One of the appealing features of consulting as a job is the variety it provides in the people you work with, the problems you face and company cultures you get to experience. Having to work with different sets of office applications across this array of experiences can be edifying or frustrating. On-line meeting tools are one source of potential frustration. Is your video chat software intuitive? Is it reliable? Are some obvious questions. But I don’t want to get into feature comparisons. As the pandemic has forced every job in the world that can be done from home to go there, plenty of articles on meeting apps have been written. For example, examinations of Zoom vs. Microsoft Teams are here and here. A comparison of Zoom and Google Hangouts (recently rebranded as Google Meet) is here.
I’m more interested in how these tools, now that they are more widely used, will be integrated into what will become the normal workflow. This means using them in conjunction with other elements of the office software suite. Productivity is enhanced by the full adoption of a standard set of tools used by everyone to communicate, collaborate and share documents (see for example, this article). When one channel of collaboration and communication – physical proximity in an office – is taken away, the electronic means are more important than ever. That should give multi-functional tools like Teams an advantage given how channels are set up to include related elements: chat, file sharing, notes, task management (i.e., Planner), among others. If you were already using Teams, the new reality of coronavirus living may have reinforced good habits. If adoption was poor to start with, it may be reinforcing bad habits like using redundant means for some functions (how many Microsoft Office shops are using Zoom for meetings?).
Teams isn’t the only way to integrate office collaboration apps. I have one client that is making excellent use of Zoom combined with Slack, for example. The key is to have a plan for how to facilitate collaboration across the various communication channels so that things like important components of client deliverables don’t fall through the cracks of a fragmented process. This plan needs to take into account what the process was prior to going into work-from-home mode as well as the company culture. If it was a catch-up-in-the-hallway kind of atmosphere to begin with, moving to more formal processes immediately may not be an easy transition. These sorts of factors should be considered in deciding on the right mix of chat, video calls, emails and file sharing.
If done right, this new arrangement can be used as an opportunity to improve collaboration and provide for enhanced productivity going forward. This could have long-term implications for how a company operates over the uncertain times in the immediate future and beyond that when working remotely may be more about choice than necessity.
My mix of meetings this week will involve using both Teams and Zoom. I don’t expect any frustration – as long as I remember to unmute before I start talking.