Collaboration Technology

Technology as a Collaboration Enabler

Technology is really amazing…and really frustrating.  As a career IT professional, I’ve seen so many changes since my old days of writing COBOL and FORTRAN programs on mainframe computers.  All programs were to automate mind-numbingly boring business processes like typing up invoices and posting records to a ledger.  Application Development is still one of my passions, but it has gotten so complex and so difficult.  Executives tell me things like:

  • “I can type an address into my car and it will give me turn by turn direction to get me there -and- alert me when there is traffic or an accident.” … 
  • “My phone can tell me the weather, the time, what’s on TV, where my friends are dining, and play by play action from the hockey game.  In fact, calling it a phone is like calling my BMW a cup holder.” …
  • “My Apple Watch can tell me how many steps I’ve taken, how many flights I’ve climbed, my heart rate, my blood pressure, and how long I slept last night.”  …
  • “Why can’t your inventory system tell me when we are low on widgets?”

Technology and apps can do some amazing things.  It raises the bar on what users expect so high, it is impossible to knock anyone’s socks off with business applications any longer.  My explanation that my IT labor budget for five developers is but a small fraction of a rounding error to the R&D Investments in applications made by Apple or Google.  But as frustrating as they are to IT folks, they sure do make some useful, time saving apps.  Let‘s look at a few that really enable Collaboration.

Office Productivity – Say what you want about Microsoft, they really get collaboration.  Office 365 is beautifully written and provides great collaboration features.  Outlook is still the best communications platform ever written with its Email, shared calendars, shared resources, task lists, and contact lists all seamlessly woven together.  Add to it Teams to provide a unified place to message, meet, and share content.  Planner provides enough Project Management for most casual users.  Each user gets 1 Terabyte of storage in Microsoft’s cloud with OneDrive.  And for true collaboration, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote all allow users to update documents at the same time.  And let’s not forget that Office 365 runs on every device you own.  I can run my entire company from my phone.  Is every feature the best-in-class?  Maybe not, but in aggregate, it is better than anything else out there.

Note Taking – It is really difficult to keep your focus on the topics being discussed in a meeting while taking notes.  Typing them on a laptop is an option but very distracting for me and the other meeting participants.  (Just between us – if you are in a meeting with me and I am taking notes on a laptop, I am probably multitasking reading and replying to emails).  Handwriting notes is faster but retyping them for distribution is a pain and quite time consuming.  I have a couple of favorite time-savers:

  • GoodNote – I run this on my iPad and I take notes by hand with an Apple Pen.  I can convert my handwriting to text and my notes are all searchable.  Finally, I can upload my notes automatically to OneDrive or DropBox to share with my team.
  • Voice to Text – Most everyone owns a smart phone.  Smart phones have amazing capabilities that can really help facilitators.  Here are a few 5-Star Apps that will help.  Most are low-cost/no-cost.  All allow you to record unlimited length sound and save the recording as a WAV or MP3 file.
    • Voice Recorder Pro from Dayana Networks Ltd
    • Recorder Plus from Turbokey Studio
    • Otter Voice Notes from AISense Inc. – Please note that Otter Voice Notes allows you to convert audio notes to text and save as your meeting minutes.
    • Evernote – This is one of my favorite Apps because you can have a version on every platform (Phone, tablet, laptop and desktop) and sync so you always have your notes with you.

Legal disclaimer – It is illegal to record conversations without notifying the participants that you are recording.  Please announce that you are recording the meeting.  I love hearing from you all, but not so much from your attorneys.  Please research the recording of conversation laws in your state and follow them.

  • Audio/Video Technology – There are a lot of great apps out there to enable collaboration.  However, the best and most effective method of collaborating is to get a bunch of team members in a conference room and talk.  Email and texting don’t convey emotion.  And I am still waiting for someone to develop a Sarcasm font!  When folks get together, nothing improves collaboration like everyone seeing and hearing the same message, the same way, at the same time.  Investments in A/V equipment, especially large format touchscreen monitors for conference rooms are the best investment you can make.  They have collaboration tools and templates for business and education purposes.  They have features for Video Conferencing to bring team members into the “live” discussion from other cities.  And the best feature is that anyone in the room can take control of the screen and drive their portion of the presentation.  Combine that with speakers and lighting and you can provide a true multi-media experience.  There are many options to choose.  I personally like iBoardTouch’s solution suite.    

I love Collaboration Tools.  There are so many other examples I could have provided.  As a strategic IT/CIO consultant, one of my primary focuses is to transform IT Departments from reactive Helpdesk responders into proactive Strategic Business Partners.  One of the ways to do that is to recommend solutions to help clients use Technology as a Collaboration Enabler.  Hey, that would be a great title for a blog.  I would love to help you take your collaboration to the next level.  Hit the Comment or Email link below and we can talk.    

As always, I love hearing your comments and anecdotes.