How to increase efficiency by embracing a cloud-based, mobile-friendly office
Working with virtual, geographically dispersed teams is challenging, but often a must in construction. How can you make sure your teams and partners are in sync when it comes to managing complex projects? To work efficiently with remote teams, it’s key to be mindful of everyone’s specific needs, standardize the right tools, and ensure that everyone uses them consistently. Here’s a quick look at how technology holds virtual teams back, and some tips for improving collaboration to deliver projects on time and on budget. (Image: FirmBee/Pixabay)
According to a recent survey of 200 North American business professionals, organizations continue to rely on traditional tools for project and team collaboration, and email is the most popular medium. While email has its place, it can be difficult to keep track of every message sent and received, as well as search through them for data and documents – particularly when team members are on a jobsite with a tablet or smartphone. In fact, the survey respondents said that email is also their number one hurdle to efficient collaboration.
Additionally, the survey revealed that the average team member uses 4.5 different tools to manage projects, and a third of the respondents stated that no one in their company uses the same tools. While it is tempting to adopt new tools, the use of various, disconnected ones hinders rather than helps teams.
Here are suggestions for synchronizing your team:
1/ Create an office in the cloud: By establishing a virtual home base, builders and their teams across time zones and geographies can collaborate, communicate and stay up-to-date seamlessly from wherever they are. A cloud-based project collaboration solution, from file sharing and execution services like Google Docs or Office 365 to full-scale work management suites, makes it easy for everyone – including outside contractors and consultants – to access the virtual office.
2/ Evaluate the team’s project management tools: Are you making it easy to work remotely? Consider solutions that provide a visual way to do project planning, scheduling, charting, and milestone tracking. Digital Kanban, for example, can show project workflow via Post-it® style notes to help keep everyone updated. Look for document sharing tools with version control and simplistic locking to prevent unwanted changes or confusion. Also, consider tools such as instant messaging and online meetings, which allow construction and builder teams to communicate within the virtual office beyond email.
3/ Go mobile: Being mobile should be a major consideration for the whole team, whether in the home office or the field. But, to work from any location, a system should allow team members to access all project status updates and documents (such as drawings, designs, and technical specs) from wherever they are with their smartphone or tablet.
4/ Use workload management: The beauty of visual project tools is that they also help identify team members who are overcommitted. Kanban boards and Gantt charts (a project management tool using activities, milestones, dependencies and due dates), especially when tied together, can provide an easy way to understand which team members are overloaded and who can take on more work. The visual overview of the workload helps to keep projects flowing smoothly, increase morale (people are less likely to be overloaded), and raise the quality of work. Recently, tools and features designed specifically for managing teams’ workloads has become available.
5/ Safeguard sensitive data: Simple measures – such as implementing two-step security verification and requiring employees to change passwords regularly – can minimize the risk of breaches. Any applications you’re using (like document sharing) should enable the project manager, contractor or management to grant or restrict access to any content.
No matter where the members of a design/build team are working from, they should all have access to tools that enable them to communicate effectively. New technologies, used uniformly and consistently, can keep a virtual team on track to achieve project goals.
Jason Morio is segment manager for smart project collaboration solution at Projectplace by Planview. He's based in Austin, Texas.