Asynchronous Collaboration Requires a Rethink of Your Tools

man working on laptop sitting on a parapet wall

Avi Richards

Slowly but surely, things are opening up again, moving towards more familiar pre-pandemic norms. But when it comes to running a business, things will likely never be the same. The market looks drastically different, consumer demand feels at times unfamiliar, and some former ways of doing things no longer serve business needs.

All of this change is driving the need to reevaluate conventional tool sets and processes to determine if they’re best suited for 2021 and beyond.

For a number of companies, the year 2020 showed just how feasible it was to conduct business remotely. Organizations were surprised to find work still got done with a distributed workforce. But not everything can be replicated in home offices, and studies of workplace behavior and team dynamics demonstrate this.

One survey found that people working full-time at home in 2020 spent 37% less time collaborating with one another than before the pandemic. “People reported working in individual focus mode 62% of the time and 27% in collaboration mode, a disparity that negatively impacts company creativity and productivity.” In a separate survey on collaboration and creativity, “25% of workers worked more individually in silos” while working remotely last year.

Collaboration amongst team members is crucial when it comes to building successful organizations, and perhaps especially when it comes to creating content for meaningful digital experiences. For collaboration’s sake, it’s worth looking at how COVID-19 has impacted our notion of “business as usual,” and how we move forward.

Be Smart About Asynchronous Work and Where Communication May Suffer

One very real dynamic of the past year is that work has become less synchronous — the quarantine required it. Life was upended, schools and offices were closed, and remote workers needed the flexibility to work with more autonomy during off hours, or at least with less structure than in an office setting.

Beyond email communication, companies leaned on tools like Asana, Slack and Trello to stay in touch and on task. Without hallway conversations or break-room small talk, that relational gap was filled by virtual meetings — likely more meetings than necessary. In reflecting on the past year, one software co-founder said his company’s analysis of meeting titles — update, sync, catch-up, review — revealed the nature of “work” being done during them. “Most meetings aren’t for decision-making,” he said. “They’re for sharing information. As such, they could have been just as effective when performed asynchronously.”

Whether a company plans a 100% full-time return to the office or is embracing a more fluid and hybrid workplace, leaders must recognize the potential of conversations being lost because of their asynchronous nature. When a quick, real-time conversation can’t be had for a piece of content or digital campaign, how do you communicate effectively so projects stay in motion? When questions arise, how are they answered so that deadlines are still met? How do you streamline workflows so they reduce the pain of conversations that have to take place asynchronously? Be sure your tools and processes aren’t letting critical communication fall through the cracks.

Related Article: Make ‘Work in Threads, Play in Chat’ Your Mantra

Your Employees Need Context When Collaborating for Alignment 

As businesses optimize their post-COVID, likely hybrid work environments, it’s important their content collaboration tools provide the context needed for work to get accomplished. This means having a shared understanding of who is responsible for what, providing visibility at every moment in the asset lifecycle. Context includes the status of an in-progress asset or project, standards to reference for the usage or editing of existing content, along with transparency around versions and file properties.

The bottom line: A tool for content collaboration needs to facilitate meaningful connections related to content creation and iteration.

WeWork studied the impact of working from home on collaboration and found that “when interacting with colleagues, (collaborative team members) struggle to make decisions quickly, solve problems creatively and generate new ideas.” While WeWork might have some interest in getting people back in the office, the broader point is still valid. Without the context that’s needed for collaboration, workflows become inefficient. Your tools for content collaboration should fuel creativity and alignment amongst the teams responsible for delivering that content.

When it comes to asynchronous work, it’s important that a collaboration tool allows for work to be done in context, from a single work-in-progress asset. If you’re sending files back and forth as attachments via email, you’re beholden to someone else’s schedule or time zone. But if you’re operating from a shared platform with real-time folder and file access, team members have the context they need to get their work done, on their time.

Related Article: 4 Drivers of Effective Collaboration and Productivity in the Hybrid Office

With High Speed-to-Market Stakes, Everyone Needs to Be on the Same Page

To follow the trend of C’s — communication and collaboration — I’ve got one more for you: consistency. When dealing with visual assets and the digital experiences that a potential customer will see, maintaining quality and brand standards is paramount. So, with things picking back up post-pandemic, every person who touches a piece of content has to be on the same page. Frankly, you can’t afford not to be.

Even before 2020, a company’s ability to go to market quickly was viewed as a competitive advantage. That pressure hasn’t gone away. The need to collaborate more effectively — and yes, more consistently — has doubled or tripled as we emerge from this disruptive time. Consider the findings of a study conducted by Salesforce. Eighty-six percent of executives say that ineffective collaboration has been the culprit of failed projects in business. Furthermore, a Gallup poll measuring employee engagement found that 53% of workers are “not engaged,” suggesting these team members are “not cognitively and emotionally connected to their work and workplace.” Ensuring your workplace technology fosters consistency and connection is important in having engaged workers who speed up your time to market.

Embrace New Technology to Future-Proof Creative Collaboration

Asynchronous collaboration can be powerful, if you have the right tool sets to enable improved collaboration and streamlined workflows. Automation is sweeping its way through multiple categories of business technology, including DAM solutions and media management tools critical to the digital experiences consumers rely on today. It’s important that technologies and processes support the “new normal” of business that are based on remote interaction, while still enabling a single source of truth for business’ created content.

Sanjay Sarathy is VP of marketing at Cloudinary, a provider of end-to-end digital media management solutions. With more than twenty years experience in leading global marketing programs, his work spans tech startups and established market leaders in SaaS, Big Data, analytics and e-commerce.

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