Nobody truly works alone. At the very least, there’s a client relationship to manage. Effective collaboration can also add tremendous value to your output. Here’s how:
Even those who run their own business still have to collaborate with others, whether it’s clients, subcontractors, employees or others. They may not sit in a cubicle and answer to a boss, but there’s still plenty of paperwork to keep track of and deadlines to manage.
Disorganized files and haphazard systems can make effective team collaboration more difficult. Here’s a look at some potential roadblocks, as well as strategies for working through them.
Collaboration Roadblock #1: Missing Documents
From finding an email attachment you received several weeks ago and forgot to download to managing multiple versions of the same document, handling digital or even hard copy files has gotten complicated!
In fact, a found that a third of respondents spent between five and twenty-five minutes searching every time they wanted to find a document. That’s time that you or your team could spend mentoring others, executing on projects or learning new skills.
Cloud-based document storage can help you locate files across multiple devices and ensure that everyone on your team can access the files they need.
Collaboration Roadblock #2: Version Control
Emailing documents back and forth for editing is often a recipe for confusion. Almost inevitably, one person will work off an older version of the document, and integrating everyone’s comments and changes into a single document can feel like a fool’s errand.
Again cloud-based document storage to the rescue! All team members can access the latest version of documents and edit in real time to save time, avoid confusion and streamline the whole process.
Collaboration Roadblock #3: Vague Expectations
When team members don’t know when something is due or what tasks they’re specifically responsible for, they’re unlikely to follow through. That can lead to miscommunications and missed deadlines.
Project management tools allow you to assign tasks to specific people, attach relevant files and set deadlines so everyone is on the same page about what’s due when. The ability to look up a deadline or download a file rather than sending an email to ask also helps avoid unnecessary delays.
Collaboration Roadblock #4: Missed Deadlines
Projects can grind to a screeching halt when tasks are dependent on work from someone else but the other person drops the ball. That can set off a domino effect of more missed deadlines, which is frustrating for everyone involved.
Automated reminders for upcoming tasks can lift the project management burden and keep team members accountable.
Collaboration Roadblock #5: Scope Creep
When a client asks for work beyond what’s in your original agreement, that’s called scope creep. It’s not such a big deal if you bill by the hour, because your pay scales up as the project gets bigger, but if you bill in flat project fees, you lose money every time you agree to an extra revision or provide something that’s outside the project’s original scope.
Discuss changes in scope with your client and alert them that you’re need to bill for additional work. If you bill in project fees based on the number of hours you expect a project to take, then tracking your time can help you provide accurate estimates going forward.
Collaboration Roadblock #6: Failure to Reach Consensus
So, you’ve done the work, but now it’s mired in multiple layers of approval. It turns out the person managing the project isn’t the real project stakeholder and the actual decision-maker has a different vision. Or if there’s a committee reviewing your work, they may want to insert new ideas into the project at the eleventh hour, just when you thought the project was drawing to a close.
Make sure the project stakeholder is the real decision-maker and that feedback is final at a certain point. Don’t be wishy-washy about your work. Make sure the project plan allows some time for blue-sky thinking to imbue the project with creativity and ingenuity but buckles down once it’s time for execution.
Collaboration Roadblock #7: Disagreement about What’s Owed
So you reach the end of a project. In your mind, you’ve done everything agreed upon. In their mind, they’re expecting something more. Maybe they thought their website would include SEO-optimized copy and social media share buttons. Or they wanted their blog post to include photos and social media copy but they failed to articulate that expectation.
Discuss the details of each project, including timelines, project specifications, number of revisions and deliverables, before you get started. Your contract should include a detailed scope of work (SOW) so that you can refer back to the SOW if disagreements pop up later.
Consider a Tool that Eliminates these Roadblocks
Being professional and organized can go a long way towards easing many of these pain points, as well as maintaining great client relationships. But when you’re trying to stay on top of the actual work, staying organized can be a challenge!
Using the right tools can take the pressure off you as an individual and easily remove many of the roadblocks listed above. If these roadblocks resonate with you, consider a tool or system that can better support your needs and actually free you up to focus on delivering the work!
about the author
Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on .