Why digital teamwork is more than just the right platform

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8 min read

Bill Gate once said that "automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency". The same goes for teams that collaborate digitally. 


1. Advantages of good team work
2. Requirements for digital team work 

Even before DIGITALL merged and combined two companies with numerous locations, we collaborated remotely on many occasions. My colleague Juliane Waack, who authors many of our other blog articles, sits in Berlin, I work from Karlsruhe. Our head designer is in Sofia, Bulgaria and our colleagues from Business Development are mainly situated in Böblingen and Munich. In short: we mostly collaborate virtually and if I may say so, we do it quite successfully.  

But what makes a successful team within the digital workplace and why is it important in the first place?  

Advantages of (good) teamwork

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Teamwork gives Purpose

According to the Queen's University of Charlotte, 75% of employees rate teamwork and collaboration as extremely important (source: queens.edu).   

There's been plenty of research on the positive effects of teamwork and communication within companies. Pretty much all of them show that a good team culture helps the company as much as the individual since it also strengthens motivation and purpose. A good functioning team works well because every single member knows what they bring to the table which in itself is motivating. Additionally, a good team usually increases retention because many people show loyalty rather to people than to a company.  

Teamwork provides transparency

Access to information and transparency are not only important for teamwork, they are also results of good teamwork. As such, people are aligned, know their different goals and responsibilities and can support much more productively.  

Knowledge is shared instead of isolated which in turn creates a basis where people are much more likely to help each other which can ease stress on specialists and experts.  

Teams are more creative & diverse

Especially diverse teams can excel in creative problem solutions and idea development since they combine different points of view, experiences and approaches. "Diversity" in that sense, can be many different things as well. According to "The Secrets of Great Teamwork" by Martine Haas and Mark Mortensen (source: hbr.org), even local vs. global experts can add perspectives to a team and combine more universal solutions with regional-specific ones.  

The same goes for experience. Whereas experienced team members add many best practices, "inexperienced" members can bring a new outlook on topics that might have been treated as a "given".  

Find out how Huber + Suhner supported their business units to collaborate for better, faster, and easier customer service. 

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Productivity increases without "Bottlenecks"

A well-oiled team is able to set up processes, manage projects and follow goals without much "waste" of resources and time. When everyone knows their own skills, their team members' skills and the resources they all have for certain tasks, it's a lot easier to create roadmaps and processes that fit to everyone's skill set and availability.  

Additionally, a team can get together to come up with so-called "quick wins", which are easy and fast solutions to support the team's goals.  

Requirements for digital Teamwork

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Whether online or analog, most teams require certain basics no matter the platform and collaboration type. An aligned goal and purpose, a diverse team with clear responsibilities and skills as well as the right processes to communicate, share and collaborate are key in any environment.  

My personal three key ingredients for great teamwork:  

  1. Keep your sense of humor 
  2. Don't blame anyone for mistakes, try to look for solutions  
  3. Take care of your own needs as much as your team mates' 

However, I do want to point out a few specific requirements that might be especially important when most team members communicate mainly virtually.  

Have regular succint meetings

A weekly meeting helps to bring everyone together and discuss the most urgent topics. From experience, not everyone needs to give a status update on every single topic. In fact, it helps to discuss the most important issues, especially if someone needs support or faces a challenge.  

These meetings can also help to define who will be responsible for a task and receive support from which team members (who then can make their own calls for further details).  

The purpose of these meetings is to be up to date on all tasks, raise issues early and for the whole group and also check in on each member to see if everyone is aligned and has everything their need. 

Communicate often and share progress

At DIGITALL, we have many different ways to communicate with each other. We have regular meetings, group chats, individual chats and call each other. Whoever works together in an office also tries to plan office times together. However, the most important thing is to keep everyone updated (if they need to be updated).  

 Since remote work offers a lot of flexibility for individual work schedules, it is still important to share not only the results but also the progress of tasks to keep correction loops short and reduce overall resources. This is especially important for group projects. These updates don't have to be formal via email and as a full presentation but can be also shared casually in a chat with those team members who are actively involved in the task and who then can give their feedback directly.  

Respect concentration Time & availability

Although it should seem as if remote work offers more time to concentrate on bigger tasks and complex issues, modern communication platforms and devices can make it difficult to truly "log off" and therefore create an environment where notifications, chat messages, and calls govern the whole work day without a single hour of full concentration time.  

As a team, it helps to clearly communicate times off (e.g., via blockers in the calendar or turning one’s own profile status to "offline") and for the team to respect these times. I've noticed a certain phenomenon, where people interpret clear space in a calendar as "spare time" and will cram meetings in for the sake of "productivity". But everyone needs time for their own tasks, organization, and ideas to actually be productive.   

Don'T forget the social aspect

It can be alluring to simply reduce all digital communication to work related tasks, questions, and information. However, there should always be space for private chats, humor, and personal news within a team. In our team, we like to start our regular meetings with a so-called "check-in" in which each meeting member can talk a little bit about themselves (everyone can share whatever they like).  

This also goes for team leads and their communication with the rest of the team. The occasional 1:1 talk to check in on individual members and make sure they are also fine on a personal level is especially important in environments where people are not likely to meet each other in the coffee kitchen or break room.  

Meet in person, at least once

It is entirely possible to have a great team culture without ever having met each other in person but if it is possible, try to meet up in person once or twice a year for team bonding, workshops and socializing. There still is something else about being able to move in a physical space together, choose conversation groups, and experience things together offline.  

The way that casual interactions, especially in a looser setting like a break room, restaurant, etc. can help get a feel for someone's personality, is incredibly helpful to create bonds but also understand people's communication styles better. I personally found that knowing how someone is in a non-work-related conversation helps a lot reading between the lines when they write an email or reply in a chat window.  

Use the right tools and Platforms

I know, the headline to this article might imply that I would specifically not talk about platforms but with everything digital, the technology is crucial. However, given all the previously mentioned points, the way it is being used is informed by how good the team works together with or without the platform.  

The platform itself should be seen as the "playing field" to set up processes, communicate, and share in a way that helps both be in line with company standards and at the same time be flexible enough for individual working styles. Platforms like Teams or Slack are great since they offer not only a wide enough space for different groups and 1:1 chats but also are open enough for integrations with many other tools depending on the needs of the group.  

Find out more about the perfect team platforms, their different functionalities and how they can be connected to your other systems.  

Enable your teams

by Sabine Kirchem

Sabine Kirchem is a Marketing, Brand, and Communications expert as well as a book author. She is enthused by innovation topics, current trends and technologies in the areas of digitalization, marketing and communications.

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