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10 Methods to Improve the Efficiency of Document Sharing for Your Project

Posted by  David McAughtrie

Engaged, collaborative teams have become the gold standard for business success. Studies show that over the past 20 years, the time that managers and employees spend working on projects together has increased by more than 50 percent, and that collaborative organizations tend to experience higher levels of employee engagement. However, as businesses seek to improve collaboration among staff members, they have encountered obstacles created by outdated technology. Software that was originally designed to be used by individual contributors is struggling to keep up with the needs of cooperative teams. Improving the efficiency of document sharing is critical to supporting effective collaboration. 

The Challenges of Document Sharing 

Many companies still rely on the business applications that were created early in the PC revolution, when individual staff members completed work independently, then sent it to their direct supervisor for review. Though levels of collaboration have grown, many organizations continue to depend on the same programs that were intended for individual contributors. As a result, the most common method of collaborating on a single document is emailing it from person to person, then trying to track down the most up-to-date version when current data is needed. Edits and updates are difficult to keep up with, and team members find it difficult to determine whether they have the most recent version of the project. 

Improving the Efficiency of Document Sharing

Transitioning to a team-based document-sharing platform specifically designed to encourage collaboration increases efficiency and reduces frustration among team members. High-quality solutions for successful file sharing include some or all of these process improvements: 

Secure Storage 

The first consideration in any business application is balancing document accessibility with security. Cloud-based storage is convenient and inexpensive, but sensitive information can be left exposed if it is not carefully managed. Choose technology solutions that permit you to differentiate between internal and cloud storage locations to ensure confidential information stays protected. 

Secure Access

In addition to protecting work product from external threats, maintaining control over who can view and edit documents ensures a layer of protection internally. Traditional office software uses a password-based approach, which comes with several drawbacks. Lost passwords cannot be recovered, and in some cases, documents are only password-protected against accidental edits – not intentional saving and sharing of the information. More recent collaboration software permits project managers to assign access levels to the appropriate users, keeping data secure and making the source of changes easier to track. 

Adaptability

While technology is continuously being upgraded, even the most up-to-date versions of traditional document programs run into issues with compatibility. An integrated collaboration tool is far more adaptable. Continuous updates apply to all of the documents housed within the software, so compatibility issues don’t come up for team members. 

Flexibility

Cutting edge collaboration software is designed for flexibility. Complex projects often require a combination of word processing, database management, reporting, and presentation, and new technology offers users the ability to access all of these tools in the same application. 

Communication

Email and instant messaging are extremely useful for speedy communication during collaborative projects. But sometimes critical feedback can be lost in the shuffle due to the high volume of emails and instant messages an average employee handles every day. New collaboration platforms offer in-app communication tools, so it is possible to discuss documents right inside the project management software. This consolidates conversations in a single location, and offers a permanent record of project-related feedback. 

Tracking Changes

Most current software solutions are designed with the understanding that collaboration is a common method of completing business projects. Older applications created with a single user in mind were less concerned with monitoring what changes were made and by whom. New programs leave a digital fingerprint each time a user takes action, making it simple to pinpoint the source of edits and updates. 

Single Platform

While many companies adopt a “suite” of products from the same developer, their word processing, database, and spreadsheet software are ultimately separate programs. This gets tricky during collaboration, as moving data between programs is not always successful. Cutting-edge collaboration software offers all needed document functions in a single program, making it faster and more efficient for users to exchange information. 

Automated Upload

Most traditional database and spreadsheet programs require manual data entry – at least at the outset of the project. Manual data entry is subject to human error, and the more often data is manually altered, the higher the likelihood of a mistake. New collaboration software significantly reduces the need for manual data entry, saving time and costly errors. 

Project Management

Simplifying the management of a project frees up considerable time for completing the actual work, and today’s software developers are stepping up to create efficient project management solutions. High-quality document sharing applications offer the ability to assign specific tasks and deadlines to individual users, and they have an option to view progress on tasks by all participants at a glance. 

Portability

Many organizations are managing teams virtually, whether employees are between sites or telecommuting from a home office. With today’s web-based document sharing solutions, authorized users can access needed information from any secure device with internet access. 

The new focus on collaborative teams has outgrown traditional methods of document sharing. Contributors need easy access to the most up-to-date versions of their collective work, without relying on cumbersome email strings. New technology like professional services automation has been developed to increase the efficiency of collaborating on documents, and forward-thinking companies are already enjoying the benefits of greater productivity.

David McAughtrie

David McAughtrie

David is the global head of content development at Unit4 and is specialized in the fields of accounting, finance and HR. Prior to joining Unit4 David was the editor and head of content development for Press Association.

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