When you’re not all in the same room, what are some of the biggest barriers to a productive meeting? Participants that struggle to join? Calls that drop off? Audio that goes in and out? Video that freezes, usually when you’re in the middle of the least flattering expression possible?
If you’ve ever had to join meetings outside of the office or across sites, you’re probably familiar with these types of pain points. However, now that remote working is the norm for millions of Australians, these can go from occasional annoyances to serious, daily barriers to effective collaboration.
While organisations have proved that remote work works, more collaborative tasks like creative jobs and brainstorming are emerging as key challenges. And enterprises risk their competitive edge if they ignore them.
To help you ensure more collaborative meetings anywhere, we’ve put together five of our favourite tech features and solutions. These help blend in-person dynamics with digital conveniences – anywhere. But most IT leaders know that tools are only as valuable as the culture that accompanies them, so we’ve paired each solution with advice to keep your tech stack and your culture working in tandem.
1. Make joining meetings effortless across a variety of workspaces
When participants struggle to join, meeting quality tends to suffer, at least in part because you lose precious time to managing technical problems. Our report, The ultimate playbook: Achieving effective teamwork with collaboration, found that only 46 percent of collaboration sessions start on time. The easier everyone can join from wherever they’re at, the more teams can stay focused on the task at hand.
Cisco Webex Meetings from Telstra offers one-button-to-push web conferencing that’s easy to join – no reservation needed – and video-first features that help participants feel like they’re all in the same room.
Culture tip: No matter how great your audio and video quality are, in-person participants still have an advantage because they aren’t tethered to devices or screens. If others are joining remotely, even the playing field by encouraging all meeting participants to join individually from their own devices, even if they’re in the office. The norm will help avoid remote participants getting left out of important conversations or straining to hear teammates who’ve strayed too far from a mic.
2. Don’t forget voice calls
Whilst video calling has been the saviour of 2020, our report also found that voice calling was important to 85 per cent of employees when they’re collaborating with teams. Telstra Liberate lets your people enjoy the best of desk phones and mobile, connecting with one another more easily and jumping into meetings from anywhere.
Plus, mobile calls use the Telstra mobile network, providing better call quality than apps that rely on data channels.
Culture tip: Normalise on-the-go meeting participation by encouraging “walking” sessions whenever appropriate. By agreeing to take a non-sedentary approach, you’ll start to make participation easier for others who may need to run errands during the day or get out of a noisy house to concentrate.
3. Keep collaboration simple
With operations and teams so distributed, it’s easy to end up with a bloated tech stack and disparate systems. The more communications systems and collaboration tools you have spread across the organisation, the harder it can be to enforce policy controls and address issues quickly.
This can be a nightmare for ICT professionals, but it can also create day-to-day inefficiencies that impact employees’ experiences. Since meetings involve so many different tools and networks working in concert – not to mention the struggles of coordinating a time that works for everyone – tech hiccups can hit harder.
Telstra Calling for Office 365 keeps things simple, making life easier for you and your people. The solution pairs Telstra’s leading voice capability with the Microsoft collaboration tools that millions of teams already trust. This helps bring together your tools and systems into one simple platform, while providing full voice functions and making it easier for your people to connect on single business numbers.
Culture tip: Not all teams or individuals need the same tools – whether because of role type or just preference, some employees are going to want to use tools that aren’t widespread across the organisation. That’s not a bad thing but try to encourage a suite of common tools and apps to improve cross-functional collaboration and avoid a sprawling collection of alternatives.
4. Choose solutions that make it easier to share information securely
Whether it’s a presentation or a working draft, meetings usually involve circulating a file or two. Cisco Webex Meetings from Telstra uses a single cloud platform to support virtual meetings, allowing participants to share applications, documents and desktops. It also offers mobile accessibility so participants can get the same experience even if they’re away from their desktop or on the go.
This functionality comes with stringent data privacy, encryption and tight policy control options, making sure your people can collaborate easily and securely.
Culture tip: Circulate links to shared files early in the meeting and, whenever appropriate, make sure participants can access presentation slides during or after. The more your people are in the habit of sharing information, the less time they’ll have to spend hunting down documents and the less they’ll be tempted to flout version control processes.
5. Find technology partners who can support you
Sometimes, no single solution or product will be enough to address barriers to collaboration. Further, the right solution might involve workloads that can’t be absorbed by internal teams completely – our white paper, COVID-19: why businesses need to revisit their corporate DNA, found that the ability to provide adequate tech support was one of the biggest challenges of businesses’ shift to remote work.
Whether you need an end-to-end solution tailored for your business or to outsource some of your day-to-day operations, managed services can help solve immediate challenges and poise your organisation for better collaboration well into the future. At Telstra, we unite people and technology strategies in one place, helping you plan and design a solution that fits your business. We can also provide an always-on help desk that alleviates internal teams’ workloads, freeing them to focus on higher-value tasks.
Culture tip: Our white paper also found that many organisations’ vendor lists ballooned during the early days of the COVID-19 crisis, as IT teams moved to resolve urgent issues and support business responses as quickly as possible. This sort of vendor sprawl can result in higher technology costs, low integration between systems and extra work for the teams who have to manage multiple contracts. Streamlining your vendors should be a mid- and long-term goal.
However, the larger the amount of operations a service provider takes on, the more important it is that they match your organisational culture and vision. If a managed services provider ends up being part of your solution, make sure that culture fit and alignment are major considerations during your search.
These are just a few of the ways IT leaders can keep people connected and make meetings more productive than ever.