Sharing information with one's team, communicating with a client (i.e. exchanging to build a shared understanding), collaborating with one's colleagues (doing with), conducting a one-to-one interview or facilitating a problem-solving meeting are just a few examples of the multiple processes that exist between one individual and another, a manager and his team, a manager and his peers.
When one can go to one's office and travel, one takes care to choose a place and a time appropriate to the type of process: who would have the idea of conducting a one-to-one interview in the company restaurant or a problem-solving meeting in the lobby?
However, at a distance, we act as if it were enough to replace face-to-face communication with emails or videoconference meetings without asking ourselves whether the tools are appropriate for the purpose (informing, collaborating, solving a problem), and the impact of the lack of a common and local context on the understanding of the message.
This tool sheet provides the keys to choosing collaborative tools and, more broadly, building a virtual collaborative space over time.
1. How to choose a tool?
Choosing a tool is often dictated by whether you have time or a place in common, or simply whether it is available.
- Depending on time and place
- Depending on the use
The more complex, ambiguous and highly personal the subjects to be discussed or collaborated on, the more important it is to use a tool that allows direct and rapid interaction, to vary the registers of expression (natural, formal, abstract, personal, emotional) and to favour psychological proximity.
It is up to you to ask yourself the questions:
- Is it a complex subject? Do we need precise, organised, varied information? An asynchronous tool that includes video, images and text will be more suitable than sending a text message.
- Is it important to have a personal, direct and fast connection with my interlocutor? Then a synchronous tool such as the telephone will be more appropriate than an email.
- Do you need to work together on complex issues at the same time? Then a collaborative tool that allows you to write simultaneously in real-time is necessary.
It is up to you to make your mix of tools because sometimes you will need several to create the conditions at a distance that we know how to do when we share the same place at the same time.
2. Which tool to choose?
Here is a table that will help you with your choice:
Voicemail. Video clip (Vimeo, WhatsApp)
Sharing information or instruction. Illustration, explanation of work. Summarising the key points of a meeting to share with those absent or to archive.
Telephone, Audio conference (teams, zoom)
Personal exchanges, relationship building, support conflicting or sensitive topics.
Webinar (Webex, Gotowebinar)
Information meetings, knowledge transfer
Chat (WhatsApp, Telegram)
Urgent issues, information, teamwork
Video conferencing (Zoom, Google hangout, Webex)
Information, decision, problem-solving (with whiteboard, shared screen), team retrospectives, collective discussions, training, workshop
Email (Gmail, Orange...)
Large-scale information sharing, formal communication outside and inside the company
Collaborative writing (wall, google docs)
Creation of common documents, knowledge sharing
Shared document space (Padlet, Dropbox)
Control of the official version of documents, shared library, repository of practices and standards
Collaborative space (slack, teams)
Information, discussions, creativity, collective decision, collaboration, capitalisation, support
Thematic channel (slack, teams, WeChat)
Emergencies, requests for help, information, team building, capitalisation and archiving
Task management (Trello, asana, mura)
Steering, prioritisation, project management, performance management, task visibility
Survey tool (Klaxoon, Mentimeter)
Interactive discussion, training, team retrospectives, sharing of learning
NB: Make sure that your colleagues or team are able to use the tools and their different functions, as everyone has their own preferences and even uses. And agree on common rules of use to find ways of communicating together, enough to share the necessary information, develop and maintain good relationships and not too much to avoid information overload and distraction.
3. Which animation strategy and mix of tools?
As a team manager, network leader or community facilitator, it is a question of recreating a sense of collective distance by establishing rhythms and rituals via the tools to :
- Make the leader and the team/network visible to themselves
- Reaffirm the links between members
Thus, the manager can organise over a period of 6 to 12 months the highlights of his or her team: key moments linked to the activity, convivial moments, and regular exchanges with everyone, with or without a precise agenda.
Structuring regular links using a mix of tools (email, audio conference, video conference, etc.) and setting up random notifications (proposed by slack, for example) makes it possible to recreate, in part, what happens in a co-located team: formal and informal, organised and incidental exchanges that serve greater cohesion and efficiency.
It is also possible to structure the management of customer, supplier or partner relations, as well as project processes (mix of tools for launching a project, managing steering meetings, etc.) or crisis situations (who is responsible? what tool should be used? escalation of communications). And this approach also applies to the organisation of a remote meeting.