feature for any collaboration tool.
What innovations are coming in the months and years ahead?
Hybrid work will most likely see the exploration of virtual and augmented reality technologies here to stay, with their integration into collaboration tools a continuing priority.
While many can only imagine how useful (or not) it would be to conduct meetings in a virtual reality space, some are already doing it using online multi-role video games.
We expect further expansion of digital tools and technologies to areas including medicine and politics, with new and innovative solutions offered.
We are already seeing many changes being introduced by big companies in regard to protecting user data — this trend, we believe, will only increase. Placing a further emphasis on privacy, this will likely increase debate around modern social networks and the ways we interact and communicate.
You can view the full article in Comms Business here.