Collaboration Tools in 2021

Collaboration Tools in 2021

Collaboration tools have changed a lot in the last year. COVID-19 may have accelerated this change, but these big moves were coming either way. It’s hard to even remember what the world looked like a year ago.  

Here is a look at collaboration tools in 2021 – from new software to integration upgrades, and more.  

Webex

Cisco is accelerating into the New Year with their unified Webex application concept and is rapidly delivering updates both through internal development and strategic acquisitions that are powering innovations like AI-powered noise cancellation, real-time closed captioning & translations, and next-level audience engagement.

Here’s a quick recap from Webex: “We kept people connected with meetings, messaging, and calling, launched new updates and features, hosted our first WebexOne event, and launched the Webex Community” The Webex Community launched in May of 2020, as a “self-service tool for our users, admins, and adoption champions.”

In 2021, Webex will be hosting three events a month: two Walkthrough Wednesdays – aimed at educating customers and professionals about the latest and greatest Webex tool updates – and one Adoption Spotlight where you’ll hear from Webex customers about their strategies and successes in driving adoption in their teams. 

The 2021 Webex goal is to give their users more “engaging, intelligent, and inclusive experiences.” Users are now able to customize the feel of their workspace with new background color palettes and the ability to tailor their video grids to meet their needs and preferences. And their new immersive share creates a professional, new-program-like experience so that presenters can be seen while also sharing graphics, charts, and other visuals at the same time.

New meeting templates, sophisticated AI-powered message prioritization, and real-time translation are also included in the new Webex software. 2021 will bring a host of new solutions and discussions spearheaded by Webex as they continue to refine and upgrade their collaboration offerings.

Zoom

2020 was the year of Zoom. Zoom’s CEO, Eric Yuan was even TIME’s 2020 Businessperson of the Year. So what are some of the leaps they made in the collaboration tool sector last year, and what do they have in store for 2021?

Zoom lists these services as some of their biggest 2020 highlights: Zoom Apps (brings apps directly into the Zoom experience), Zoom for Home (helps remote workers outfit home offices with Zoom-enabled devices), OnZoom (virtual events marketplace), Zoom 5.0 (most recent update), and End-to-End Encryption (gives users the ability to host meetings that only chosen participants have access to encryption keys used to encrypt the meeting).

According to the company’s Year in Review, “Some of our most prominent features include spotlighting and multi-pinning video feeds, co-host capabilities for managing Breakout Rooms, the ability to use slides as a virtual background, High-Fidelity Music Mode, and Filters, which give our users the freedom to create a more user-friendly, engaging meeting experience. In-meeting security controls, a new security settings section, and centralized controls allow secure meetings at scale.”

As we move through the beginning of 2021, Zoom will continue to churn out value-add upgrades and initiatives to enhance user experience.

Microsoft Teams

The Teams app from Microsoft is the fastest growing business app in the company’s history, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Microsoft Teams collaborative workspace connects all Microsoft 365 apps, creates a great hub for teams of all sizes, and can even be used as an alternative or replacement for email communications. Without leaving Teams, users can access Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other file types in real-time.

Microsoft launched Tasks this year, as a Teams-specific replacement for Planner – it combines the functions of Planner and To-Do apps. They also recently added Lists, which “combines database and spreadsheet features to manage information to plan events, track recruitment, or help onboard new employees.”

Some other 2020 additions include “Together mode” which creates a virtual shared environment (conference room, café, etc.) and crops each user’s video feed into a more realistic space. Other features like noise suppression, custom backgrounds, hand raising, and recording were introduced or enhanced this year.

In December 2020, Microsoft posted a “What’s New in Microsoft Teams” article, listing all of their recent changes that will gain momentum in 2021.

Those new features include:

  •  Virtual Breakout Rooms – allows meeting organizers to divide the meeting into smaller groups to allow for specialized discussions
  • End-of-Meeting Notifications
  • Pre-Join Experience
  • New Supported Languages – enables users to
  • translate Japanese, Korean, French, French-Canadian, Spanish, Spanish-Mexican, Traditional Chinese, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, Hindi-Indian, Portuguese-Brazilian, and Russian into up to 50 different languages
  • Multiple Number Dialing
  • Live Captions for 1:1 Calls

Collaboration Tools in 2021 – Tailored Solutions

2021 is the time to channel all the big move momentum you created in 2020 and refine it to help your business better reach and serve its customers. Explore Meet Me In The Cloud’s managed services and collaboration services.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and services, contact us today.

COVID-19 Showed Us Technology Adoption Is Essential

COVID-19 Showed Us Technology Adoption Is Essential

Technology adoption is hard to see if you aren’t monitoring your employee’s progress in new tech implementation. But this year, when new tech solutions were being added rapid-fire, we saw firsthand how easy it is to implement a tool without fostering adoption.

The temporary measures we added to deal with COVID-related changes have left holes in our workforce’s understanding of collaboration tools. Here’s how the pandemic accelerated technology adoption.

The Importance of Adoption

“If technology is part of the Innovation or Process Improvement that you are undertaking, your firm’s users must adopt the technology fully for any profound ‘change’ to occur,” says an Above the Law article.

When you focus on technology adoption, you can create a system where your tech solutions are fully integrated into your employee’s expertise. Rather than training for individual commands or projects, complete adoption of a tool means you can use that tool in more collaborative and valuable ways across the board.

The Role COVID-19 Played in Tech

As COVID-19 spread across the US and the world, businesses of all sizes had to pivot strategies from in-person dealings to contactless and online offerings.

Now that the dust has settled a bit, there are a lot of instances that highlight the need for true adoption in terms of technology and collaboration tools. Zoom meetings, online shopping, Microsoft Teams project collaboration – all of these things existed before 2020, but they were made necessary by the emergence of this virus.

As we move into 2021, these collaboration solutions have become commonplace and are likely sticking around for the future.

The Remote Work Boom

Remote work has been trending upward in popularity for a number of years and now that COVID-19 has forced a lot of new jobs and industries to figure out how employees can work from home, that collaborative technology expertise and adoption needs to be stronger than ever.

Though some remote positions will revert back to their pre-pandemic locations, many will stay remote, or become a hybrid of remote and on-site work. Without technology adoption, the skills and communication gaps that created issues before and during the 2020 changes will only be exacerbated.

Looking Forward

The coronavirus has changed the world and thrust the importance of full-scale technology adoption into the spotlight. Collaboration tools are constantly updating their platforms and features to keep up with the demand for online solutions (see these update articles about Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and Webex Teams).

As we continue making decisions that move us toward a tech-friendly future, adoption is the best way to ensure our teams, leaders, and employees have the best training so we can continue to make the most of these collaboration tools.

The Road to Full Technology Adoption

Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

How to Build Connections in Meetings and Virtual Events

How to Build Connections in Meetings and Virtual Events

Large, in-person gatherings have been discouraged for the better part of a year now, but that doesn’t mean we aren’t still craving those social and professional meetings and events. Check out these great tips to build connections in team meetings and virtual events.

Define the Purpose for Your Gathering

Whether you are talking to your professional team, small business employees, executives, or friends and family – the best way to encourage a good turnout for a virtual meeting is to define the purpose of the gathering. Is the gathering a virtual networking event? A holiday or anniversary party for your company? A monthly department or team meeting?

Clarifying an event’s purpose can also help get your participants excited or prepared for the virtual gathering.

When you define and share the purpose of your online event or meeting, you can then find the best tools (Zoom, Skype, Webex Teams, Microsoft Teams, etc.) to help you create an event that is true to it.

Create Context Using Everyone’s Virtual Environment

Now that you have your event or meeting purpose, you can use it to set the mood for preparations. If you are hosting your annual company dinner or having your end-of-the-year business meeting, you and your participants can create a collective environment using their displayed space in their home or remote office.

Put up lights, have everyone dress up (or down) in a certain theme – even if the theme is just “business casual.” For-end-of-the-year meetings or celebrations you can ask people to decorate their space to that theme, or hang a DIY poster of their greatest accomplishment this year, or have them share the importance or meaning of an item they keep in their remote workspace.

Adding these unifying touches helps your virtual audience “buy-in” to the atmosphere of the meeting or event.

Know Who’s in Charge

We’ve all been in a virtual meeting or party that feels disorganized or exclusionary. To fix this, make sure you have a clear “master of ceremonies.” That person should understand how to use the mute buttons, encourage feedback from different group members, and navigate dead spots in the presentation or event.

Remind people that they’re not alone, especially in larger events and meetings – schedule moments into the presentations for the entire audience to do or say something together. That thing may be some neck and shoulder stretches, recite a company mission statement, sing a song verse, or just let out a giant collective scream.

Create a Space for Collaboration

Technology is all about sharing – information, resources, that video of the guy drinking Ocean Spray and singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” Why not create an in-meeting space that can allow for the same collaborative sharing?

In business events and meetings, you can create chat threads and share links to collaborative documents to encourage engagement. And for fun events, you can play games, create and share polls, videos, or memes in real-time. 

Build Connections – Plan Your Event, Train Your Team, and More

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Switching to a better collaboration tool? Throwing a virtual NYE bash? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools and event assist services.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Fostering Inclusion & Collaboration in Virtual Meetings

Fostering Inclusion & Collaboration in Virtual Meetings

As “Zoom fatigue” takes over, you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place – what do you do when everyone is tired of Zoom meetings and video conferencing, but you still need to talk “face-to-face” with your teams to collaborate on upcoming projects? Maintaining a good group dynamic when everyone is in the same office is tough enough, but doing so in a virtual platform can require some extra work from the leaders and participants in every Zoom meeting. Here are some tips for fostering inclusion in virtual meetings.

Realize and Address the Challenges of Each Member’s Environment

As a virtual meeting host, it is good to start with manageable expectations and a great way to do this is by addressing the fact that everyone is working in a diverse environment right now.

Before the meeting, it’s always a good idea to let participants know about the date, time, and expectations for the meeting.

Living situations can complicate virtual meetings and cause unnecessary interruptions – giving your team some heads up can allow them time to make arrangements and create a comfortable meeting space in their home or remote office area.

Roommates, children, spouses, pets – all are distractions that can annoy or even embarrass team members during a virtual meeting. Giving everyone time to plan for the meeting can help foster inclusion by allowing them to create a place that is comfortable for them to join the meeting from their diverse remote environments.

Counteract Isolation by Offering Micro-Affirmations

Micro-affirmations are comments employers and team leaders use to recognize the achievements of others and to increase general professional interest in team members’ accomplishments and expertise.

Take some time to focus on and draw attention to those great ideas and inputs that come up during meetings. It creates an open space for others in your meeting to do the same and allows each team member to see the value in their teammates and also encourages feedback and participation in future meetings.

Build Structured Participation and Leverage Technology to Foster Inclusion

It’s relatively easy to build some structured participation into your virtual meeting. You can prepare specific discussions and have different team members start them or you can incorporate some round-robin strategies. An easy way to do that is to state outright that you would like to hear from everyone in the meeting. Prompt people to take the space they need to voice their opinions in whatever way works best for them.

You can also include other technology, like polls, anonymous Google feedback forms, and other applications and websites that give team members the space to submit opinions in a low-pressure way.

Looking for Ways to Optimize Your Team Meetings?

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Switching to a better collaboration tool? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

Banish Zoom Fatigue – How to Diversify Your Collaboration Tool Use

Banish Zoom Fatigue – How to Diversify Your Collaboration Tool Use

The word “Zoom” has become synonymous with video calling. Zoom calls offer a great way to keep your team connected during the pandemic. But lately, the word is being used more and more in the phrase “Zoom fatigue.” The phrase “Zoom fatigue” describes “the tiredness, worry, or burnout associated with overusing virtual platforms of communication,” according to the Psychiatric Times.

During the pandemic, many collaboration platforms have heavily encouraged teams of all sizes and in all locations to “stay connected” by utilizing the platform’s quick and easy video call functions. But those “I survived another meeting that should’ve been an email” mugs and memes are still highlighting a real and relevant problem – just because you can host a video meeting, doesn’t mean you should. Collaboration technology has a host of tools and solutions for keeping your team connected and productive, and a video call may not be the only way to convey timely and important information, especially when your employees are starting to feel burnt out.

Here are some ways to banish Zoom fatigue while still fostering collaboration technology adoption among your employees and maintaining a high level of productivity.

Send a Direct Message

If the collaboration you seek is specific to one coworker, employee, or small team, it’s often more efficient to send a direct message. Tools like Slack, MS Teams, Webex Teams, and Zoom all have different levels of direct messaging capabilities.

Unless you need time to brainstorm or discuss something in great detail, a quick message can be more effective in communicating small or specific pieces of information. Another bonus – many younger employees are happy to reply to messages in a few hours or even a few minutes. You can’t get much more efficient than that.

Take Advantage of Threads

Any employee or manager who works in the same position for any length of time knows that there are always seasonal, subjective, or annual projects that will repeat themselves throughout that time.

Threads can consolidate those similar ideas and projects. You don’t have to look back through months of messages to see what your team did for the same project last year – you can just navigate to the thread and see all the communication on the project or idea.

You can also use threads to communicate project status updates. Rather than scheduling quick video meetings, you can use a thread to see daily or weekly updates and check a project’s progress in real-time.

Create FAQs

Similar to threads, Frequently Asked Questions can consolidate information commonly discussed or used in training. FAQs can save time and be a valuable resource your employees can reference. It’s also a great way to consolidate constants in your field of work.

Collaborate within the Content You’re Creating

Have you ever talked to someone on the phone or a video call and had to explain what is in front of you to someone who couldn’t see what you see? It can be very difficult.

One of the best things you can do when working on a piece of content is to collaborate within that content using edits and comments. Putting those conversations inside the content itself means you can skip the logistics discussion and get right to the good stuff.

Help Speed Collaboration Tool Adoption

Need help organizing or educating your global team? Switching to a better collaboration tool? Meet Me In The Cloud is your go-to resource for white-glove support and training of collaboration services and tools.

Whether you need training and education, event assistance, or other collaboration-based support and service, contact us today.

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