In the modern world, companies are increasingly navigating more complex environments, with teams often split between office workers, remote employees and hybrid. Coordinating this team relies on ensuring different views and roles are aligned at all times, with project leaders spending around 90% of their time just communicating. Dan Lawyer, CPO at Lucid Software, discusses five ways teams can create better products by improving their collaboration styles.
A picture used to be worth a thousand words. However, with hybrid working solidifying itself as a permanent fixture, businesses require more complex processes and clear communication to be successful. Meaning a good visual could instead be worth closer to a million words.
Organisations are cross-functional, collaborative and depend on multiple stakeholders coming together and aligning their unique roles to achieve a shared vision. However, coordinating that vision can pose its own challenges, often requiring project leaders to spend up to 90% of their time communicating in the form of complex, word-heavy documentation that can add more confusion than clarity.
Clearly, this problem cannot be solved by adding complexity onto complexity. By using visuals, leaders can enable teams to align more quickly on the big picture, potential bottlenecks and next steps to keep projects moving forward.
Here are five ways visuals can help your teams gain the necessary insight to make better decisions – and build better products.
- Understand the problem
Often, too many companies are creating solutions before understanding the problems they are trying to solve. Designing a good product relies on understanding customer needs, incorporating feedback and setting priorities. Unfortunately, this information is easily lost in endless spreadsheets, databases and emails, resulting in products that do not address customer needs.
While detailed product documentation sheets help map out a customer journey, it fails to give a clear picture of how users navigate the product or where the roadblocks are. Visualising these interactions can help teams gain a better understanding of the entire user journey before ever building a product.
For example, a wordy user flow transforms into a flowchart. A diagram shows how short- and long-term project goals fit together. And a visual workflow uses an easy-to-follow series of arrows to show who is responsible for what and accountable to whom. These visuals can then help product teams more clearly identify holes in the customer experience and which are the priority, allowing them to build solutions faster.
- Manage workloads
Most workers contend with a plethora of communication and collaboration platforms to move projects forward. There are project management platforms, analytics tools, internal messaging channels, emails, spreadsheets and cloud data and file storage – plus all of the specialised systems used across departments. This growing web of communications makes it more likely that work can become disjointed.
Written documentation will not reveal the bottlenecks, dependencies, conflicting priorities and just how overburdened your team members might be. It is one thing to assign an employee ten different tasks over email or in a meeting. It is another when you can see that imbalanced workload in a project planning diagram. By visualising workloads, teams can stay aligned on task status and priority assignments all while seeing where their tasks fit within the overall project.
- Encourage creativity
The phrase, “I’m so inspired by this spreadsheet!” has rarely been meant or said. Yet often teams rely on continuous rows of data or words to try and communicate complex problems.
Visuals can do a more effective job of capturing and communicating the big picture or goal. Visual collaboration solutions can act as a ‘war room’ with infinite space for any decision-making process. For instance, team members that are usually quiet in meetings can share new ideas on a virtual whiteboard which can be easily turned into action plans. Likewise, collaborators and stakeholders can refer back to the visual workspace as a single source of truth throughout the project, allowing everyone to understand the thought process – and inspiration – behind every idea and decision.
- Move from idea to action
Visuals remove the complexity and potential misunderstandings with words and spreadsheets to empower teams to move creative ideas into clear action plans.
By capturing ideation and brainstorming sessions in a single space and organising the ideas visually, teams can quickly see the connections between ideas and how individual solutions can work together to solve a larger problem. Visualising what you are building, and how it will impact your users, makes team priorities and next steps clea, and all stakeholders stay aligned with a single glance.
- Adapt and master how to collaborate with hybrid teams
Despite many businesses being hybrid for years, a majority still struggle with effective collaboration. The companies that thrive going forward will be the ones that embrace new solutions which enable and support collaborative hybrid workforces.
Product teams need greater agility, creativity and communication in order to build the solutions customers need. Applications like virtual whiteboards and intelligent diagramming allow everyone, in or out of the conference room, to participate. Instead of endless email chains, visual processes allow people to engage from anywhere, at any time and clearly see how their work fits into the bigger picture. Enabling teams to deliver the best possible solutions.
Lead with visual collaboration
Many of the obstacles posed by distributed and hybrid work are opportunities for project leaders to find new ways to help teams stay creative and productive. By using visual collaboration solutions, product builders, designers, engineers and all stakeholders can align and iterate faster than ever before to turn ideas into reality.
Visual records are changing the way meetings are recorded, the way teams identify priorities, and ultimately, the way we understand the problems products are trying to solve. Leaders of any business can feel empowered to capitalise on the changing workplace and turn the difficulties of a hybrid workforce into strengths.Click below to share this article