The State of Digital Collaboration in 2022.
Why do we care, and why should you
Honestly, we've been amazed. We saw teams adopt new workflows and methodologies - as an example, the use of our new Kanban Boards in Gmail grew by a whopping 700%.
As Salesforce puts it "2020 wasn't all bad". Companies proved they can move faster than they thought possible: as stated by McKinsey "in just a few months’ time, the COVID-19 crisis has brought about years of change in the way companies do business".
But with teams being fast-tracked into this New World of Work, is everything that easy yet? Every day, we're helping customers transform teamwork. And we're witnessing both opportunities and challenges. So we decided to roll out a survey to dive into the state of digital collaboration and uncover teams' top priorities in 2022.
Why are we doing this? Of course, this survey will nurture our product roadmap. But we also intend to inspire and empower you and your team to make the Future of Work your Present.
What you can expect from this study:
- You'll discover the results of our survey, so you can compare your experience with the answers of other teams just like yours.
- You'll find an actionable guide to champion digital collaboration in 2022. Identify tools, workflows and best practices that make sense for your company.
About the data: who took part in our digital collaboration survey?
Of the 162 total respondents, the largest group (31%) worked in companies of 50-250 employees. 26% worked in companies with up to 10 employees, 26% worked in companies of 10-50 employees, and 15% in companies above 250 employees. The remainder were independent entrepreneurs (3%).
🙋🏻 Team size
The largest group of respondents (43%) declared working within teams of 2-5 members, followed by teams of 6-10 (25%), teams of 11-25 (15%). 8% declared working in teams larger than 25 people and the remainder declared working independently.
The largest group of respondents were Team Managers (37%), followed by CEOs and business owners (19%), Team Members (17%), and then Senior Executives (13%). 4% worked as IT administrators and the remainder declared either working as an independent (3%) or other (5%).
#1 Digital Collaboration is not perfect yet
#2 Remote work amplified pre-existing pain points
Fake urgency, lack of transparency and cross-team collaboration are the top collaboration pain points selected by respondents. If these 3 were rampant before COVID-19, the switch to remote work only amplified them.
Top 3 pain points
🚨 Fake urgency
🤷 Lack of transparency
🤝 Cross-team collaboration
Even under the same roof, cross-team collaboration proved to be a challenge. Different reporting lines, goals, tools, workflows... and these differences only increased as teams went remote. Yet tools, workflows, and goals can be unified. Read on to learn how.
#3 Teams tried 80+ new collaboration tools
#4 Cost and ease drive purchase decisions
#5 Teams feel the pain of tool overload
#6 Email is not going away
In this new world of work, email remains a central part of a teams' workflow. Yet, it's mostly used as an external communication channel, to interact with customers, partners, and vendors. Only 20% of teams like to collaborate internally over email, which is where syncing email with other channels can considerably transform and remove friction across team workflows.
#7 Better project management tops the list of priorities
Project management tools and methodologies emerge as the #1 focus to improve digital collaboration, highlighting the need for a more structured approach to work.
Teams are also increasingly focusing on making their workflows smarter, either through more automation, integrations or by consolidating their stack of tools.
Last but not least, another trend we uncovered in our study is the will to improve internal communication, spanning across focusing on company culture, better documentation, smarter meetings, and supporting employees' performance.
Collaboration tools in 2022: how to build your stack
Based on the insights from our study, we decided to create a suggested list of collaboration tools based on their:
Messaging tools are here to resolve such problems.
Speaking of the same room in the remote environment, you should take a peek at Teamflow. It creates a virtual office space for you and your team to hang out and work together. It’s fun, but most importantly it can totally help you give warmer welcomes to new hires and reinforce a sense of belonging. 🏢
Even if you didn’t use any of the messaging tools before, in 2020 they became completely inevitable. Although, being essential doesn’t mean being perfect.
So even if you're not looking for a new messaging tool, we’re sure you’re not a stranger to the exhausting feeling of fake urgency that comes with 24/7 connectivity.
Back to messaging tools, we’ve listed below 3 apps including Slack, Google Chat, and Mattermost.
All of them provide 1:1 and group messaging (including chats with external partners), file sharing and data search, audio and video conferencing, as well as screen sharing.
Although, if you're looking for a lighter or simpler video conferencing tool, check out Whereby. Not only it offers “one-click access” to meeting rooms, video meetings with no login nor download, but it also allows you to participate in initiatives like planting trees for hosting meetings. 🌳
You’ve probably heard about “Zoom fatigue” or “Zoombombing”, right? This is why we want to drive your attention to video tools for asynchronous conversations to collaborate and engage with your team.
Below we’ve looked at 3 asynchronous video tools, including Loom, Vidyard, and Hippo Video.
All are rather intuitive and easy to use. Thanks to the flexibility of asynchronous communications, these apps help accelerate team communication and boost productivity. They allow you to easily deliver impactful onboarding, team training, and corporate communications.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools
You need it to track your lead and customer pipeline, collect contact details, and centralize data in one place.
Below we’re listing 3 well-known software, namely HubSpot, Pipedrive and Salesforce. While all of them are reliable, powerful and easy-to-use, they are geared towards slightly different users.
Project Management tools
Although, with the variety of project management tools available, choosing one for your team can easily become overwhelming.
To help you out, we decided to focus on 3 powerful, yet quite different solutions including, Trello, Asana, and ClickUp.
Knowledge Management tools
Below we’ve listed Slite, Notion and Guru. With one of it in hand, each of your teammates will have access to the right information at any time. A knowledge management software acts as a centralized hub, preventing you to waste time needlessly toggling between apps and tabs.
A new way to collaborate with 2-way integrations
Collaboration pitfalls to expect and to avoid
“The more the merrier” doesn’t really work in case of a collaboration stack. Here it’s rather “less is more”.
Our survey clearly shows the sentiment of tool overload, hence needless apps switching, lack of visibility and, as a result, lower team productivity. Instead of adding new tools think of integrating your existing tools with each other. You will prevent duplication of tasks, and provide your team with a centralized source of information.
Collaboration solutions with bidirectional integrations
At Gmelius we also understand the need to transform your work processes allowing each team member to collaborate right inside the tools they already use.
Our survey shows teams are looking for:
Workflow automation: where to start
As the Harvard Business Review puts it “every job contains some unglamorous grunt work”. But what’s considered grunt work after all?
All work and no play
We believe grunt work is all the repetitive, boring yet unskippable tasks that need to be done for any successful project. Whether you're switching between apps while searching for the right information or following up on the status of work - all this falls under grunt work.
According to SnapLogic, 90% of employees are being burdened with boring and repetitive tasks which could be easily automated.
Workflow automation is here to do the heavy lifting of any part of your daily processes and give your teams the needed freedom to focus on what matters.
Workflow automations to the rescue
To give you an idea which processes can be automated, below we're listing the ones you can use as a starting point.
Automate workload distribution
Regardless of your department, you want to spend less time distributing and assigning tasks. By creating service level agreements within each team and across departments, you’ll make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them. You can then set up automation rules that would distribute workload on the chosen triggers.
Remote work not only skyrocketed the number of tools we use daily, but also the number of meetings we attend. To reduce the number of unnecessary meetings you can also automate the way you schedule and even run them.
You may also want to automate meeting minutes, allowing tools like deepTalk or Hendrix to record, transcribe and summarize meeting conversations for you.
Automate customer outreach and follow-ups
Delivering customer-facing services in a timely manner is crucial. For efficient client management a game-changer will be to streamline repetitive outreach (think of confirmation emails), automatically trigger internal notifications or reminders, as well as engage and pre-qualify customers with AI-powered chats, like Drift or Intercom.
Streamline your hiring processes
COVID-19 has significantly changed the hiring process. There are no more face-to-face interviews or real-life employee onboarding. On top, with millennials representing 50% of the global workforce, hiring processing is also increasing in frequency.
For companies to attract the right workforce, streamlining their hiring processes is key. Allow candidates to schedule appointments with you themselves - without interrupting your daily workflows. Also, consider creating predefined email templates to eliminate repetitive tasks at each stage of the selection process, use tools like Breezy or GoHire to automate application tracking and selection, and define an onboarding package to get your employees up to speed in a remote world.
APIs and no-code automation tools
Above were just a few examples, but based on your industry and use case there are so many more processes that can be automated. In today’s digital economy, application programming interfaces (APIs) allow you to extract data from one software application and pass it to another one securely and in real time.
Today, to automate your business processes you don’t even have to know how to be a developer. No-code tools like Unito, PieSync or Zapier allow you to connect tools between each other and sync data within your existing stack, while, for example, Glide lets you create custom applications by only using your Google Spreadsheets. Another no-code hack we love ourselves is Airtable scripts that help teams automate manual work whether it’s to remove duplicates or convert URLs into attachments.
Company transparency: 7 best practices you can use
Clear accountability and transparency play a key role in employees’ alignment and provide visibility of a bigger picture. It’s especially crucial when everyone is working remotely.
Front’s team surveyed 2,000 remote workers across the U.S and found that 58% of respondents said that working from home has made it difficult for them to see the larger purpose of their job.
Transparency comes with simplification and flexibility. Whether it’s to visualize a workflow with your preferred view option, easily find all relevant information, automate grunt work, schedule a meeting in 1 click or let your teammates choose which tool to collaborate from with the rest of the team.
Below we’re listing a few best practices to help you reach the desired level of transparency across your teams.
#1 Identify your go-to project management methodology
We’ve summarized the 4 types of project management methodologies and how to choose the right one for your team in an article a few weeks ago:
#2 Embrace asynchronous communication
In our study, fake urgency and better workflows are in the top priorities to improve digital collaboration. And we couldn't agree more. We believe asynchronous communication is a foundation for better workflows.
Asynchronous communication (or async, for short) is gaining momentum for a reason. Especially when working remotely, work simply can't happen at the same time for everyone.
Why is there such a need? Because asynchronous communication gives employees control when they communicate with their teammates. Async communication lets you prioritize deep work, efficiently structure communication and, as a result, reach company-wide transparency.
So where do you start with asynchronous communication?
- Bring your stack together to let everyone collaborate and structure their workflows in their preferred way
- Connect your team inbox with internal chat to centralize conversations around emails and have contextualized information available at your fingertips
- Choose tools that support both real-time and asynchronous communication (like Pitch for collaborative presentations)
- Document your processes and learn to communicate more clearly to avoid unnecessary back and forths
- Avoid ASAP requests, communicate everything upfront and better plan your collaborations and workload in advance
#3 Create a company wiki
Remote work means less casual conversations and water cooler chats. Remote work also means your colleagues might be sleeping during your working hours. Thus, remote work means everyone should document all key processes.
Because proper documentation brings transparency. So, if you haven’t yet, start by creating a company wiki. As Slite puts it, the most important is to help your team trade oral communication, emails, and chats, for a written culture. A company-wiki should make it so easy to get in the habit of documenting your work and give everyone the autonomy to clearly find and share up-to-date information.
According to our respondents, many teams are in need for “Better sharing of information”.
A company wiki does exactly this. It centralizes all your company information, makes it easy to find and collaborate on it in real time. Think of documenting your company values and roadmap, onboarding processes, administrative information, taking meeting notes and recording company announcements.
#4 Set the stage for smarter meetings
To help you plan and successfully run meetings, we’ve collected 3 tips in a blog post that we, at Gmelius, are following ourselves.
The problem of the Iceberg of Ignorance where “Only 4% of an organization's front-line problems are known by top management” is still relevant today.
Thus, if you're looking for more advice, consider bringing all voices into a conversation, encouraging quieter members to participate and share potential roadblocks.
Last but not least, tools like Fellow can help you take and share meeting notes with all attendees, where every member will have a clear understanding of next actions and takeaways.
#5 Set clear goals
Next, make sure you set SMART goals for your team. Without clear accountability and understanding of what your team should aim for, it is hard to hit company goals.
Last but not least, work towards establishing a 2-way dialog and being close with your team. Consider booking time for regular team stand-ups and 1:1s, and constantly communicating with your team on company objectives to champion alignment.
#6 Make team performance visible
To reach the desired level of visibility, especially when working remotely, consider implementing Daily Diary practices. Your team can use any of the knowledge management tools to briefly explain who is doing what on a daily basis.
In addition, you can gain a bigger picture and better estimate team performance with robust team performance reports. For example, Gmelius dashboard provides you with detailed team activity reports. They allow you to track critical email KPIs, identify roadblocks and unblock them, driving continuous improvements.
#7 Make your team happier
The world of work is changing - and changing us. In the light of these changes many see the “better physical communication”, “better in-person communication” or “more face-to-face interactions” as part of needed improvements.
As the NewYorker states it “Digital technology should not be a substitute for human connection”, instead it “should help human connection when there are constraints of space and time”. Thus, we hope all the best practices mentioned in this study will help you make the most of your stack.
Company transparency, flexible workspace and employee wellbeing are going hand in hand. A study around the state of remote work in 2020 shows that the top 3 biggest struggles when working remotely are collaboration / communication, loneliness and not being able to unplug. That’s why we’ve put together 3 more tips to help you make your teams happier.
2022 and beyond
The Future of Work is here and it’s up to you, your team and your company to define a new blueprint. We hope this report can inspire you to get started.
On our side, we're on a mission to take down fake urgency, lack of transparency, and cross-team collaboration hurdles. We'll continue to listen to our customers and design solutions to make the Future of Work your Present.