The home office- the new normal for many businesses and organisations. Fortunately, there are plenty of great tools out there that now make online collaboration efficient and productive. So, what are the right tools for your team or your organisation? Chances are, you probably already have them and they are just waiting to be used to their full extent and capability.
The new Office 365 superstar Teams is Microsoft's fastest-growing product and a collaborative tool that many are using these days. It has risen to the top over the last year and has outgrown its sibling, Skype, with a broad set of capabilities to become a real contender to platforms such as Slack, Zoom and GoTo Meeting.
Teams is a complete solution for chat and online meetings which enables us to collaborate through project teams & channels. Teams allows us to create project teams where we can communicate, document manage and collaborate through integrated apps such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint. There are extensive possibilities in Teams. One of the most used features is the ability to create different channels which we use for knowledge sharing for our different teams and projects. Although Teams is set-up to be used among people within the same organisation (same domain) it does enable us to invite external clients, partners and collaborators, by adding their domain to our Teams group.
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Another great feature in Teams is the ability to take notes and record sessions which you can then share with your wider team or others who may have missed the session. It also gives us the ability to go back over meetings in case we've missed any details we need for reference or documentation purposes.
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Teams' chat function is great for communicating one-on-one and in groups- both during and after online meetings. The chat is also handy for managing participation in larger group meetings, where you can ask participants to write questions and give feedback through the chat functionality during the session, avoiding interruptions and participants talking over each other
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A virtual whiteboard with markers that never fail you and allows for the meeting or workshop participants to draw out ideas as they would do on a physical whiteboard. It also provides you with an infinite digital canvas and it is accessible before, during and after any session.
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Other great Teams features are:
Stand-ups are one of the most common connection points for any digital team or project. It helps with team or project connectivity by providing an opportunity to share updates, insights, and provides an opportunity to offer and ask for help. Most stand-ups are run daily but this is not a rule set in stone. You could also run them at a less frequent cadence, such as 3 days a week, once a week or even fortnightly- whatever works best for your project/team.
This is how we do it at RXP:
We often schedule stand-ups up as reoccurring online meeting in Teams (via the calendar) or in Outlook and we always make sure we add Teams to the meeting location by tapping the Teams Meeting link in the Outlook invite header.
We outline the purpose and objectives of the stand-up and what we expect everyone to share back to the team in the meeting invite.
This usually covers:
We always include guidelines and a format for the stand-up.Some of our standard guidelines for online stand-ups are:
Keep it short.
Stand-ups are a quick update and shouldn't drag on or go off-topic. The format we run is one person starts and shares their update. Then that person will choose the next person to share and this continues until everyone has had an opportunity to share their update.
When running the stand-up make sure you are on time and, where possible, practice the same format at every stand-up.
To support the stand-up, we make sure everyone has visibility of the project and/or team activities. We do this via a Kanban board, this can either be done in Planner (part of Office 365) Trello, Jira etc. depending on the tool of preference for your organisation, team or project.
We use the Kanban board to assign tasks for the team or project and link it to Teams.
Teams is not the only useful Office365 app; Outlook, PowerPoint, Excel, Word, SharePoint & OneNote are all great, accessible collaboration tools.
Office offers Cloud collaboration across all of their products in real-time, allowing storage of documents in the cloud which you can then share through links in Outlook, Teams and SharePoint. It allows you to store and share large files and presentations which are too big to send by email via a link to the file (stored in OneDrive, Teams or SharePoint). You can invite team members and clients to provide feedback, by sharing the document and using the comment tool (PowerPoint, Word).
OneNote is great for real-time online brainstorming and ideation. By sharing links to the OneNote notebook you have essentially created a shared a virtual "ideas notebook" for your online meeting or workshop.
One of the greatest features of the Office365 suite of apps is the fact that when you store files in the cloud you have Cloud-based version control which quite often saves the day and offers peace of mind when your files have some hick-ups (which happens when multiple people work on files at the same time).
Online Kanban boards help remote teams to assign, organise and prioritise tasks and also gives team members visibility across a whole project.
Miro has an intuitive and fluid Kanban framework with a flexible structure which is easy to customise and can instantly sync with Jira.
Planner, which is part of Office365, has additional features such as Charts and Schedule which are handy tools for staying on top of prioritisation, project pace and delivery times.
Trello is easy to use with a drag and drop functionality and even though it's not an Office365 product you can link your Trello board to your Teams project for quick access!
Open sourced and cloud-based remote design and collaboration are made a whole lot easier with Figma. Figma allows you to collaborate and create visuals, blueprints, wireframes and interactive prototypes all in real-time.
You can use the browser-based version of the app or download the desktop version, regardless of which one you use, everyone with access to the file or files can collaborate in real-time. The owner of the file can set different access types for collaborators; admin, edit or view-only. People viewing and editing a file are shown in the top of the app as circular avatars.Each person also has a named cursor, so tracking who is doing what is easy. Clicking on someone else's avatar zooms in to exactly where they are at the time.
• Make comments, tag team members and invite clients for to make comments and leave feedback
• Share your designs via a link – allowing clients access to your designs
• Store multiple projects in one central place
• Cloud based version control to save the day and for peace of mind
• Automatically produced code for delivery teams
• Downloadable app or use the web-based version
Clients sometimes use or prefer products other than the ones we use or recommend. Some of the other commonly used tools and software for online collaboration are:
Zoom: an online conferencing tool that allows you to easily see everyone in the session and highlights the speaker. It has a chat feature which is great for questions, feedback and ideation. Other features include Polling, Whiteboard, record a session and breakout rooms.
Miro: (Realtime Board) is a handy whiteboard-come-design tool with post-it notes and an array of templates. With an infinite canvas comes infinite possibilities in which whole projects can grow and evolve.
Google: Including Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms and Drawings are all great workarounds when you have software limitations. All that's required is internet access (Gmail accounts are not needed for participants). Simply create a document and invite away. Collaborate in real-time with the Drawings function (great for writing up post-its and moving around to synth). Don't forget Hangouts as another alternative online meeting tool.
Remote working doesn't mean we have to work alone. There are an array of tools at our disposal that allow us to work together, remotely.
The remote working article series was developed by our talented team design team to explain how they adapted their ways of working while on a major government project to ensure the continuation and successful delivery of the project during the recent lockdowns.
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