“I’ll Slack it to you.”
“Make sure you start a Google Hangout for the meeting.”
“Have you checked Trello?”
“Don’t forget to put it in your Weekdone.”
Think about your marketing team — how many different tools do they use every day? It isn’t unusual for marketers to routinely use dozens of software programs on a regular basis, if not more. While it sometimes feels like we’ve simply taken our analog activities digital, this isn’t the full story. New digital tools have driven some big changes in the past few years, with some surprising effects on the way we work. Here are three major changes we’ve noticed in the way technology has affected our workflow, and what you can do to make sure they change your team’s workflow for better, not for worse.
1. Slack, Hipchat, and other IMs: New modes of office communication
Instant messaging has taken new precedence in offices as a productivity tool. Platforms like Hipchat and Slack allow for more organized, fluid chat threads that can easily be shared, searched and shaped to fit a team’s specific needs.
A Shift to Team-Focused Thinking
As a result, conversations are becoming distinctly more team-oriented than before. Instead of having to forward the new hire a backlog of months of email correspondence to get them up to speed, you can just add them to the team’s chat channel. Rather than trying to remember exactly who is working on Project X and needs to be cc’d every time you need to send out an email, you can keep everyone in the loop all the time with a project-centric channel. This helps digital conversations flow more like they do in real-life conversations and meetings.
Email is King No More
The average worker spends up to 28% of the workday on email, even when they’re communicating with people in the same workspace. That can put a serious damper on productivity. Email threads tend to be disjointed and can be hard to share, forcing conversations into static silos. With intra-office chats and file sharing solutions becoming more popular than ever, many teams are realizing that they don’t have to rely on email so heavily to get through the workday. Some organizations are even going email-free (or email-lite), eschewing in-house email entirely in favor of their favorite chat client, and they’re seeing great results.
While we’re not likely to see email go entirely the way of the dinosaurs anytime soon, we can expect it to play a more focused role in the workplace, instead of being the catch-all communication method of choice. And that’s great news for anyone who hates getting caught up in lengthy threads of one-line emails.
There’s No “Off” Switch
Another effect is that conversations are always on; for many teams, there’s no clear beginning or end to the team or project dialogue, and everyone has access to chat messages even from times when they’re not physically or digitally present. That means fewer confusing email chains and lengthy meetings to sync up, because your team stays on the same page continuously. But it can also make it hard to stop the flow of information, whether you’re just trying to switch gears for a few hours, make a final decision, or take a break from work over the weekend.
2. File sharing and Video chats change Remote Working
The ability to share files over dropbox, easily open a video chat or screen share, teams and individuals don’t have to be in the same room or even the same building to stay productive. This increased accessibility simply lets some organizations be more flexible about letting employees work from home to avoid the commute or keep office sizes down. Teams can stay agile and productive regardless of where their members are because they aren’t weighed down by technological constraints.
For some companies, this geographic flexibility means that they can hire people in different cities or even different countries without worrying about relocating, giving them access to a global resource and hiring pool. For example, Buffer now has a fully distributed team, letting them save money on office space and giving them access to a broader applicant pool as they grow.
3. Tools for Transparency
The rise of project management tools and conversation tools indicate that transparency and clarity are being prized by companies (especially startups); there’s evidence that more transparent workplaces are more satisfying to work in and more productive overall; in fact, one study showed that employees care more about transparency than they do about company culture.
On the day-to-day level, transparency can be a powerful tool for greater productivity. For example, here at TINT we use a communal Trello board to manage our content marketing strategy and editorial calendar, making it easy for anyone on the team to contribute ideas and check out what’s on deck for the blog.
Making the Most of Your Workplace Tech
As exciting as all these changes are, it’s easy to let technology become a barrier to productivity. Attachments get forgotten, Internet connections go down, and group chat can end up creating more noise than useful information. Sometimes ramping up a new tool can be clunky and slow, and transitioning to new tools sometimes means you end up adding an extra layer to your workflow for a while. The fluidity of Slack, for example, can allow watercooler conversations to jam up the works of your main conversations.
Those challenges doesn’t mean you should abandon attempts and adopting new tech. Getting your team to integrate new software can be challenging, but by following best practices to onboard new tools and get your team stoked about new software, you’ll have better results.
Focusing on training and adoption rather than deployment, and getting the leadership to start using new tools early can help ensure a smooth transition. Having a plan for how you’ll use new tools can also help. For instance, limiting the number of Slack channels you have, or designating a “goof off” channel can help keep conversations focused and minimize unnecessary chatter.
Finally, be patient and open to changes — the evolution of your workflow can be an ungraceful process, but taking advantage of the latest innovations can give you a stronger, more productive workflow and culture. The true impact of new tools on your workflow sometimes can’t be seen from the beginning.
The New Face of Workflow
Tech has changed our workflow to be more dynamic, open and fast-paced. As productivity software evolves, it’s interesting to see how organizations are gravitating towards tools that empower them to communicate better and more openly, rather than isolating them behind walls of automation and high learning curves. Finding the right tools can make your workflow faster and simpler, and lets your team spend more time working together.
The best tools are the ones that help facilitate communication and productivity, but don’t have a steep learning curve or slow down your existing processes too much. Have you found a great tool that’s helped your team increase productivity and communication, and was accessible enough for everyone to start using quickly? Tweet us @tint to share the tech tools that have supercharged your team’s workflow.