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Managing Collaboration and Communication in Research

June 29, 2023 (5 min read)
Research collaboration can be hard across virtual teams. Fortunately, technology can help.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world in a multitude of ways. It’s no secret that we are no longer living in the same society that existed in 2019. Because of the events of the last few years, we are now dealing with things like growing inflation, industry-agnostic mass layoffs, and a massive increases in remote offices. That last point is unique in that it’s something people are often rooting for, as employees have realized the flexibility and balance that comes with a remote or hybrid work life.

While there are plenty of positives with remote work, it can also lead to communication struggles across businesses. And that can impact a company’s ability to find and maintain thorough research in their field. Luckily, workflow technology is here to change the communication game for the better. Software that streamlines and reworks workflow processes can often improve collaboration, increase adaptability, and better connect various teams so everything runs a whole lot smoother.

In this article, we outline the ways in which workflow tech can optimize—and greatly help—research workflow and change management.

The role of communication in research

Researchers know that communication is the key to success. Once an important fact or figure is located, it loses its meaning if it’s not actually stored and sent out to the right stakeholders.

For instance, imagine that a change management officer receives a report that 50% of the company’s employees lose 5-10 minutes per day because their email two-factor authentication is too difficult. If this report goes under the radar, that time loss could continue happening, piling up into wasted hours and days due to an inefficient product. However, if the officer does their due diligence to flag this problem and find the proper people to help address it, the time can be saved quite easily.

This kind of cross-team communication also builds trust and relationships among employees, making teams more aligned and cohesive so that everyone is on the same page. Research has shown that knowing one’s coworkers leads to more productivity and makes it easier to identify challenges and conflicts earlier.

In a remote setting, companies need to get creative to find ways to foster community. Workflow tools like Slack allow for personalization and casual messaging among coworkers, which can lead to a more aligned and communicative workplace. Encouraging these conversations—even creating things as silly-seeming as “pet picture” Slack rooms—is a great way to ensure remote employees still feel connected.

MORE: How to optimize your change management with research workflow tools

Enhancing productivity through communication

Communication isn’t just about developing a sense of camaraderie — increasing a workplace’s connectivity also increases the speed of production. Chat rooms should also focus on being effective communication channels for decision making and information sharing to enhance productivity. Instead of encouraging employees to share work via email threads or one-on-one conversations, it’s important to create rooms that include all key stakeholders, so everyone is tuned into the new progress.

Consider, for instance, a company that uses the tool Asana as their workflow software for research projects. Leaders might create a chat room that is geared specifically around one specific research niche—like customer feedback around product packaging—and invite every employee so each person can see everything shared in that room. Then, when a teammate comes across new insight on consumer feedback on packaging, they can share the data and have it seen by the whole team immediately.

In turn, being able to see key updates and news in real time increases productivity. When research teams are connected and able to communicate about their work, they can avoid doubling up on certain topics or articles and the workflow moves a lot more smoothly.

MORE: Creating an effective workflow process

Communication tools for facilitating collaboration

There are many communication tools to choose from, each with their benefits for cross-team collaboration. Real-time collaboration platforms like Slack and Teams are used for the messages, like one-on-one threads and group chats. Programs like Asana, Trello, and AirTable offer longer-term communication that might not be as immediate or collaborative but can house documents and allow for multiple people to work on a project remotely.

These tools offer project management components, which help users organize tasks and track progress, which are just some of the ways workflow tools improve the overall trajectory of a team’s work.

Leveraging workflow technology for communication and collaboration in research

All of this can very easily be applied to research projects, to create a seamless internal research process. Virtual collaboration tools are helpful for the above reasons, but research-specific technology can also aid collaboration and communication.

It’s not uncommon for research to be collected in an ongoing document, series of tabs, or other forms that are not easy to organize and share. This creates a roadblock for your team when you have multiple people working on the same project and need access to shared data.

Fortunately, tools like Nexis® Hub geared directly toward research teams often offer automated data storage, sharing and analysis, and then provide a way for that to be centralized. These hub tools offer central points of collection and the ability to work across teams and share reports.

Users can store data and have it automatically categorized, saving the mundane copy-and-paste steps. From there, data is easily accessed across teams, so there’s no fear that certain people won’t have access to, or even know about, important files. This saves valuable time and money, making cross-communication swift and easy so teams are not working in the dark or wasting time writing internal memos.

MORE: How to choose the right workflow technology

Ensuring data security and confidentiality

The process of collaboration and open communication is crucial to a company’s internal operations, but there are always downsides to open access. Company data and research likely needs to be kept secure and confidential, so it’s important to safeguard sensitive information. Tools like Nexis Hub, Slack and Asana often build in two-factor authentication and other helpful security measures, so it’s vital to take advantage of those options to keep data private.

Companies can look toward ethical and legal guidelines in regard to data collection. Data privacy laws differ by state, but generally it’s unethical to share personal information with anyone who does not urgently need that data.

Use a central hub to collaborate on your research projects

Research workflow is an ever-changing aspect of corporate culture, and new innovations make it far easier to businesses to stay connected. In a remote office landscape especially, it’s imperative that teams are openly talking among each other and bridging gaps that might have occurred due to a lack of physical office space.

Tools that facilitate communication or collaboration, like Nexis Hub, tackle many of the barriers that research teams face when it comes to working virtually. This makes companies more cohesive, saves a great deal of time and, ultimately, makes employees’ lives a whole lot easier.