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How to determine the best collaboration software for distributed teams

Work communication and collaboration will always be a challenge — no matter what tools you decide to use. There will be moments you need information as soon as possible and times that you don’t mind waiting hours for a reply.

Differentiating and balancing between the two can be a significant pain point for distributed teams. 

How do you create a system that allows your team to balance between asynchronous and synchronous communication?

Let’s start by defining these two communication types. 

Synchronous communication happens in real-time, usually over Zoom, Teams, Slack, or email. 

Asynchronous communication happens using tools like Google Docs, Asana, and Dropbox. These are the less immediate forms of communication that allow you to take a step back from the constant wall of notifications. 

Rather than relying on one communication style or the other, more and more companies are moving to a model that combines the two. Blending both collaboration styles is the ideal way to ensure your team always has the information they need whenever they need it. You just need to find a software that makes room for both.

→ Learn how to develop digital dexterity in your organization

Understanding effective remote collaboration

The best place to start understanding your team’s communication needs is by reviewing your collaboration tech stack to ensure every app you use fits with how you envision workplace collaboration, whether it’s asynchronous or synchronous.

Should asynchronous communication be the default?

Asynchronous communication is rising in popularity. It enables teams to grow across borders and time zones without worrying about people not being online at specific times of the day. 

The key benefit of asynchronous communication tools is that they allow teams to collaborate without being in the same time zone. It also pushes team members to document everything they do and ensure essential information is readily available for team members and not just stored in their heads.

Everyday use cases for asynchronous collaboration and recommended tools

A completely asynchronous company would be a challenge. There will always be specific tasks you can’t do entirely asynchronously, such as 1:1s, candidate interviews, or real-time collaboration in the early stages of designing a new feature.

Several ways to use asynchronous collaboration include:

  • Allow access to files and company documentation using tools like Google Docs, Notion, or Dropbox
  • Give the team clarity into tasks and projects with Asana or Trello
  • Build standard workflows and processes Creating a team directory and bring everything together using a work hub

Your asynchronous tools should allow team members to find critical resources as and when they need them, without relying on messaging or emailing another team member.

Synchronous collaboration still has a place in remote teams

Synchronous collaboration tools are just as crucial as asynchronous tools in a fast-growing company. For example, if you urgently need information from a colleague, you’ll need to get in touch with them quickly. 

Real-time feedback and interaction can help you quickly iterate on ideas, provide fast feedback, and build relationships with your team. These are the core benefits. 

Use cases for synchronous communication and tools to help

When asynchronous doesn’t cut it, you need to collaborate in real-time to get the results you need. Here are a few use cases for synchronous collaboration:

  • Make meetings more effective with whiteboards like Miro and MURAL
  • Improve social interactions with team get-togethers on Zoom or Whereby
  • Hold efficient retrospective meetings with Parabol

With this many communication tools, ensuring nothing gets lost can be a huge hurdle. Did you leave your last note on a project in a Google Doc, or did you send a Slack in the #product channel? 

Luckily, there’s a simple way to bring together all of your communication across all of your tools.

How a Work Hub facilitates remote collaboration

Instead of adding more tools to hold your company together at the seams, a work hub brings your existing tools together, giving you more visibility into what’s really happening in your team.

Work Hubs give your remote team a central place to stay up-to-date on projects, tasks, and tools.

  1. A Work Hub provides clarity into every project. No need to send Slack or Teams messages every time you need an update. A work hub syncs all of your tools so you can instantly see what other team members have done in the projects you’re involved in and keep every project visible.
  2. A Work Hub allows more time for deep work. Instead of being disrupted continuously, your team can stay focused on tasks that matter — asynchronous becomes the default because information is always synced and current.
  3. It brings teams together. Every department can instantly see what other people are working on through dynamic Org Charts. Find recent activity, important projects and goals through searchable, detailed people and team profiles.
  4. You can find the information you need across any tool. Instead of jumping from Jira to Slack to Github just to find one snippet of information, search in a work hub lets you scroll through files across any tool you use. You can surface information within seconds, allowing everyone to work effectively, even when you’re not in a meeting.
  5. A Work Hub makes your current tools speak to one another. Rather than always searching for the next tool to level up your collaboration, a work hub brings the best out of your existing tools.

Whatever the makeup of your toolkit may be, a balance of asynchronous and synchronous communication across them will help keep your distributed team aligned, connected, and productive. 

Isabelle is an actress slash content marketer, passionate about storytelling.
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