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Why Enterprise Collaboration and Teamwork Is Becoming More Visual

November 16, 2022 Collaboration and Productivity
David Barry
By David Barry

At Zoomtopia this year, Zoom introduced a series of tools to further improve collaboration, underlining its position as a platform that does more than just provide video conferencing. There was a particular focus on beefing up Zoom One, which packages Zoom’s chat, phone, digital whiteboard, meetings and other solutions into one platform (hence the name).

The company also announced new capabilities that include Team and In-Meeting Chat integration, thus creating an always-on functionality that helps reduce silos, keep projects moving and keep the conversation going post-meetings.

The message was clear: collaboration has gone visual.

The Power of Visual Collaboration

While there is no data on the exact number of companies currently using visual collaboration tools, anecdotal evidence — like Adobe's $20 billion Figma buy — indicates that interest in these capabilities is growing. With good reasons.

Mariana Aguiar, co-founder and CMO of Surfers Paradise, Australia-based Desygner, said visual tools bring out the human aspect of digital communications. “People have very little time and attention span to digest information via conventional documentation, and what we present to our customers, our users, partners and everyone we engage with is ultimately visual,” she said.

In her view, visual tools accentuate seamless collaborations in and out of the organization. Imagine, for instance, how much more powerful something like brainstorming can be with a visual component. A digital whiteboard can be a game-changer for creative teams across locations.

Plus, Aguiar said, visual communications can save a considerable amount of time and effort. "We often spend a lot of time crafting the perfect message for communicating that can be simply replaced by visual demonstration," she said. “An accurate visual representation of content will cut the clutter of reading heavily documented emails by multiple people forming their own mental image of the message." 

Linda Shaffer, chief people and operations officer at San Francisco-based Checkr, said there is a clear performance advantage in using visual over static forms of communications and collaboration like documents or email — though certain types of non-visual communication remain more effective than their visual counterparts. She cites as an example the sharing of confidential information or communicating with individuals outside of your team where email may be a more appropriate channel. 

Internally, however, Shaffer believes modern collaboration tools, such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams, offer a variety of powerful features that enable teams to easily collaborate with each other visually. “These tools make it easy for team members to share ideas, discuss projects in real-time and stay up-to-date on the latest progress."

For Jeroen van Gils, CEO of Deursen-Dennenburg, Netherlands-based LiFi, the advantage is a much more streamlined interface that makes them easier and more intuitive to use. “They allow team members to see the same information at the same time, which can help them work together more effectively,” he said. And the fact that they are very easy to use makes them ideal for people who are not familiar with technology or who are new to working together.

Related Article: The End of the Social Collaboration Experiment: The Technology Is the Problem

Breaking Through the Adoption Barrier

All of us are used by now to having to adapt to new technology on a regular basis. Still, as is the case for any change within the organization, technology or otherwise, there can be resistance to adopting a new tool or process.

“It is understandable that teams who have been used to working in a certain way may be hesitant to embrace new tools," Shaffer said.

To encourage them to make the switch, she said organizations should offer training and support to help employees understand how they can best take advantage of these collaboration tools. The key here is making the case for why the new tool is introduced and how it can best serve them.

But if giving employees time to adjust may be necessary in certain cases, organizations should nevertheless feel a sense of urgency in the matter. Sam Waicberg, president at Plano, Texas-based CareAR, said companies that lag in adopting the most efficient tools are at risk of falling behind their forward-thinking competitors.

He said emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR) are opening doors to new collaboration methods and more engaging visual experiences that can put the companies that adopt them at a far distance ahead of competitors. For instance, support technicians given the opportunity to use AR in their work can resolve technical issues without having to even pick up the phone. With a "see-what-I-see-view," an employee can take pictures or videos of a problem and connect directly with the technician, who can overlay graphical guidance and relay repair instructions in a matter of minutes.

"Not only does that process save time at the moment of need, but it eases stress for future problems because those videos and snapshots (with guidance included) can be saved in a knowledge base and easily transferred between employees and departments," he said.

Related Article: Change Management When Employees Are Exhausted by Change

A Necessary Upgrade

In the past, many organizations have relied on email and spreadsheets to help teams collaborate. For most of us today, these tools have become too slow and difficult to use, not to mention they often lack visual appeal.

Chris Wainwright, director of marketing at Toronto-based HR company Humi, said with new technologies available, it is time to adopt new tools for supporting effective collaboration. With the rise of remote work and digital nomadism, many employees are working outside their home office more than ever. That means they need a way to collaborate with their co-workers to make them feel like they are in the same room as them, even when they are not.

“Visual collaboration tools are a new way to support effective teamwork," Wainwright said. “They allow you to collaborate with your team in a visually appealing way, which can help you work more efficiently and effectively."

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