Collaboration and interpersonal skills are highly sought after in most fields, and engineering is no exception. Research has found that 39 percent of employees think their organization does not collaborate enough, and 96 percent of executives say a lack of collaboration is the main source of their workplace failures. It seems that most firms know they have a problem. But how do you solve it?
By using one or more of the many strategies used by top firms to better collaborate. Below are three of the best.
1. Join the Cloud
Advancements in technology have made it possible for CAD professionals to work securely on files from any location. Many CAD software vendors have developed cloud-based platforms, including Onshape, GrabCAD Workbench and SOLIDWORKS. Each makes it faster and easier to work together with colleagues, and includes the ability to access designs from anywhere and track changes in real-time.
The cloud can help organize non-CAD files, too. Adobe Creative Cloud, Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps for Work make it easier to collaborate on communications, documents and proposals.
Cloud services don’t just improve collaboration; they have tangible benefits for your firm’s bottom line: they save nearly 26 percent of IT budget costs. They have also been shown to increase productivity by as much as 400 percent.
2. Ditch the Inbox
Because engineers spend a great deal of time designing at their own desks, many resort to email for their conversations. However, email can often hinder true collaboration. Research has shown the average worker spends nearly 30 hours per week checking and responding to email. Consistent communication is important when engineers collaborate on designs, however. What’s the solution? Real-time messaging apps can help. Popular workplace apps like Slack, AIM and Google Hangouts make it possible to ping colleagues without getting buried in your inbox.
While the specific features of each vary, messaging tools enable real-time communication between at least two people. For professionals who prefer face-to-face communication, platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts allow users the option to video chat with others. Others, like AIM, allow basic one-on-one chat, whereas Yammer and GroupMe are ideal for larger teams.
3. Step Up Your Project Management
Sometimes, strained team collaboration is the result of poor project management. Companies should use a project management tool to coordinate workloads, assign responsibilities and keep projects running smoothly. These tools help engineers organize and visualize their to-do lists and the lists of others, encouraging communication and coordination between teams.
Some popular project management tools include:
The complexity, storage and pricing may differ depending on which project management tool your team or organization uses. However, they’re all designed to help visualize each step of a project and assign responsibilities to team members.
Collaboration is crucial to business health and innovation, but clearly very few teams do it as well as they should. While most teams recognize the problem, not enough execute strategies or implement technology to fix it. Taking action is essential. Engineers should begin testing and adopting helpful collaboration tools and technologies to avoid becoming another statistic.
What other collaboration tools or techniques have you used in your organization?
 “39 percent of employees think their organization does not collaborate enough.” http://news.videonor.com/12-statistics-that-will-change-the-way-you-view-team-collaboration
 “96 percent of executives say a lack of collaboration is the main source of their workplace failures.” http://news.videonor.com/12-statistics-that-will-change-the-way-you-view-team-collaboration
 Cloud services save nearly 26 percent of IT budget costs. http://news.microsoft.com/download/presskits/security/docs/051412SMBCloud.pdf
 Cloud technologies increase productivity by nearly 400 percent. http://www.business.com/cloud-computing/8-ways-cloud-computing-can-increase-productivity/
 Average worker spends 30 hours per week checking email. http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/new-study-the-average-worker-spends-30-hours-a-week-checking-email.html