The BroadVision Blog

How to Get Your Team Working More Efficiently

When productivity slumps, the work isn’t the only thing that suffers. Morale also sinks with it. Sometimes the morale issues cause the efficiency decline, sometimes it goes the other way. But if you need to improve your team’s efficiency, there are some tried and proven ways to do it. Be a good leader, and your team’s productivity and intensity will surprise you!

Establish Roles

Team working more efficiently
Which workers are responsible for what assignments? Make sure they know what’s expected of them.

Are the roles within your team clearly defined and well understood? If productivity is lacking, it could be a matter of confusion over who needs to take responsibility for what. For example, if no one knows they’re in charge of printing and reviewing report X, it’s unlikely to get done. If Sammy thinks it’s Sally’s job, he won’t want to step on her toes by taking the initiative to do it. Make sure the roles and responsibilities within your team are well defined and clearly assigned.

Set Clearly Communicated Objectives

Team working more efficiently
What goals are your team trying to meet? What’s in it for them if they succeed?

If your workers have no better concept of your objectives than, “We need to do this, and do it as quickly as possible,” they aren’t in a position to help you meet your goals. Set clear objectives, such as improving production by 10 percent by quarter end, or producing X number of widgets per day. Then make sure that they understand what their stake in meeting the goals is: how will they benefit from the company’s improved efficiency? This might be a more stable job situation or a bonus, or even a pizza party, but they need to know what meeting your objectives does for them personally.

Delegate Wisely

Do you delegate simply by handing off the junk you don’t want to do to your team? If so, this is probably demoralizing your workers and driving down their efficiency and productivity. Give your workers authority over an aspect of the work, and assign them responsibility for the outcome. This endows them with ownership, and a sense of ownership always improves productivity.

Provide Better Collaboration Tools

Are workers so inundated with emails, voice mails, and instant messages that they can’t be productive? If so, better collaborative tools can cut down on meaningless correspondence and communications and allow your workers to receive the information they need to do their jobs while eliminating useless distractions. Vmoso is a proven platform for better office communication and collaboration.

Lead by Example

Have you ever visited a restaurant or fast food joint where the manager had their sleeves rolled up, working as hard as the workers? If so, you’ve likely noticed that the workers are also cranking out work as quickly and efficiently as they are capable of. Managers who work hard themselves establish an atmosphere of productivity and rarely have trouble getting their team members on board.

Ax the Busywork

Is your office snowed under with generating meaningless reports, attending useless meetings, or other unnecessary busywork? Streamline processes and eliminate stuff that isn’t essential for efficiency and productivity. This doesn’t just free up more time for workers to produce, it also improves morale so that they have a great attitude about digging in and getting things done.

Ready to take working efficiently to the next level? Get even more helpful tips in the next post, the Project Management Approach to a More Effective Workday.

The 7 Biggest Workplace Time-Wasters and How to Avoid Them

Your employees work hard. You’re positive of this, because every time you stroll through the office, they are toiling along. So why is productivity so low? What’s holding up progress? Here are the biggest time-wasters in the workplace, and how to axe them for good.

1. Irrelevant Meetings and Presentations

Workplace
If the meeting can’t be eliminated, but perhaps only a few workers actually need to attend.

Meetings have spiraled out of control. We now hold meetings with the sole agenda of planning where, when, and how to hold other meetings! Presentations are the same — nobody needs someone to read every slide of a PowerPoint, just distribute the file and let workers read at their own pace. Eliminate meetings and opt for another means of discussion and collaboration, or restrict meetings to instances when nothing else will work.

2. Replace the “To Do” List With a “Stop Doing” List

The “to do” list has been as misused and abused as the old meeting. Workers get so focused on completing the menial tasks on the list, that they neglect more pressing matters. Work toward creating “stop doing” lists, which help workers give up time-wasters and focus on the tasks at hand.

3. Doing Other People’s Work

Are managers or other workers trying to take up the slack for workers who either don’t know what they’re doing or simply need a hand with everything? If so, it’s time to start letting the swimmers swim and, well, let the others sink. Holding up dead weight drags everyone’s productivity down.

4. Constant Interruptions (Business or Personal)

Workplace
Give employees the right tools to control interruptions and increase their productivity.

A worker delves into a task. Then the phone rings. Then an email message pops up. After that, the worker’s mom sends her a text message, and then a coworker stops by for a question (or two or five). Designate specific times of the day to handle calls and messages and leave the rest available for productive work.

5. Over-Multitasking

Multitasking makes many workers feel like they’re accomplishing a lot, but are they really? Taking on too much at once can mean that 100 different projects are 1 percent complete at the end of the day. It’s usually more efficient to undertake a single project and work to its completion (or at least a realistic stopping point) before taking on the next.

6. A Disorganized Work Environment

Creative types love to tout their clutter as an organizational system only they understand. But studies show that clutter and disorganization lead to significant wasted time over the long run. Insist on tidy workspaces, viable filing systems, and practical processes and workflows throughout the organization.

7. Excessive Breaks

It’s a good idea to get the mind (and the eyes) off the computer for brief times during the workday. It helps reestablish focus and reduce stress. But visiting the coffee machine or smoking area every 15-20 minute is not productive; it simply wastes a lot of time. Designate specific break times (two to three per day) and restrict trips to the break room to those times. It’s okay for employees to stand up, stretch, or take a brief walk in between those times, but an extended coffee or smoking break can easily waste 1-2 hours in a given workday, plus regularly scheduled breaks and lunches. It adds up.

Finding yourself distracted from your real work or fighting constant interruptions? Read more in How Do You Solve a Problem Like Email .

10 Ways Your Current Communication Tools Are Wasting Your Time

The way we use communication tools in business today is riddled with inefficiencies and frustrations. When you add up all the time we waste working around these irritations, it makes you realise how long we spend looking for the information we need to do our jobs, rather than actually doing our jobs. A study by McKinsey Global Institute in 2012 estimated that information workers spend 19% of their working week searching for and gathering information.

Here’s a list of 10 ways current tools waste our time – how many of them do you suffer from?

  1. A co-worker sent you some important information you needed. But you can’t remember how they sent it. Was it posted on the intranet? Sent in an email? In a chat on an instant messenger? You search each one, and finally find it in the last place you look.
  2. You’ve just joined a project that’s already underway. The project manager sends you several long email discussions about progress so far and open issues. You have to start at the bottom of each one and work your way up to understand the discussion, filtering out the frequent off-topic diversions.
  3. You’ve been sent a document to review. You read through it and send back your comments. Turns out that the author has already changed the document based on other peoples’ comments, and you were reviewing an old version.
  4. You get an email from your co-worker asking, “did you get the message I sent last Tuesday?” You trawl back through your inbox, spam folder and recycle bin trying to find it.
  5. You’ve been on vacation. You get back and find 600 new messages in your inbox. You spend all day going through them, and find that even after deleting all the spam, most of the messages that are left are parts of discussions that have been entirely resolved while you were away.
  6. You’re on the train on the way back from a customer meeting and receive a question in an email on your smartphone. You know you’ve got the answer in a document on your laptop, but you’ve run out of battery, so can’t get at it until you’re back at the office.
  7. A week ago, you asked 10 people in your department to indicate acceptance of a new company policy. Some of them have done it, others haven’t. You go back through your email working out who has replied, and send reminders to those who haven’t.
  8. You get an instant message from a co-worker saying they’ve shared a document with you on a file-sharing service. You log on to the service, and can’t see the document so you write back saying you don’t have access. Turns out they mistyped your email address when they shared it.
  9. You get a question from someone in the company you’ve never heard of. You’re a little cautious about how to reply because you don’t know them. So you ask your manager who it is; they don’t know either. You write back, politely asking who they are.
  10. You’re out of the office. Your mail app tells you your mailbox is full and can’t receive any new messages. You have to create personal folders on your laptop and download all the messages from your inbox. But you can’t get a reliable connection to the company VPN, so can’t sort it out until you get back to the office.

 

We created Vmoso specifically to address these, and other inefficiencies in the way businesses communicate today. Here’s how Vmoso solves each of the 10 problems.

  1. As an integrated suite of messaging, file-sharing and social networking, Vmoso offers a universal search which will help you find a discussion, whatever format it took place in.
  2. All the replies in a Vmoso discussion are listed in the right order. If you join halfway through, you simply start at the top and read through the discussion to catch up.
  3. Vmoso maintains a version history of each attachment. When you update a file, all references to that file are updated, so everyone can always see the latest version.
  4. Vmoso’s unique system of cross-referencing creates an interconnected web of content – instead of making people go and search, you can just include a direct link to it, even if it’s a specific comment in a discussion.
  5. Vmoso’s activity stream consolidates all replies in a discussion, and highlights those in which you have been explicitly mentioned. So it’s easy to see what you need to read, and what you can leave until later.
  6. Vmoso stores all your content and discussions in the cloud, and makes it available to any connected device, wherever in the world you are.
  7. Vmoso tasks let you quickly determine who’s completed the action they were given, and send reminders to those who haven’t.
  8. Only a unified communication system like Vmoso can offer a truly consistent layer of access control across all types of content.
  9. Every member in Vmoso has a profile, making it easy for you to find out more about them.
  10. All your Vmoso content is stored in the cloud and available to any device.

 

To sign up for Vmoso, click here, or download the iPhone or Android app.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Email?

Few information workers would argue with the assertion that business use of email is now so far out of control that we need to do something about it. The statistics are so terrifying that they’re scarcely believable – apparently the average employee sends 78 emails a day, receives 37, and checks their email 36 times an hour. But it’s not just a problem of email overload; email’s inherent lack of accountability have contributed at least in part to the downfall of many prominent people including George Entwhistle, James Murdoch and Steven Cohen, and is currently making life uncomfortable for its highest-profile victim yet, Hillary Clinton.
We all know there’s a problem – what we can’t agree on is the solution.

Technology vendors have split into two main schools of thought: one is trying to fix email, the other trying to replace it. The “fix email” camp is layering more functionality, filters and user interface innovations on top of email clients to make it faster and easier to deal with the ever-increasing deluge of messages. The “replace email” camp is creating new communication environments entirely separate from email and all its problems.

At BroadVision we believe that both approaches are doomed to failure.

The “fix email” approach calls to mind the rather clichéd babies in the river parable – making it easier to rescue the proverbial babies from the river, rather than going upstream and stopping people throwing them in.

The “replace email” approach does recognise that superficial innovations to email just disguise the problem rather than really fixing it. But it fails to deal with the uncomfortable reality that email remains the one ubiquitous, global protocol for communication – every company can send and receive email, every connected device you have can send and receive email (OK, so there may be exceptions… just not very many). Creating a new, closed communication environment may be great for the people inside it – not so good when you need to communicate with someone outside it.

Indeed, this is one of the reasons why much of the promise of enterprise social networking remains unfulfilled. For many companies, however much they wanted to move to a new, more efficient, more open way of working, they found it too hard to change employee habits. They ended up being dragged back into the bad old ways of email, because that remains the one guaranteed way of connecting with everyone.

That’s why BroadVision designed Vmoso with a “no user left behind” philosophy. Yes, we agree with the “replace email” approach – we need a fundamentally redesigned environment for business communication, suitable for the interconnected, mobile age and Vmoso delivers that. But we understand that different companies are at different levels of readiness for change, and within companies, different departments and even different employees have different appetites to make the move.

So you can fully engage in Vmoso-hosted collaborations from an email client for as you need to. Each discussion in Vmoso has a unique email address that can be used only by participants of the discussion, and email users can initiate new Vmoso discussions using the generic addresses such as chat@vmoso.com and task@vmoso.com, even if they’ve never used Vmoso before (go on, try it!).

We believe Vmoso is unique in providing a bridge from the old world of communication to the new – a state-of-the-art environment for business collaboration and engagement that leaves no email user behind.

To sign up for Vmoso, click here, or download the iPhone or Android app.

How We Communicate #6: Richard Hughes

First, tell us a little bit about yourself

Richard Hughes
I work in the marketing team at BroadVision, where I do a lot of writing for the blog and longer form content such as white papers and The Business Communication Revolution. In the past I’ve done lot of business travelling, but these days work from my home office most of the time so am a remote-but-fairly-static worker.

How many different services do you send and receive business-related messages through?

I’ve counted them up and think it’s eight: Clearvale, Vmoso, email, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, LinkedIn and finally Feedly, which I use as a my main aggregator for industry news feeds.

What’s the first communication tool you check in the morning when you start work?

Usually Facebook, and usually from my Android phone before I start work. Viewing photos of what my friends had for lunch yesterday or what their pets are up to doesn’t require my brain to be quite as awake as business communication does.

When I get to work I try to spend the first 30-60 minutes catching up on all the different information sources, so go through the eight listed above in turn, although not always in the same order.

How much of your communication takes place from your desk, and how much while you’re away from your desk?

These days, probably 90% at my desk because I’m travelling a lot less than I used to. Although I work at home, I have a distinctly separate office where I work, and I often use my phone and iPad to check in on Clearvale and Vmoso before I’ve gone to work or after ‘’ve come home.

Do you check messages as soon as they arrive, or save them up for specific times of the day?

I try to discipline myself to catch up on communication at specific times in the day – first thing in the morning, just before lunch, just after lunch, at the end of the day. As I spend a lot of my day writing (or trying to write), reading messages as soon as they arrive can be very distracting. But I must admit I do it more often than I should as a form of “justifiable prevarication”. I’m trying hard to cut down on this though, and make sure that I am in control of my communication rather than it being in control of me.

How has the way you communicate changed over the last 3 years?

Email within the company has almost entirely disappeared. 95% of internal communication happens through Clearvale, and more recently Vmoso. This is a hugely positive change because it means discussions are held in a central place, and I don’t have to worry about filing emails away. If I want to go back to an older discussion, I just search Clearvale.

Email – your best friend or worst enemy?

Neither really. Email’s great for throwaway person-to-person communication like “I’ll be 10 minutes late for the meeting” – nobody ever needs to go back to find that sort of discussion a year later, and none the rest of your followers want that sort of thing spamming their activity stream. But misuse of email, for things like big group discussions certainly falls into the “worst enemy” category.

Popup notifications – love them or hate them?

Mostly “hate”. The problem is there are just too many of them, often telling you about trivial things. I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t disable the constant “Bob is now online” pop-ups from Skype. Do you really need to know that right now? And for a while I even had an app on my phone that insisted on popping up messages about which day my rubbish bin was going to be collected.

I find the notification management on both iOS and Android quite poor, and not granular enough to choose which sorts of notifications you want from each app. For example, most of the time “Bob is now online” is just noise to me, but there may be a time when I desperately need to talk to Bob and really want to know when he’s online. I’d really like notification systems that were intelligent enough to understand (and learn) what sort of information I need at different times of the day.

If I stole your smart phone and only gave it back to you after I deleted every app except one, which one would you choose to keep?

I know this is a bit of cheat, but probably “Google Chrome”; almost all of the communication services I use have reasonable web interfaces. I’ve always been disappointed in the way mobile development has been so app-centric – it feels a very backward step at a time when so many desktop apps were moving to the browser. I would love to see some real innovation in mobile web apps.

If you could fix just one thing in the business communication tools you use, what would it be?

I’d really like to have fewer tools. There are times when I go round the full cycle of communication tools I use and by the time I’ve finished I have to start again because of all the new updates since I last checked. “One tool to rule them all” is probably unrealistic, but some consolidation would be most welcome. However, to achieve that, I think we’re going to need to see new standards for interchange of information between social networks and other communication tools – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Clearvale, Vmoso etc all have their own APIs, and Skype doesn’t really have a proper open API.