Expert Interview Series: Mattias Le Cren of Azendoo on Improving Collaboration and Project Management

If your business is still using email to collaborate or manage projects, it might be time to update your strategy

Mattias Le Cren, a content manager at task management software solution Azendoo, writes about productivity, collaboration and the future of work. He recently checked in with us to share what he thinks companies should be doing to collaborate more effectively. Here's what he had to say:

What's Azendoo's approach to collaboration and increasing productivity?

At Azendoo, our goal is to provide the best application possible to enable teams to collaborate easily and efficiently. But we also are Azendoo first users. The whole team lives inside Azendoo, and that's where we all collaborate.

Our approach to collaboration is to break away from collaborating within emails, simply because it was not designed to be your to-do list, neither a group communication tool. We believe that there are different forms of collaboration when it comes to getting work done in teams, and we try to empower each of them through our application.

The first type of team collaboration is collaborative knowledge. It revolves around the communication on each piece of information that goes through our respective work and share it with the right people. Other team members can then add their own knowledge/ideas and that sparks conversations and often leads to consensus on the actions taken.

The second type is collaborative skills. Each team member has a special set of skills and adding up these skills (and knowledge) creates what we call synergy. But this type of collaboration does not just happen, you have to encourage it. Each team member should feel responsible for each other's work and help them improve their work with their skills and knowledge.

These are the two different types of collaboration that we enable with Azendoo. We provide a space for team communication, as well as a project management system where each team member can manage their own work while still being able to see the bigger picture.

Why do you think these areas can be a challenge for organizations?

Most organizations are still mainly using emails for internal communication, and while it can be effective in some cases, it simply isn't adapted to team communication.

In other cases, each employee organizes their work in separate to-do lists, such as on a piece of paper. Again, while this might seem fine to plan your day as such, no-one else but you know what you will be working on that day. That hinders collaboration greatly, and work becomes more individual.

Concerning collaboration, it too depends on individuals, but is more of a team effort. When some individuals are willing to help others, the feeling tends to spread out, eventually achieving team wide collaboration.

Implementing the right tools facilitates the process, and empowers your team to collaborate more and better. The challenges are three fold:

  • Empowering employees to improve their productivity

  • Encouraging team collaboration to enable synergy

  • Implementing the right tools to support team collaboration

What are the most common pain points your clients come to you with as it relates to collaboration and productivity?

Most of our clients need more visibility on their team work, progress and achievements. They are also looking for a tool that encompasses the three pillars of collaboration, which are team communication, document sharing and task management.

So it comes down to a need to give structure to personal productivity with task management, then making it collaborative so that everyone knows who is working on what and can advance together.

What should organizations be doing from both a technology and a culture standpoint to grow collaboration?

From a technology standpoint, organizations should find the right tools that enable deeper collaboration. This is true for small scope collaboration, such as document editing, but also for broader team wide collaboration, such as a project management system.

Tools that enable simultaneous document editing are much more effective than the back and forth that would happen when using more traditional tools. And tools like Azendoo are much more effective than daily meetings, group emails, and other more traditional approaches to team collaboration.

On the culture side, I believe that transparency and horizontality are both major components of collaboration. How can anyone participate if they are kept in the dark? If you allow anyone to join as long as they have legitimacy and something to offer, it will boost morale, motivation and involvement.

What are the biggest blockers of collaboration within an organization?

The biggest blockers are old habits and fear of change. Collaboration can only function when all individuals are willing and is facilitated by software. However, when some individuals in an organization aren't willing to adapt the software that enables collaboration, whether that's because they are comfortable in the way that they are functioning now, or because they are afraid of potential changes, that blocks collaboration as a whole.

The rest of the team needs to make extra efforts to collaborate with them and the momentum and the gain from using the new technology is lost.

What are best practices for using technology like Azendoo for collaboration?

Setting up your environment is vital for using a tool like Azendoo successfully. New users need to find the tool that best suits their needs, and that will best adapt to the way they are organized. Then they should map out all aspects of their work and see how to transfer them to the app in an optimal way.

Once you're are all set up, make sure that your team put all their work in Azendoo, to make it visible to other team members. That's the first step toward deeper collaboration. Then, the key is to share often. Share updates on your work, on a project, or on anything else that is noteworthy.

Another best practice when working in collaboration tools is to mind your collaborators. That means carefully explaining your thoughts, being clear and concise when communicating. Sharing the right pieces of information with the right people is also essential, because over communication can also become problematic.

What are the most common mistakes organizations make or misconceptions organizations have about using digital tools to improve collaboration?

That it instantly improves everyone's productivity. People have to adapt to and adopt the tools first, there is an adaptation phase that the teams must go through.

What project management advice do you find yourself repeating over and over again?

To drop emails in teams. Email are OK in small groups or with people outside of your organization, but become hectic when used organization wide.

What trends or innovations are you most excited about as they relate to increasing productivity and collaboration within an organization?

I think the trend is to interconnect applications. This has some great benefits for the users: they can use different apps within a single one of them. This is why Azendoo integrated the best cloud applications, such as DropBox, Evernote, Box, Google Drive or the new Microsoft OneDrive addition.

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