Useful meeting and collaboration tools for hybrid teams

Corona has changed today’s world of work. Even after the lockdown, working from home will persist for many employees. Hybrid work is becoming more and more popular. The first companies are already thinking of reducing their office space or adapt it to changing needs. But what does this mean for the collaborative work of project teams, departments and branches/offices?

Since the home office phase, UC tools like Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex and Zoom have been on everyone’s lips as the solution for distributed collaboration. At the same time, it also became clear that not all meeting and workshop situations can be handled with UC solutions alone. It needs additional tools. Moreover, the creative value of a personal exchange between team colleagues cannot always be achieved through simple video conferencing. In the future, Interactive meeting rooms, collaboration spaces and innovation labs will therefore be increasingly demanded and needed.

The question is, however: Which collaboration and communication technology must be used in the future to enable effective and efficient collaboration, innovation workshops, design sprints, etc. when parts of the team are in the office and parts need to be connected remotely? It should be crystal clear that if work areas are reduced due to hybrid working, the functionality and flexibility of these areas must be increased at the same time.

Technology in the meeting room: analogue collaboration tools reach their limits

Hybrid work situations increase the demands on the technical equipment of meeting rooms. Purely analogue tools such as metaplan walls or flipcharts are reaching their limits when employees working from home want to be included. Even the beamer, with which I can present content from the laptop I brought along, does not help me to show this content to my colleagues at home at the same time.

During the lockdown, many companies learned the value of UC tools. But now it is time to bring these tools into the rooms. Here you have to choose the right hardware. It must also be clarified which additional tools are required. In order to sensibly plan meeting and collaboration rooms under these new requirements, a strategic approach with a thorough requirement analysis and a clear planning in the selection and use of UC, presentation and collaboration tools is required. In this blog post we will show you what this could look like.

First question: What kind of meetings do you have?

Before you consider which technology, you would like to use in your rooms, you should first clarify what you want to do there. What are your typical meetings like? Are they just standard presentation or are they workshops with a joint development of results? Already in a study in 2017, the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences has established that in the majority of meetings, 75% of all meetings are interactive and collaborative.

Furthermore, a recent Gartner study found out that in future more than 40% of the employees want to work in the home office. This means that in the future people from the home office will have to be connected regularly. How about you? Do you have an analysis of your typical meeting situations? Or do you have the means to perform such an analysis? How many of your employees currently work in the home office and what will this look like in the future?

meeting types

Second question: What kind of collaboration must be supported and what tools are available for it?

Collaborative collaboration is becoming increasingly important. This has not changed even with Corona. The decisive factor for the choice of technology is therefore the question of how you want to work collaboratively in your company and which tools you need to implement a hybrid way of working.

Before Corona, four dimensions of collaboration could be distinguished here (1. same time, same place; 2. same time, different place; 3. different time, same place; 4. different time, different place – see Fig. 2). Due to the hybrid work situation, however, this has become confused anew. Since Corona, the focus has clearly shifted to meetings with participants in different locations. But how will this develop in the future?

dimensions of collaboration

Dimension 1: Same space same time and dimension 2: Same time different space

With home office and hybrid working, we are currently experiencing a merging of dimensions 1 and 2. The pure dimension 1 is not hybrid and will at least for the time being and in parts also permanently recede more and more into the background due to hygiene rules and now recognized savings potentials in travel costs and time. However, most of the rooms today (+a video system) are equipped for this kind of collaborative work. The challenge here will be to increasingly involve individual team members remotely in meetings and workshops in the future, not only via video call, but with the opportunity to actively participate.

Most and best-known tools of the second dimension are online-based. In addition to telephony, often via the Internet as Voice-Over-IP, so-called “instant messaging systems” are particularly important. In addition to the Videocall function, the common UC tools also have such chat functions. These systems can usually also be used to exchange files and share screens.

For hybrid teamwork it becomes more important to bring the UC tools into the meeting rooms. Every colleague has a Microsoft Team, Webex or Zoom client on his laptop. But if several colleagues have to gather around a small screen, there is little point. For this reason, meeting rooms should be equipped with the possibility of using these tools with the help of larger displays, cameras, microphones and loudspeakers, so that they can be used optimally by several people. (Read more about current solutions in our blog post „UCC and Smart Meeting“)

In addition to the UC system, collaboration software tools such as DEON, Miro, Conceptboard, Mural or Hoylu are useful for this purpose. These provide virtual workspaces where several people can simultaneously create, edit or organize content in real space and via web connection. In the meeting room, the appropriate hardware is also required in order to be able to use these virtual areas in real space with the best possible usability. Digital whiteboards, touch displays or interactive projection screens can be used for this purpose.

Dimension 3: Same space, different time

Dimension 3 can also be an answer for hybrid work. Instead of people working simultaneously in different rooms, they work in the same room at different times.

Collaboration tools of this dimension must therefore not only be able to display digital content, they must also offer the possibility of storing this content in such a way that colleagues can access it again at a later time to continue working with it. To achieve this, they must be embedded in the digital infrastructure of the companies. The tools include a digital bulletin board, digital notice boards or project management solutions such as Trello or Jira. These solutions then function more as coordination than as collaboration tools. Since these tools must function digitally through hybrid teamwork, they are usually integrated into fourth-generation tools.

Dimension 4: Different time, different space

Dimension 4 is by far the most comprehensive and today includes more tools than all other dimensions combined. The key to its great importance lies in the Internet. This has created a multitude of new collaboration possibilities that almost everyone is dealing with in their daily work. The collaboration room often shifts from the meeting room to the individual workplace. Because confidential documents can be sent by e-mail to numerous recipients around the world at any time, in real time. Nevertheless, the recipients can still read the message later.

One step further into the fourth dimension are workplaces with blogs and wikis such as Sharepoint or Confluence. Collaboration takes place constantly in these Internet forums or the intranet – no matter how large a team is, how widely distributed and at what times it works. Changes are always visible to all participants in real time, can be tracked and commented on. Blogs, in particular, are becoming increasingly popular as a medium for internal corporate communication, as they can help to reduce the number of time-consuming and expensive townhall meetings and distribute information quickly and cost-effectively in large companies. Everyone receives the information when it fits into their individual schedule.

Conclusion:

The topic of hybrid work has also thrown collaboration into turmoil and created new challenges. More and more frequently, collaboration takes place with participants at different locations with different technical equipment. For this, analog collaboration tools must be reinterpreted and digitally integrated. Web- or cloud-based UC tools offer many possibilities for hybrid teamwork. But if you want to work fully collaboratively, you need additional tools and systems. Online solutions for the joint editing and coordination of content and projects make sense here.

The challenge for companies now is to provide the technical possibilities for these scenarios in order to maintain the high speed that is made possible by ad hoc decisions in meetings, even though some participants cannot be present live. The necessary hardware and IT infrastructure must be provided in the meeting rooms. Communication processes, data structures, access rights and data security also play a role here.

In order to proceed in a targeted manner, you need a strategic approach. This involves first defining your use cases and requirements and then selecting the appropriate processes, software tools and hardware. Be prepared, talk to us, together we will plan the collaboration of the future.

Authors:

Florin Schwarz, Consultant Future Workplace Collaboration and Methods, macomGROUP
Martin C. Wagner, Head of Marketing macomGROUP

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