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Originally published June 30, 2022. Updated with new content November 15, 2023
Project collaboration is the coordination between team members or leaders to work together to get the project done. It’s vital at every stage of the project.
During the initiation stage, alignment with your client’s goals is essential. Once your team starts planning, every key person needs to ensure that tasks, resources, and estimates are accurately accounted for. Collaboration facilitates smooth execution and monitoring, especially when issues arise. Even when projects are concluded, extracting learnings through post-mortems is most productive when everybody shares to contribute to the team’s collective growth.
At this point, let’s clarify the difference between project management and project collaboration:
Project management is the art of ensuring projects are delivered on time, under budget, and to the satisfaction of clients. Project collaboration means creating a framework in which this can happen effectively. As a project manager, you’ll need to consider many things to facilitate project collaboration:
What’s the best way to motivate my team?
What leadership style would be appropriate for this situation?
Which type of collaboration tool set is right for this project?
What challenges should I anticipate?
To maximize your team’s capabilities through fruitful working relationships, you’ll need the right processes, tools, and mindset.
IMPORTANCE OF PROJECT COLLABORATION
There are many reasons why project collaboration is important in project management. Let’s talk about the top benefits it can provide for your team.
Align All Moving Parts
Most projects involve teams with varied competencies. For example, organizing a product launch show will involve product experts, stage designers, artists, scriptwriters, performers, hosts, and many more.
If you want your show to succeed, you’d want to promote collaboration between everyone involved so they can work hand-in-hand in delivering your client’s vision.
When goals and priorities are clear, your team can function with less supervision. Project collaboration can promote operational efficiency because it allows each member to contribute independently.
Equipped with the project’s key objectives, they’ll also be able to troubleshoot and make decisions on their own.
Problems and issues are inevitable. When they happen, project teams need to collaborate and compromise as needed.
A healthy culture of project collaboration makes each member prioritize the success of the project over his personal ego. Instead of blaming and escaping accountability, the focus is on problem-solving and taking initiative.
This mindset allows teams to stay resilient when a crisis strikes.
Progress Monitoring And Foresight
Project collaboration can give project managers a good handle on what the team is going through. This insight is beneficial for two things: progress monitoring and foresight.
Foresight is a vital quality in project managers. Anticipating issues and bottlenecks before they happen can prepare the team to address them when they come. It can even help the team dodge the hurdle completely by adjusting even before it could disrupt workflow.
Improves Team Synergy
Synergy allows individual team members to produce things that are greater than the sum of their parts.
When teams collaborate, each person’s talents are maximized. They get to bounce ideas off each other and develop them into innovative solutions. Perspectives from different experts are acknowledged and used to come up with creative solutions.
Brainstorming as a team can come with challenges such as groupthink and defaulting to consensus. But done right, it can result in eureka moments and comprehensive results. Project collaboration is necessary to create significant breakthroughs to help your client.
Increased Morale And Lower Turnover
Good collaboration among teams also affects their impression of how much their agency cares for their needs. 22% admitted that getting along with their colleagues also gives them the impression that they are cared for by the company.
When you ensure smooth project collaboration, you also make it possible for your team to create connections with and within the company to keep them motivated to work at their best.
Good project collaboration saves money on many levels. Directing information to one source of truth saves time, and time is money. Rather than paying employees to waste time gathering information from multiple sources, you pay them for getting real work done. Additionally, having one project collaboration software saves you spending money on multiple software. Furthermore, effective project collaboration brings financial gain in the long run, as your clients will be pleased with your speedy turnover and your smooth communication throughout the project. And as we all know, happy clients mean repeat clients and referrals.
Project collaboration means involving team members as much as possible, which leads to a sense of accountability for a project’s smooth-running and ultimate success. When collaboration is lacking and team members find themselves working in silos, they may be motivated to be successful in their personal work, but they won't feel accountable for ultimate project success.
HOW TO IMPROVE TEAM COLLABORATION
Team Building Activities
There can be a lot of pressure in working with new colleagues. Putting them in a casual and laid-back environment through team-building activities can help employees relax and ease into each other’s company.
Before teams can work together efficiently in a professional environment, team collaboration would be easier if they also had a good rapport with one another. Team building activities don’t have to be fancy. They can be as simple as a team lunch or an after-work hangout, or as elaborate as multi-day out-of-town trips and the like.
Putting members in an environment where they can relax and relate will give them the opportunity to work together in low-pressure environments. This can help prepare them for better project collaboration when you’re back in the office.
Team communication and collaboration aren’t as natural as you think. As a project manager, you can promote this habit by putting systems and processes in place to encourage people to collaborate.
An example is a daily stand-up where at the beginning of the day, team members would quickly go through what they finished and what they’re about to do so that everyone is informed of each one’s priority. Status meetings can also be useful. This will provide opportunities for you to see areas where teams can work together and support each other.
Systematizing collaboration can help turn it into a habit. Once it becomes second nature, you can expect better results from everyone.
Right Tools And Software
Whether your team is working on-site or online, information dissemination and communication aren’t guaranteed. Many teams that spend the majority of their time in the same office still end up working in silos. Attempting online project collaboration definitely presents a challenge
Team collaboration software makes information accessible. It allows team members to be aware, not just of their own progress, but of the team’s as well. This facilitates efficient decision-making and alignment. And when conflicts arise, discussions are easier because team members are aware of the extent of the situation.
Now that hybrid and work-from-home are gaining popularity, the right tools and software for team collaboration are becoming more crucial to facilitate project collaboration.
In the next section, let’s discuss the key features that you need to look for when picking a project management collaboration software.
Being transparent means letting team members in on decision making, keeping them in the loop about how the agency is doing in general. Basically, it creates a feeling that you’re in this together and they are not being kept in the dark about anything, whether significant or minor. Transparency creates a feeling of trust, which feeds directly into improved collaboration. This is because an atmosphere of trust enables people to more readily share ideas and opinions, as well as accept those of others.
Do Meetings Right
For better team collaboration, think about how you can improve the way in which you conduct your meetings. A couple of important points to consider are:
- Optimizing meeting times - This means planning for meetings to take place at times that are most conducive to a productive meeting, i.e. at strategic project phases, when all relevant team members are available, and at times of day when people are fresh and ready to share and hear ideas.
- Recap main points after a meeting - A lot of good points can be shared during a meeting, but in order for the meeting to have been a good use of time, there needs to be a recap so that those ideas are not forgotten or lost.
- Is it necessary? - Meetings take time and no one appreciates having to sit through meetings that lead to nowhere in particular. Think about whether your agenda can be achieved with a simple email or quick group chat, and if not, plan your meeting agenda carefully, and stick to it.
Balance Your Team's Workload
A big part of project collaboration is ensuring that team members don’t have too much or too little work at any given point in a project’s lifecycle. Keeping your finger on your employee's timetable and frequently checking in with them about their workload is vital.
Explore different forms of learning and communication
Everyone’s brains work differently and some of your employees may think and learn differently than most people. Some people are fine with communicating by email, while others would much rather pick up the phone. Some team members may thrive on using Kanban boards, while others may find them difficult to decipher. The solution? First, ask your team members what their preferences are. Then, try to implement a variety of their suggestions.
Make your workspace conducive to collaboration
Making it easy and pleasant for teammates to communicate is an obvious way to improve project collaboration. Think open-plan office spaces, relaxation areas with couches, and pleasant decor.
When you use humor, you promote a relaxed and happy atmosphere, which is, of course, conducive to smooth collaboration. Ways you can incorporate humor into your workplace include simple, verbal humor, putting up funny posters or cartoons, and including light-hearted comments in your emails and general messaging.
Why Use Project Collaboration Software?
One Source of Truth
A good project collaboration software directs stakeholders and project information to one source - usually a project collaboration software. The best project collaboration tools streamline all information into one, clear place, saving the time it would take for team members to patch information together from various sources.
Makes it Easier to Manage Teams
Project Collaboration Software shows you everything you need to know about your team on one screen; from who is presently working on a project and who is away, to exactly who is working on what, to who has too much work and who has too little. Managing a project takes a tremendous amount of organizational skills and when you don’t have to spend time chasing down information about your team as well, you save yourself a whole lot of time and trouble.
Streamlines Task Management
With project collaboration software, you can plan, direct, and keep track of tasks all in one location. With a task dashboard, you can visualize how near tasks are to completion with easy-to-read charts and graphs. Task dashboards also make it easy for your team members to keep track of their tasks and see what needs to be taken care of in order of importance.
PROJECT COLLABORATION SOFTWARE FEATURES
Projects are made up of tasks that team members need to accomplish on time to move progress forward.
There are cases where tasks relate to one another. First, as dependencies: tasks that can’t be started until another is completed. For example, your marketing creative can’t start making visuals for your social media posts without the posting calendar from your social media manager.
Second, even though there aren’t dependencies, tasks are connected to one another. For example, your community manager can use your social media posts to strike up conversations with your fans. While other discussion points can be used if the social media calendar isn’t available, complementing your social posts can amplify your efforts more.
Your project collaboration tool of choice should allow team members to be aware of each other’s progress so they know if they need to follow up or realign schedules.
Files are crucial in projects. In them are information, blueprints, plans, and trackers. As a marketing agency, your campaigns will be composed of calendars, write-ups, articles, captions, and more. Without the files that hold them, progress is impossible.
Project collaboration tools with good file exchange functions will help your team relay information more effectively. In addition to your task description, attach files that your team members can use or refer to, ensuring that you’re all aligned on what has to be done.
Synchronous Or Asynchronous Messaging
Communication is at the center of project collaboration so your project collaboration tool should be able to accommodate synchronous and asynchronous comms. Asynchronous communication can be in the form of messages and forums. Synchronous can be instant messaging or calls via voice or video.
Synchronous communication is good for brainstorming and crisis management. It allows for free-flowing discussion effective when bouncing ideas off each other and solving problems. However, its in-the-moment quality makes it prone to irrelevant information and spur-of-the-moment statements.
Asynchronous communication is less prone to impulsive inputs. People have time to think about their responses and process the information. Another good thing about asynchronous communication is that it doesn’t interrupt individuals’ workflow.
Team calendars don’t have to give everyone access to every team member’s appointment list. However, this feature can be useful in keeping track of individual work shifts, especially for companies whose employees follow a flexible schedule. It also makes it easy for teams to set meetings with each other.
It’s important to note that team calendar access isn’t a tool for micro-management. Instead, it’s meant to align everyone on the best schedules when setting collaborative engagements.
A project collaboration tool holds a lot of information. While an abundance of information is generally good, project managers need to keep the most important ones –such as important announcements, upcoming deadlines, team priorities, and reminders –visible.
Project dashboards summarize the most important information about your project in a digestible interface. Information visibility can help teams stay focused and aligned. As a project manager, it also removes the need for you to constantly repeat yourself.
Organizing and finding information is just as important as access and storage. Regardless of how many files you have, they’re useless if they can’t be retrieved when needed. This is where a search feature is handy.
Manually looking for information is a tedious waste of precious production time. Look for online project collaboration tools that allow you to do a quick search to get files and information when you need them.
Collaboration in project management is vital if you want your project to succeed. To facilitate this, take the time to ensure that your team builds rapport amongst themselves. Systematize communication to eventually turn it into a habit. Most importantly, use tools that will streamline communication and alignment throughout your project lifecycle.
If you’re a creative agency, use a tool like Workamajig: a specialized project collaboration tool for marketing and advertising teams. It’s equipped with features that will help ensure that your teams are working together and all your efforts are in sync. It’s the perfect solution to your project collaboration needs.