simplified collaborationWhen you collaborate with others on the Internet it can quickly become a frustrating experience when some of the people don’t have access to the same tools. Trying to match a Word doc to Google Docs is a nightmare. Officially it’s as simple as uploading Word into Docs. In reality doing so opens a whole can of formatting worms, one you’d rather not deal with if time is of the essence.

The timeless issue with lack of time

Time is ALWAYS of the essence when we do business online. It’s so easy to let yourself get distracted with chat, email, and other non-essential business tasks. I guess that most entrepreneurs suffer from an unstructured work day. We tend to revel in a constant state of “busyness” while nothing concrete gets done.

Ask yourself this – Can you finish each working day knowing you’ve been at your most productive that day?

Become a savvy collaborator

Go back to basics: If you work with a team of collaborators then the first step you all have to take is one that lets you face in the same direction. In practical terms this means you need to use the same tools, access the same software and platforms to share your work. When the whole team is familiar with the tools the whole process of sharing becomes easier and more fun. Plus, you will save a ton of time trying to become acquainted with unfamiliar software and processes.

Minimize unnecessary conversation: There is a time and place for meaningless social chat, and then there is a time for business. If you spend your days surfing forums, chatting with others and emailing jokes, then please don’t be surprised if your business sucks. In order to build a business you actually have to lay stone upon stone. Each stone represents a day of work during which you need to stay focused on your tasks.

It’s easy to lose focus with unnecessary distractions. There is a high change that we are all guilty of doing this from time to time. The difference between the winners and the losers lies in the frequency in which we give in to the distractions.

Centralize task management: Any collaboration management should focus on centralizing the handling and management of tasks. Whether you choose to use Google Docs, activeCollab, Box.net, or a host of other groovy online collaboration tools, it’s important to settle on the same set of tools for all people involved.

Make life easier with cloud sharing: Web-based tools are far easier to handle and manage when you are a frequent traveler trying to collaborate with others. While there are certain risks to storing your information online so are risks while you cross the road to grab your steaming mug of coffee in the early morning. Fact is that there are risks in anything, if you want to win, you have to step out of your comfort zone at some time or another.

The essence of training: I can’t stress enough how important training is when you handle a growing team of people. I urge you to use video training (Jing), strict guidelines, samples, guides, etc. Collaboration becomes child’s play when you show your team EXACTLY what is expected of them. It leaves little room for error and ambiguity.

Enforce structure: Every home needs a structure to stop it from falling down. The same applies to a business. Unless you define your business with clear guidelines, and make these known to your team you can never expect the to pull the same strings you do. If you manage a group of people by means of collaboration you need to pay the same attention to structure.

Free tools vs paid: I’m a sucker for using free tools when they serve their purpose and are GOOD. Today you can find an increasing amount of free tools that simplify collaboration with your team. Some people will advocate that using free invites problems, but I beg to differ. Yes, some free platforms will undoubtedly disappear over time, but then so will paid-for platforms.

As long as you use tools that serve the purpose of your collaboration requirements you will always have plenty of access to both free, and paid options.

Hopefully by now you are looking at simplified collaboration in a new light. Feel free to share your own collaboration tips with us in the comment section. I’m love to learn about your ideas.

Monika