How Collaborative Technology Can Help Your SMB

If you’ve seen Apollo 13, you already know the mission did not go as planned. Astronauts James A. Lovell, John L. Swigert, and Fred W. Haise were supposed to go to the moon. But 56 hours into the mission, an oxygen tank exploded.

On the short list of things that could go really poorly in space, “exploding oxygen tank” ranks pretty high. What followed is an epic example of collaboration in action.

Collaboration saves the day.

The Apollo crew had the spare parts needed to make it back to earth. There was just one problem. The backup parts weren’t designed to fit where they were needed.

So engineers on the ground went to work, developing a solution that made use of “plastic bags, cardboard and duct tape.” The astronauts made it home for one simple reason. Everyone involved understood the value of collaboration.

Collaborative technology.

Old-school collaboration is organic. It happens in conference rooms, around water coolers, and when folks pass each other in the hallway. Any time employees cross paths, there’s an opportunity for collaboration.

But business is changing.

According to the New York Times, “43 percent of employed Americans said they spent at least some time working remotely” last year. A whopping 50% of US jobs are compatible with telecommuting. And working from home isn’t just an employee perk. At least one company claims they’ve saved $2,000 per person by launching a work from home program.

Collaborative technology is big part of what makes a mobile workforce possible. Your people cannot function as a team without practical ways to communicate. Collaborative technology bridges a critical gap, allowing for all the advantages of remote work without sacrificing the power of collaboration.

And here’s the real beauty of collaborative technology. Even if you have no intention of launching your own work from home program, there are still amazing benefits. Anything that boosts communication is going to make you more efficient and more effective.

Ready to unleash collaboration? Here are three ways you can do just that.

How to use collaborative technology.

Think of the following tips as your starting point. This is the philosophy that needs to guide you on your quest to be more collaborative.

The right attitude.

You’re not going to make any progress toward being more collaborative without buy-in.

Don’t just assume your employees are sold on the idea of being more collaborative. Engage them in conversation about it. Find out how they feel and, if necessary, encourage them to see collaboration as something worth pursuing.

The right tools.

Once you have buy-in, you need the right tools. And oh boy, are there a lot to choose from.

Business collaboration tools include advanced phone systems, email, IM programs, video conferencing, and document-sharing software. Within each category, there are a host of options. And we’ll let you in on a little secret.

There’s no such thing as “the best” phone system. Or IM program. Or video conferencing platform. There’s just what’s best for you and your team.

The right time.

A recent article in Computerworld made this brilliant observation about collaborative technology: “There are at least two components of understanding technology: how to use it, and where or when to use [it].”

Even after you’ve filled your collaborative tech toolbox, you’ll still need a strategic approach. Some conversations warrant a phone call. Some benefit from video conferencing. And some don’t require anything more than a quick IM.

Challenge yourself and your team to use the best tool for each conversation.

Let’s start the conversation.

Getting serious about collaborative technology starts with communication.

Talk to your employees and partners. Read up on solutions you think would be a good fit for your company. Consider getting an expert opinion to guide you along the way.

In all these conversations, stay focused. The goal of collaborative technology is to make you more effective. If you put collaborative technology to work the right way, it can make a powerful difference.