(Editor’s note: Andrew Filev is founder and CEO of Wrike. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
It’s hardly uncommon to collaborate with colleagues scattered across the globe these days. And it’s likely to become even more a part of doing business in the years to come, as several studies have noted that the virtual workforce is expanding.
Without regular, face-to-face communication, it might be more challenging to get things done efficiently and on time. As a business owner, how can you boost the productivity of the “human cloud”? Here are five tricks that have served me and my international team well:
Speak one “language” – Before anything else, make sure you all speak the same “language” in terms of how the teamwork is organized. That includes when and how you have meetings, how team members submit reports to the manager, how you communicate plan updates, what tools are used, etc.
If everyone sticks to simple ground rules, it’ll help to eliminate pesky performance slips. For instance, a colleague misses a tight deadline because she was thinking of it in her own time zone. So make sure you and your peers are on the same page here.
Don’t stop talking – It’s highly unproductive if team members try to isolate themselves in their shells with their tasks. Ensuring constant, frictionless communication within the team is what prevents this from happening.
Smooth communication and efficient collaboration go hand-in-hand. It’s essential not only for collectively discussing issues and seeking solutions, sharing updates, setting priorities, and giving quick feedback, but also for keeping a positive atmosphere for the teamwork.
Also, communicate in real time. Communicate with a tool that can be accessed by your peers, even if they missed the conversation while being offline. Communicate face-to-face occasionally, if you have an opportunity to travel.
Organize the workflow in a granular way – At the end of the Web conference where you discuss the strategy and goals for, say, for the next quarter, make sure everyone is clear about their tasks and the expected results before you disconnect.
So called “smallification” will help you move forward faster. When action items are broken down into smaller tasks that are easier for team members to understand and tackle, the manager can control the progress more accurately, rather than figuring out how soon the vague “70 percent complete” will turn into one explicit “overdue.”
Keep data easily accessible – Don’t ever let work-related data get “locked” in e-mails, files on personal PCs and other silos. Sharing is essential, so that any important document, plan, status and discussion are easily accessible by involved colleagues at any time. If the data is organized in one hub, it also facilitates the onboarding of new team members. Instead of the manager sending them a massive pack of documents, they can easily find everything they need themselves.
Get a system to help you – The right technologies can help build your team’s virtual infrastructure. There’s no magic solution that fits all. It depends of your budget, the IT experience of your peers, etc. But the market has a wide range of cloud, social and mobile apps, so there are a wide range of possibilities to mix and match.
Ideally, your virtual infrastructure should connect the members of your team and all the work in one collaborative environment, so that whenever something changes, everyone is immediately in the loop, just like on Facebook, where the social features easily keep everyone together.
About the author: Andrew Filev is a software entrepreneur with more than 10 years of experience in project and product management. He is the founder and CEO of Wrike, a Silicon Valley-based provider of project management and collaboration software. Prior to Wrike, Andrew started his first venture at the age of 17 and quickly grew it into an international software development business with more than 100 engineers. To learn more about Andrew and his views, you can subscribe to his Project Management 2.0 blog or follow him on Twitter (@andrewsthoughts).