How to Apply Online Tools to Improve Collaboration by Briana van Craeynest on 07/09/2013 Small businesses and start-ups are booming in today’s business community. Small firms and freelancers are providing specialized, niche services to a broad range of clients. For example PR firms, search engine optimization providers, e-commerce hosts, webmasters, blog managers, pay per click ad campaign managers, web traffic analysts, etc. all provide a unique specialized service to optimize other businesses’ business. For some companies it is cheaper to outsource these types of specialized needs to expert providers or freelancers than to actually hire their own in-house employees or departments. These businesses work with many clients remotely, and in order to effectively provide services, they must understand the client’s needs, which often requires constant interaction. Many of these firms deal with crisis management and need to solve issues that occur suddenly (say, an IT provider needs to restore a company’s network after a crash). These businesses need to keep in contact with their clients and reach them at a moment’s notice. Since small businesses balance so many clients, which all require a lot of communication, these small businesses can’t afford to accumulate unwieldy, long-distance phone bills. Email, although free, usually doesn’t cut it in crisis mode. Service providers can’t wait for a client’s short, undetailed email that leaves them unsure or with additional questions. These businesses need an affordable, reliable and effective way to interact easily with their clients, stay connected, improve relationships and avoid waiting for urgent replies. Foster Collaboration through Transparent Interaction Successful business owners must find ways to enable their teams to collaborate by removing obstacles to do so. Team members need easy access to tools that will allow them to meet deadlines, get questions answered, post documents and share ideas. Effective communication also fosters greater trust and openness between employees in small businesses. Teams that can establish an open, positive and supportive environment among members are in a better position for success. Interaction leads to team bonding and collaboration. Strong team communication skills can help build relationships, and ensure the sharing of new ideas and best practices. In today’s business environment, globalization and expansion force companies to rethink their communication techniques. Technology advances offer many sophisticated ways to conduct business. Teams need to create an environment that encourages open and frequent communication among those who need to work together. Virtual meetings and online project management are becoming a standard part of everyday modern business. Stay on Track with Basecamp Online Project Management Tools To stay organized small businesses can subscribe to web-based project management tools to manage to-dos, share files, post messages and communications, create schedules, and track milestones. One example, Basecamp, brings together internal and external collaborators so that everyone can easily work on the same page. To really make Basecamp efficient users should put everything related to a project on the site so that everyone who needs anything has immediate access to the right information. Make sure to upload every document, break down tasks, track correspondences and properly assign every to-do. With Basecamp you can spend less time emailing, forwarding and making sure you “reply-all” to every feed. The calendar page can be utilized to view each project’s deliverables, deadlines and delivery expectations. Click on the task items for a chronological view of project happenings for an organized timeline of the project. Viewing this type of progress also allows you to see why a colleague hasn’t responded to your post and provides a real-time picture of what task other collaborators have been working on. With Basecamp and other project management tools, tedious tasks to stay on track are streamlined, ensuring that business leaders won’t have to spend so much time and effort to manage projects and employees. Utilize Google+ Hangout Virtual Meetings for Efficient Communication Online video conferencing via web cameras, also called virtual meetings or video chats, allow the opportunity to conduct more productive meetings leading to efficient and effective communication and decision-making. Video conferencing offers potential for significant reductions in travel expenses and phone bills, which are costly in today’s global business environment. Google can help your business to consistently meet clients’ needs with their unique web conferencing tool, Google+ Hangout. Google+ Hangout is a free group video chat that can include as many as 10 people, or 10 locations with any number of people at each place. Using Google+ Hangouts to host virtual meetings can transform communication from a logistical challenge to a simple task. You can virtually meet face-to-face with your clients or out-of-office employees. This tool additionally provides chat via text, the ability to share your screen to present your work, display a slideshow, or collaborate on a Google document. You can also record the session for review later or broadcast the hangout afterwards to a broader audience. It is also possible to join via smartphone. This feature allows you to access meetings when out of the office or away from computers. The video chat system in Google+ Hangout is very user-friendly, so you won’t be worried about how to operate the program while trying to conduct the meeting. With this technology you will never have to schedule or wait for a conference line to become available. You won’t have to dial into a specific conference phone line or search for a conference password as with traditional conference calls. You won’t even have to download software as with other virtual meeting providers, or constantly update it. Additional Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Virtual Meetings Use a headset or headphones to avoid echo Change all chat statuses to indicate you are busy in a meeting Close any other applications or programs that will consume RAM and potentially distract you As a leader: send out relevant items and the agenda well in advance for others to review As a participant: read the agenda beforehand Start the meeting on time Keep to the schedule Enhance Collaboration with Useful Google Applications The Google+ tool can be especially useful with additional Google apps as timesaving tools. Within a Hangout, the host can add a variety of apps making the platform a useful tool for business meetings. Users can import and collaborate on Google Doc files, pull in presentations with the SlideShare app, watch YouTube videos together, and share what is on their individual computer screens. Implement Online Tools to Improve Your Business Communications Overall in today’s professional world the traditional work environment is transforming. More small businesses and start-ups are changing the workday dynamic by working with remote clients, working from home or working nontraditional hours. These changes will only allow business to evolve if communication can continue between team members. Online project management tools and video conferencing tools can cater to the changing work environment by providing seamless communication and task management virtually. How to Apply Online Tools to Improve Collaboration from Eyeflow SEO Share the Love Related posts: Online Reputation Management – Start With A Free Analysis Online Reputation Management in the Age of Social Media 10 Offline Business Actions Translated to Online 5 Ways to Improve Your LinkedIn Profile Briana van CraeynestDirector of Content Development|Briana is the Director of Content Development at Eyeflow. Her professional background includes copywriting and marketing in the US and China. She currently lives in great little suburb south of Pittsburgh. 2016 Digital Marketing Essentials Learn how to improve your search engine performance dramatically and do more business online! Check it out!