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How technology can improve teamwork

We all know that recruiting people with the right skills will get the job done. But what about the skills that you can’t easily quantify, i.e. how workers interact with each other in order to create successful teams? The place to start is surely education: teaching the ability to collaborate alongside the practical knowledge of systems and IT disciplines. And it’s up to business to ensure that this happens – by working with colleges, schools and universities, organisations can make sure that the next generation will be equipped with the right mix of teamworking and IT-specific skills.
But what about right now? Perhaps the most useful way technology can improve teamwork currently is by making meetings easier to stage and more collaborative. Rather than dragging employees off to a windowless room to discuss a project (when attendees are probably half-thinking about the workload they’ve left behind in order to go to the meeting), webchats, webinars or conference calls can get team members together (and allow them see each other’s faces) without having to leave their desks. Choosing a communication system that everyone can access and that is consistently reliable is vital here, so that calls don’t drop mid-way. Instant messaging is also really useful for team chat, helping to get instant answers to questions or letting other people know what you’ve done.
Another vital element of collaboration concerns how team members view shared documents. Cloud-based storage accessible to all team members allow convenient file-sharing and simultaneous working or editing. This approach also goes some way to mitigating accidental document duplication and people working from different versions of the same file, as it’s easy to see who’s changed what. Be sure that everyone is using the same version of the document-creating software, though, or ensure that shared files are saved as PDFs so everyone can view them – this might be extra useful if different members of your team are using different operating systems. Project management software also creates a shared space for task-scheduling, time management and updating the team on progress made.
It may also be worth considering the social media aspect of technology in order to keep the team together. We’re all used to using WhatsApp groups to arrange get-togethers – there are similar but business-focused tools in which you can create groups to promote communication about a project, applaud those who have performed well and generally keep everyone in the loop about what’s going on.

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