How Product Teams Can Visually Collaborate in a Remote World
March 02, 2020

Adam Scroggin

Digital transformation is all about leveraging technology into all areas of a business, leading to change in the way a business operates. It’s no secret that this idea of digital transformation has taken the world by storm. One of the biggest byproducts of this movement is the SaaS industry. SaaS companies alone generated more than $72 billion in 2018. IT departments and product teams have fueled this digital transformation. From developing a product roadmap to defining the user experience, product development is pivotal to the massive transformation the business world has undergone. Ironically these development teams have been stuck in traditional workflows while creating the platforms to digitally transform processes. Whether this is a spreadsheet of tasks, post-it notes on a wall, a dry erase board full of notes or a document listing the details of a product; it is time that product teams go digital themselves. 

Finding a way to digitally upgrade product teams is even more crucial as we enter a world where more and more of the workforce is working remotely. Working with a team can be highly rewarding, yet extremely difficult, especially if you add remote team members into the mix. One of the most crucial aspects of software development is collaboration. When relying on traditional workflows, you can lose out on the ability to collaborate and visualize your work together in a remote world. However, this doesn’t have to happen thanks to technology that can help ensure your product team is able to build a successful product, no matter how spread apart they are. 

For product teams looking to go digital without losing the power of visual collaboration, there are key features they should look for in the tools they adopt. 

1. Real-time collaboration

GoogleDocs is the go-to tool to use when having to write a document or create a presentation as a team. What makes it so beneficial is the ability to see what other team members are doing in real-time. For product development teams planning out their product roadmap, you must be able to know what edits other team members have made. Real-time collaboration is key for technology utilized by product teams. A major component of collaboration is feedback. Hearing the opinions of your team is crucial when trying to bring a product to market. Ensure you use a tool that allows everyone to partake in conversation, regardless of their location.

2. Accountability

When you are on a team comprised of remote workers, the need for accountability is heightened. In order to hold team members accountable from a distance, you need a shared platform to assign tasks to one another. This is a great way to organize projects from the beginning and increase the shared understanding amongst the team. Assigning each team member a task they are responsible for makes sure each component of the project is accounted for. When a certain element is not complete, you can then have a place to look back to and see who was responsible for that task and hold them accountable. If an agreed-upon due date is approaching and a task is not complete, you can reach out to the team member who it was assigned to and see if they need assistance. 

3. Cloud storage

Today’s workers can be working from anywhere — home, the office, a co-working space or a coffee shop. They need to be able to access projects from all of these places. Most of the world is moving to the cloud. Be sure your tool follows that trend. This is a particular problem in the brainstorming part of product development. A product team will draw on a physical whiteboard or put post-it notes up on a wall. What do you do when that board is erased? What does the remote worker on the team do when they need to look back at a post-it note from the brainstorm? You need to be able to access information around each step of the process no matter where you are located.

4. Integrations

A product team typically leverages a wide array of tools for building the product. You don’t want your work to be done in silos. You need to be sure your products can work together with bi-directional syncs where changes on one platform will be reflected on the other. Integrations are an opportunity to ensure your team is set up for success. For example, you might have a backlog for a project in one tool, but that doesn’t help your team make sense of what they are building. You can utilize a visual tool to clarify workflow and the user experience, then sync that with the project backlog. 

With more and more work transitioning from cubicles to remote spaces, product teams will need to find tools to aid the collaboration process. Technology can never fully replace face-to-face communication, but you can try to replicate it through a visual collaboration tool. Find a tool that helps you execute your tasks, keep your team accountable and ultimately, build better products.

Adam Scroggin is CEO of CardBoard
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