Google Apps has an immense impact on an organization’s ability to collaborate. In our consulting work with clients, we see the impact of teams that are distributed and the ability for work to move quickly from concepts to action. There is speed from the inherent search architecture as well as collaboration via Google Mail, Calendar, Docs and Sites.
The ability to manage your team from wherever they want to be located to get work done whether a different office location, coffee shop or their mobile device increases your overall efficiency. Furthermore, the IT headaches are not present as with a traditional in-house server, VPN, human resource and file storage. Cloud computing enables you to truly work as a distributed organization.
There are some other trade-offs which are worth mentioning. They are more a function of process and culture than they are with the Google Apps system itself.
Here are some areas to consider defining process and policies around to ensure productivity is not compromised:
- Set Google Chat status to avoid interruptions. Interruptions are a productivity killer. Help your team change their status and respect others’ statuses when they are busy or focused. Better yet, close out email while working on tasks that require longer periods of focus. Set guidelines for guarding against interruptions.
- Set meetings efficiently and decisively. Be sure to establish sharing policies for private or public events. Then drive your team to set appointments with Google Calendar instead of emailing back and forth with each other or customers and vendors for an appropriate time. The meeting description should establish the goal and timeframe concretely to avoid wasting time and focus. For customer meetings, integrated solutions which work with your website can make the experience efficient and easy.
- Keep your knowledge searchable. Your team’s collective knowledge means that team members have to ask others for answers so they can put together a solution that gets to the goal. This happens all day during the process of knowledge work. Taking the ambiguous pieces and delivering results requires cycles. Minimize those cycles by making your team’s knowledge searchable and logged within a knowledge base system. This keeps it centralized and accessible without interrupting people or regurgitating answers.
- Iterate online. If a customer response needs a few people to collaborate, turn an email into a Google Doc and quickly share it with the relevant parties. Thereafter, you can revise the content and tailor it with your team. This avoids multiple copies and emails going back and forth. It’s in one place with revision tracking.
- Minimize mouse clicks. If you are a student of productivity, you are continually seeking ways to optimize your workflow as well as increase your execution and speed. Keep finding short routes and minimize the number of mouse clicks with keyboard shortcuts or creative pathways to your solutions.
Being accessible with your team opens up a world of opportunity for collaboration. However, if you are continually interrupted or spending cycles inefficiently going back and forth on otherwise mundane process, then these best practices infused into your culture will help to preserve productivity.
It will take leadership to shape your culture. The rewards are a high level of productivity. Getting things done is what creates excellence in our fast moving economy today.
What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below.