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3 Apps to Make WFH More Collaborative
Many have discovered the feasibility and pitfalls of working from home over the past several months. Now that most of the urgent issues are resolved, such as finding a space to work, allowing for remote access, and acquiring conferencing technologies, it’s time to raise the bar. With the proper tools and adjustments, work from home can facilitate more productivity and better collaboration than an in-office experience.
Though I’ve been working from home for some time, I want to acknowledge that it isn’t necessarily an easy transition. Any type of disruption to workflow and conditions can be disruptive. The situation over the past few months was very difficult as everything changed — for us, our colleagues, and family members.
But it’s becoming clear that the traditional office isn’t coming back anytime soon. Some of us will go back to work soon, but that won’t eliminate distributed team challenges. The good news is remote work has never been easier, but that’s not the same as intuitive. Rebuilding productivity to accommodate remote teams isn’t enough; we can do better than before. We can create better— stronger — faster collaboration in six million ways.
Below, I recommend three different apps that address different pieces of the collaboration puzzle.
Sneek provides what’s known as persistent video, which is sometimes associated with Big Brother — but it isn’t true. It’s easier to think of Sneek as the next generation of presence. Instead of relying on a green dot to indicate presence, it utilizes the webcam to provide frequent snapshots. Not only does it depict if someone is at their desk or not, but like all forms of video communications, it conveys much more, such as clothing, hairstyles, if they are holding a phone to their head, and more.
If that sounds invasive, I hope you keep your eyes closed as you walk by cubes and doorways at the office. And that’s the point. Sneek can replace those casual encounters for a distributed team. A quick click transforms the photo into a live two-way video chat. It is only in this live mode when video and sound are sent, and if such pop-ins are inappropriate, a user can disable the feature by changing their status or closing the app.
What I like about Sneek is that it recreates those casual and spontaneous observations and interactions that often occur in an office setting. Sneek is available for trial and in use by several large, well-known organizations. For more info, check out this podcast with Del Currie of Sneek.io.
In an entirely different direction, let’s consider how teams collaborate on email. Many of us have come to rely on collaborative tools for documents and spreadsheets, but email remains a very personal application. This is one of the reasons why messaging apps are growing for internal communications. Messaging apps provide a more collaborative experience, and conversational history becomes a shareable knowledge base.
Despite the rise in popularity of messaging apps, email usage continues to thrive, particularly for external communications. Though we don’t associate the act of writing an email as a collaborative exercise, it often is. Users have to deal with rudimentary features to collaborate, such as CC, forwarding, and reply-all. If those “features” aren’t enough, we can hear users resort to shouting over cube walls or copy/pasting message content into a different app.
Front adds a collaborative application that works with existing email infrastructure. Team members can review, comment, and assign responses, and the resulting reply is sent from within the Front client. It is typically used by large customer service teams that share a group service or support mail address. However, it can also be used more casually by smaller teams and as a personal client.
For example, a sales team could use it to manage incoming general inquiries. Front allows team members to share best practices and responses and avoids reply collisions. Messages can be routed/assigned by rules, and team members can discuss appropriate responses within the app. It offers efficient tools to collaborate and manage email and track a team’s activities.
Although optimized for group mailboxes, Front can also be used on personal email accounts too. This creates a unified email app and allows a team member to individually select specific emails that they may want advice on from others. Front uses its own desktop and mobile clients but doesn’t require IT administration. It’s priced per user/per month, so it can be an effective add-on for any distributed team — with or without a group mailbox. For more info, check out this podcast with Mathilde Collin of Front.
One of the oldest myths that continues to stymie remote work is the perception that proper management requires close visual supervision of employees. This may be true with physical work such as construction or factory work, but visual supervision isn’t a particularly effective means to manage knowledge workers. The better answers involve data or outcome-based metrics, but that’s easier said than done.
There are so many different knowledge management roles that objective measurements are inherently custom, and beyond the reach of many managers and supervisors. Emails, web surfing, phone calls, CRM updates, and other activities are indicators of activity, but not necessarily productivity. Also, visual supervision is subject to the Hawthorne Effect.
Our day-to-day productive endeavors do leave a bread trail of clues that reveal productivity. That’s where Prodoscore comes in. It monitors a user’s interactions (CRM updates, email messages, phone calls, chats, etc.) and provides a simple productivity score. This concept is analogous to a credit score, a simple metric backed by lots of complex and esoteric data.
Prodoscore runs in the background, so no additional work is created for users. It’s primarily aimed at managers, such as a sales manager, that is trying to make sense of their team’s activities and productivity. A simple dashboard reveals total interactions, and the manager can drill down into specific user activities by hour and/or communications channel.
Managers that are struggling to adapt their role to a distributed, work-at-home environment will value Prodoscore, and wonder why they weren’t using it before. Prodoscore was featured in the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect in 2019. It works with numerous cloud-delivered services for email, UCaaS, CRM, and more. It’s priced per user/per month. For more info, check out this video with Denise Hazime of Prodoscore.
This pandemic has upset where and how we work. It has accelerated digital transformation and cloud-adoption like nothing else. It has quite literally forced organizations and professionals around the world to reexamine tools, communications, and how they do business.
Enterprise communications and collaboration have been steadily evolving for the past several decades, but there’s only been a few times where effective collaboration could really promise a competitive advantage. That’s the situation now. Many well-oiled enterprise machines have come to a halt. Many are struggling with basic interactions. The difference between those that have transformed and those that have not may be a matter of competitive survival.
Dave Michels is a Contributing Editor and Analyst at TalkingPointz