The coronavirus threatens to set off a big financial crisis in the world economy with record levels of business losses and debt, similar to what we witnessed 12 years ago during the 2008 Great Recession. A new reality of empty trains, deserted airports, and restaurants is already hitting the economy badly. And the financial burdens are precariously high among large companies in the auto, hospitality, and travel — industries taking a direct hit from COVID-19. The longer this once-in-a-century pandemic lasts, the higher the risk will be.
To safeguard their employees from the outbreak, companies are closing their doors, rolling out mandatory remote working orders to their employees. Facebook, Google, Twitter, and Amazon have implemented remote working policies for many or all of their employees around the globe. But when it comes to managers and business leaders of a new generation of small to medium-sized businesses, they are yet to see the worst part! Why? They are to face a mammoth challenge of reorganizing and realigning their team members with their business objectives in a new virtual work environment so that they continue to perform at the highest levels and succeed to meet today’s changing demands.
Can they accomplish it efficiently with traditional collaboration tools like emails, text, and chat? It’s a hard nut to crack because most people feel lost navigating remote work. They face many challenges like loneliness, trouble managing their time, lack of motivation, distractions caused by children, and coordination between colleagues and other teams. All these can make people less productive and efficient. Of course, remote work has its benefits like fewer interruptions from colleagues, minimal office politics, and reduced stress from commuting. But how do we ensure good productivity with consistent communication with your remote team members? Here is where the importance of an advanced, AI-powered virtual collaboration tool comes in.
Collaboration tools, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, are dubbed “intelligent collaboration” or “cognitive collaboration” tools, being developed by large companies like Microsoft, Alphabet, Google, and Salesforce as part of their enterprise collaboration platforms to differentiate their offerings.
By leveraging AI to ease the pain of workplace and online meetings, they not only allow a group of people located at different locations in the world to communicate and work together on the same project in real-time but help users organize meetings, transcribe meetings and send follow-up messages in a much more smarter ways.
Thanks to their machine learning algorithms, Cisco Systems, for instance, offers the Webex collaboration platform, which can identify upcoming meetings in one’s calendar, ask the users if he/she wants to join a meeting and sign in when ready. Notably, the platform will soon include facial-recognition technology that can identify video-meeting participants and list their biographical info. According to experts, the problem with work communication is noise. But AI can help reduce that noise. Companies are now racing to use AI in their services, promising their client with the ability to better handle data overload and cut through the noise to the information they need.
Most collaboration tools come with a clean, minimalist dashboard coupled with team chat, video, hubs, to-do lists, file sharing, and storage, helping the virtual team prioritize tasks that drive the most impact. The benefits of utilizing a collaboration tool for the virtual workplace are plenty; they allow the virtual teams to:
Communicate – Team members can come together on a common platform and work towards a common goal by interacting, brainstorm, and offering feedback and perspectives to provide solutions. The team can eliminate a lot of redundant emails and share its day-to-day progress, activities, and plans with higher transparency and accountability.
Learn – It is easy to gain assistance from subject matter specialists and utilize their knowledge, experience, and skills to find the most optimal solution to every problem. It gives the team a chance to pick up skills from their colleagues and build upon their strengths. The team can also stay up-to-date about the latest news and company updates.
Locate – Team members can easily find documents, credentials, references, and resources to speed things up. It helps the team get access to information quicker. It’s no longer necessary to shuffle documents backward and forwards with edits by emails. Documents can be stored in a cloud-based, central location so that they are accessible to everyone working on the project, regardless of their location. The team will always know where to find the latest version of a document.
Assist – It creates cross-departmental relationships with various teams where it’s easy to respond to multiple requests and requirements for delivery, service, or support at any time/anywhere. Team members aren’t restricted to follow traditional 9-to-5 office timings. They can work according to their comfort and provide higher efficiency.
However, an AI-powered collaboration tool takes things to the next level. AI has the power to improve meetings, even before they start, with smart scheduling, auto-composition of messages, intelligent risk management, and self-healing.
Smart scheduling – leverages natural language processing (NLA) to understand voice or text commands and connect to calendar applications to invite participants, set appointments, locate the best meeting room location, and track responses. It can also learn who should be part of a meeting, the best time and locations for the meeting, and even predict the preferences of attendees.
Auto-compose messaging – commonly seen in email applications like Gmail and Outlook, is an addition to smart scheduling. It auto-completes sentences and recommends relevant replies for email messages. When integrated into meeting workflows, it takes on the task of meeting messenger and streamlines communication, resulting in a drop in email volume.
Voice-activated control – identifies the speaker and transcribes commands from speech to text. It replaces the use of user interfaces, like touchscreen panels, occupancy sensors, keyboard strokes, and mouse clicks. Voice-activated control is a powerful application that can be used to start a meeting or video call, control devices in the room, and schedule meeting follow-up actions.
Virtual digital assistant – is an AI tool that can help you with meeting minutes and additional research, such as related product development or customer insights, and resources. It will not only shorten research time and inspire ideation but will create a new level of collective intelligence, which will significantly accelerate team output, innovation, and time to market.
Sentiment analysis – uses facial recognition and voice modulations to detect the underlying expression and help us perceive the sentiment of meeting participants, their level of engagement in the meeting, and their satisfaction.
There are plenty of free and premium collaborative tools available in the market under different categories – project management, document storage and file sharing, video and conferencing, instant messages, social networks, scheduling, etc. Besides, the tech market introduces better and effective collaboration tools every year. Choosing the best for your business needs and your budget is quite a challenge. Why? Most collaborative tools cater to one aspect of productivity, and they rarely cover all communication needs that virtual teams demand. Thus, a mix of tools is often needed to ensure smooth and effective communication. Finding the right tools takes time. It is also usually a trial and error process.