One way in which the Web has opened up new possibilities for small businesses is by enabling online collaboration between staff, clients, vendors and contractors. What once took a long email chain and several phone calls involving 8 people now gets accomplished by a message board post, a few comments and a shared file that everyone can access. What once took a 1-hour meeting involving 8 people now takes … a message board post, a few comments and a shared file that everyone can access. See a trend here?
So here are 5 reasons why your productivity will most likely jump by using online collaboration tools (unless you use them to share pet photos or cupcake recipes, in which case you may be a lost cause).
1. Because meetings suck
Back when I was an employee, I loathed meetings, and I swore when I had my own business I would never have them. Here’s what happens at meetings … nothing. People chit-chat about football or their new hair color for the first 10 minutes. Keeping everyone on-topic is a constant struggle. Side conversations distract everyone. And in the end, very little progress and few decisions have been made. Basically, after any meeting, take the number of hours, multiply it by the number of people and the result is the number of person-hours that just got wasted. And then there’s the wasted money on square footage for a conference room.
Meetings suck up valuable time. The suck up your staff’s patience. They suck up your budget. Basically, they just suck. However, online collaboration allows your small business to forego most meetings (excluding the monthly birthday party meeting and the Friday happy hour meeting, of course) and enables you and your staff to stay focused on business.
2. You spend less time on the phone
The phone … another source of constant interruption. Yes, some phone calls are still important, especially when they involve a client or customer emergency. But for the most part, they interrupt what you’re working on and require you to switch gears. On the other hand, online collaboration tools let you delay responding until you are ready to respond, and they also give you the opportunity to formulate a more appropriate and well-reasoned response.
3. People get to the point
We all have our regular venues where we make trivial observations about reality TV and update our friends on our bunion problems (see Facebook, Twitter). So when it comes to web-based online collaboration involving your business, everyone is more likely to be all business. Those other sites are for personal chit-chat, whereas your online collaboration tools are to be used for business, and most people get the distinction. And if they don’t, a little prompting from you can get them back on track and using your business’s online collaboration tools properly.
4. There’s a record of everything
This point may not have as much to do with productivity as it does with covering your ass or backtracking; however, it’s still important to mention. When you and your staff, clients, vendors and contractors collaborate online, there’s a record of all your conversations, comments, files, tasks, appointments, etc. So when there’s confusion or a disagreement about something, you simply have to refer back to your online notes or documentation to see how things actually transpired and who said what. Plus if you have to return to an earlier version of a file or revisit old ideas, there’s now an easy path backwards.
5. You lose less stuff
Even if you have a foolproof system of storing files, things still slip through the cracks. Emails with important attachments get deleted. Files get stored and we forget where we put them or what the file was called, or staff members misplace them. Computer hard drives and servers go down and files are lost.
There are thousands of scenarios where files and communications go bye-bye, but with web-based collaboration, your stuff is stored in the cloud and can be more easily accessed by everyone who has access to them. There’s nothing worse than getting a call from a client, having to scramble to track down a file and then having to tell them that you can’t find it (I speak from experience here). Online collaboration saves you the effort of having to search and, if that search is fruitless, recreate something that you already created (and possibly have to eat the time).
What else can you think of that makes Web-based collaboration a big plus for small business? Let us know.
Want to give online collaboration a shot? We invite you to try Planning Pod for free and see how our Web-based tools can help your small business be more productive.