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Navigating the New Normal: Three Key Components of Remote Collaboration

Remote work is no longer an option; it’s now essential for continued operations. From staff to managers, C-suites to stakeholders, no one knows when — or if — workplace life will ever be the same. 

From a purely productive standpoint, this sudden shift offers potential benefits. Recent data found that on average, remote workers get more done than their in-office counterparts, working an extra 1.4 days per month on average and clocking in an extra three weeks per year. 

Apps and services designed to facilitate the rapid adoption of mobile mandates also play a critical role in this out-of-office solution by delivering the critical IT infrastructure necessary for these work-from-home arrangements, but it’s not all smooth sailing.

In fact, 30 percent of staff say they’re less productive at home. Their biggest barrier? Comprehensive collaboration. From application switching to missing functions and forced errors, navigating the new normal isn’t easy. Let’s break down three key components of remote collaboration that companies need to deliver socially distant productivity at scale.


Simple Sightlines

According to Forbes, it’s critical to provide staff with “simple, accessible communication tools” that allow them to easily get in touch with each other and complete critical tasks. While video conferencing and chat solutions are the most obvious examples of effective digital connection, there’s another essential aspect, document management.

From the ability to easily view documents to streamlined comment, annotation, and redaction capabilities, these simple sightlines are a critical component of collaboration. Consider the case of a large-scale, multi-document project. While digital meetings establish a plan of action and help assign critical tasks, what happens when it’s time to get down to work? 

With staff no longer able to simply walk down the hall for clarification or questions and email too slow for quick decision making, enterprises need applications that empower staff to easily create comments, add annotations, or write-in redactions. 


Content Capture and Conversion

The ubiquity of remote work means that collaboration now extends beyond your organization — business partners, suppliers, and clients are all facing their own out-of-office challenges as they navigate the new normal of digital-first operations. The result? While document data volumes haven’t decreased and velocity hasn’t slowed, variety has increased significantly

Whether using common file types such as PDFs and JPEGs or a third party application like Microsoft Office, collaboration is critical. Not to mention the industry-specific standards including DICOM and CAD formats. With all of these different file formats in use, it can be difficult to capture data and convert documents to streamlined formats for every use. 

Solving for content complexity means deploying agile collaboration tools capable of on-demand file conversion and data capture, in turn allowing staff to focus on the task at hand rather than the myriad of digital details required to ensure accurate conversion and capture key form fields.


Approachable Automation

For many organizations, automation is an outlier. Some consider it too expensive, while others worry about automated tools replacing staff. Many opt for the classic “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach to current document management and team collaboration processes. 

The problem? While legacy solutions with labor-intensive operations were familiar and functional enough in corporate office environments, they break down at a distance. Piecemeal applications that require significant staff oversight for processing and approval of documents are suddenly digital anchors, weighing down the socially distant, geographically distributed staff.

Here, the right approach to application automation makes all the difference. For example, advanced optical character recognition (OCR) tools can easily capture digital characters and intelligent character recognition (ICR) can capture handwritten ones. 

Automatic forms and template processing, meanwhile, make it simple for staff to collaborate on critical document libraries that empower quick capture of new assets and accurate conversion of relevant data. In effect, automation helps clear away the “noise” of remote collaboration by solving key document challenges and letting staff focus on what matters, effective communication and collaboration.


Bring a Bigger Toolbox

Of course, it’s one thing to understand the value of collaboration software — it’s another to effectively implement these solutions across your remote work environment. 

For many organizations, the availability of purpose-built, proprietary applications suggests an immediate solution. Simply purchase and deploy software on-demand to meet staff needs as they emerge. The problem? Application sprawl. 

While you might have apps for every purpose, staff must find, access and use each app individually, then switch to their next task and tool. You can also choose to build collaborative application suites from the ground up, but with IT teams already responsible for managing the remote work revolution, the time and resources required may not be available. 

Taking a cue from at-a-distance collaboration, however, is another option. Instead of buying a new suite of apps or building software solutions in-house, it’s now possible to leverage APIs and SDKs to boost the functionality of your application without increasing overall complexity. By building key communication, document management, and automation solutions into existing applications, companies can effectively equip employees with the tools they need to navigate the new normal of remote collaboration.