8 Ways Better Collaboration Can Save Your Agency
The age of the computer brought with it a new sense of isolation. As the functionality of our tools went up, we needed to enlist fewer and fewer people to help complete our tasks. Little huddles of software developers lived in silos, largely isolated from designers and, worse, customers.
But now the Cloud has properly entered the mainstream, there are easy ways to build bustling communities around our projects. Because if we don’t take our staff and our customers on the journey with us, they’ll go to someone who does.
Collaboration gives you purpose
Humans only have so much brain space. There’s a limit to the number of things we can care about. If someone’s contributed to a project, if they’ve been involved from the beginning and feel their ideas are being heard, they’re much more likely to care about its success. What’s more, sharing a clear common goal improves the relationships in the team. People like feeling they’re on the same side. Sharing ideas and skills boosts confidence in the project.
Collaborating at an early stage also helps to give a broader perspective. Knowing where your particular piece of design or code fits into the grand scheme gives vital context and a better understanding of why it’s important.
Collaboration gets everyone behind the same vision
Working in silos makes it really hard to know if everybody’s got the same idea in their head of what the final goal is. And when several different versions of the project are then forcibly merged back together at the end, you’re often left with a mess.
Making a series of minor course adjustments as you go is far easier than needing a major one at the end.
Transparency and collaboration are the key here. The project needs a central place to see the progress of each team, to discuss ideas and give feedback. Making a series of minor course adjustments as you go is far easier than needing a major one at the end.
This is just as true for clients as it is for your internal teams. Giving your client the ability to see realtime progress makes them feel involved and helps flag up potential issues before they become a major headache.
Collaboration lets you design for the actual problem
Design is all about solving problems. Need to get more sign-ups? Design a better landing page. Need a way for customers to browse 300,000 products? Get an UX designer on the case.
To properly understand the problem they’re solving, you need to get your designers talking to your clients right at the very beginning, and keep them talking all the way through. Presumption leads to cock ups. And if your designers are isolated from the human beings on the other side of the divide, it’s so much harder for them to care about getting it right.
Collaboration broadens your design horizons
Getting feedback used to be a frustratingly slow process. Emailing round mockups and waiting to compile everyone’s replies into something you can actually work with is no one’s idea of fun. But technology always marches on and there are now plenty options for gathering opinions in a more or less frictionless way. Adding quick comments to a prototype feels natural and low-effort and lets you capture the instant reactions that are so vital to good design.
By reviewing frequently, designs stay on course. And by letting your staff and clients review in a painless way, you’ll get better feedback and avoid the terror of the ‘big reveal’.
Collaboration helps you perform
The success of any business rests on how well its people can perform together as a team. Perfect your collaboration and you’ll end up with a more skilled, educated and engaged workforce that performs better in pretty much any metric you care to measure. Why? Well there’s psychology at play. Humans work best in communities. Feeling like you’re part of something bigger than yourself encourages you to over-perform, to push yourself and the boundaries of what you can do. By building an active community around your projects, you’ll find that individuals strive to achieve greater things.
Ask questions, share ideas and reach out and you’ll be surprised what hidden ideas come up.
Allow all members of the team to share their views and talent and it will help you find the optimal solution to the problems you’re trying to solve. Ask questions, share ideas and reach out and you’ll be surprised what hidden ideas come up.
This level of collaboration easily available to agencies of any shape and size thanks to new Cloud-based tools. Whether you’re a two-person team needing to communicate with your clients from a home studio or a large team spread around the globe, collaboration tools will get you all on the same page. Many have free tiers or trials to get you started, so there’s nothing to lose. Give a few a test and judge how well they work for your business. A good collaboration tool will remove friction, delay and challenge from your communications.
Collaboration stops you having to sell the design to your client
The ‘big reveal’ is a moment of fear for all of us and it’s a gamble we don’t need to take. Involving the client from the beginning and using their feedback and ideas to iterate the designs makes for a much less stressful wrap-up of the project.
It’s also a great way to set client expectations from the off, taking them step-by-step through the project and making them feel fully invested in each decision. With properly collaborative projects you don’t end up having to sell or explain your design to the client, because they’ll have been working through the decisions with you.
Collaboration helps you improve
Even after a project’s all signed off, the collaborative environment keeps on giving. By working openly with staff across all of your teams, your organisation encourages continuous learning and improvement. Employees pick up skills from colleagues and learn from their differing approaches and experiences. Working in a transparent environment encourages people to think, articulate and clarify their ideas, and creates an excellent resource for filling in gaps in their skill set.
3. Write a daily list
I’ve found that working straight from my Trello list tends to end with me getting distracted by my other tasks. So every morning I look at my task list and write down (using pen and paper like some sort of caveman) the three vital tasks that I MUST do that day.
This has been far more effective than I expected.
By physically writing down your tasks, you start your brain engaging with them, and you’re left with a distraction-free list of work to do. Only once those vital things have been done do you go back to the master list. Or take a nap. Whatever takes your fancy.
4. Kill the distractions
We can’t multitask.
Really, we can’t. Our brains just won’t work that way. And the nearest we can get — rapidly switching between several tasks — leaves none of them getting done well. In fact, studies have shown that after switching tasks it can take our brains up to 20 minutes to settle in to proper work again.
And we can only concentrate for about 25 minutes. Seriously, our brains are rubbish at focussing on lots of things at once AND at focussing on one thing for a long time.
So, we work with what we’ve got, using this variant of the Pomodoro technique:
NOTE: The original Pomodoro technique says to do four 25 minute sessions then take a long break, but I’ve found it easier to concentrate when I take my long breaks between tasks. Your mileage may vary.
There are some more great tips for motivating yourself at work in this article from Toptal: