With the sudden shift to remote work, office environments changed from cubicles and meeting rooms to kitchen tables and bedrooms. Finding avenues for collaboration in this “new normal” is a huge challenge for dispersed teams. Leaders are left with the arduous task of finding ways to help their teams replicate what once was easily accomplished by grabbing a conference room, picking up a marker, and drawing on a whiteboard.
This transition from old office culture, whether temporary or permanent, has given rise to a growing high-tech business category: visual collaboration. No matter the project, communicating visually is a key part of team collaboration because it helps simplify complex systems and processes. Using pictures, diagrams, charts, and other visual cues makes it easier for teams to come to a shared understanding, develop practical solutions, and move towards execution. This new trend towards high-tech visual collaboration helps digitally replicate the essential in-person elements of collaboration that teams lost during the WFH shift.
ADOPTING A COMMON VISUAL LANGUAGE
At its core, visual collaboration requires a central location where remote employees and teams can collaborate in real time. This is where software can play a role, connecting teams at all stages of business, from ideation to execution.
Virtual whiteboards are essential to the ideation phase, bringing teams together to spur creativity through brainstorming solutions, developing new ideas, and thinking through improvements. The virtual whiteboard gives everyone a voice, allowing teams to hold effective and dynamic brainstorming sessions and align on new ideas in real-time. And because virtual whiteboards can be accessed anytime, anywhere, even team members who missed a meeting or recently joined a new group can get up to speed quickly.
Collecting all this information digitally also means that teams then have all the information readily available to turn their ideas into actionable next steps, and can even use their virtual whiteboards to present to management for feedback, general buy-in or approval. The use of a common visual language via a virtual whiteboard helps align all the teams involved effectively and efficiently, and builds shared consensus around problems and the best solutions.
Visual Collaboration: A Proven Approach
The visual collaboration trend has been gaining traction for some time, and virtual whiteboards are only one piece of the puzzle. While virtual whiteboards provide disparate teams the ability to ideate and brainstorm, other forms of visual collaboration can then help take those ideas to the next level.
For example, Mozilla turned to Lucid to give product managers, designers and developers a common language for mapping out software applications. DocuSign also replaced quarterly in-person planning meetings with the same solution, eliminating the expense of travel while including more stakeholders in the process.
When teams visually map out their processes and systems, they’re able to gain a shared context and work together to understand how to effectively optimize their business in real-time. Online diagrams can give teams a clear direction and purpose, even as information and work shifts from one team to another. Team members are on the same page, and have a central location to better organize information and data.
Looking to the Future
The pandemic has accelerated the need for teams to collaborate in new ways, transforming visual collaboration software from nice-to-have productivity enhancers to essential platforms for business success. Looking to the future of collaboration, whether working from home during a pandemic or after returning to the office, virtual options will play an increasingly important role in daily business activities.
Companies should recognize that investments they’re making in visual collaboration will be essential not just while remote, but also when returning to the office. By investing in this type of software now, companies can ensure their teams are better equipped for an increasingly digital future.
The author is the cofounder & CEO of Lucid.