This is a guest post by Chelsey Lang, a Social Media and Marketing Executive for Clearvision.
If there was a definitive answer to “how do we collaborate effectively?” the world would be a much simpler place. Unfortunately, a lot of the time it boils down to “it depends.” Collaboration depends on the people involved, their requirements, the software they use, and the methods of communication they prefer.
There are, however, some things we know are essential for effective collaboration. Having worked with enterprise businesses worldwide, as experts in Atlassian’s collaborative tools, Clearvision has experience with all manner of teams and industries. In this post, we’re sharing a few of the lessons we’ve learned about the very fundamentals of collaboration — lessons that can be applied to every team.
1. It’s all about communication
It’s impossible to work with someone, whether it’s someone in your own team, another team, or even another business, without communicating with them.
Poor communication leads to information silos: the dreaded “no one told me that.” At best this slows your organisation down; at worst it actively causes you to lose business.
We face plenty of challenges when it comes to communication. It’s part of the two-way street of globalisation: it’s a great thing to be able to expand your organisation and reach new parts of the world, but it makes it increasingly hard to keep in touch with your teams and make sure everyone is up to date and able to work on the go.
What should you be focused on? Here are some questions to ask:
How do you communicate within your team?
How do you communicate across departments in your organisation?
How your customers communicate with you?
By breaking it down like this, it’s easier to identify where your blocks sit.
Once you’ve identified these, you can begin solving them.
2. Information visualisation
We may have oversimplified in that last paragraph. “Solving” a collaboration problem isn’t straightforward, and because of the nature of continuous improvement and agile working, you’ll find there’s always more you can do.
It can seem daunting, but this is a good thing! We should always be learning and adapting as best practice and new technologies evolve.
One ideal starting point in the road to improved collaboration is to make a shift towards communicating visually.
For example, at Clearvision we rely heavily on JIRA Agile kanban boards. Having tangible columns to reflect your workflow clarifies processes to those inside and outside of your immediate team – and everyone loves the feeling of moving a task into the Done column!
Kanban boards help a lot when it comes to prioritisation of tasks. It’s easy to build up a bulky backlog, but having the capability to literally drag and drop tasks to rearrange them in priority order makes organising, or “grooming”, your backlog simple. And at a glance, teams in other departments will be able to understand your different workflows, as well as see how much you have on your plate. (Of course we can’t guarantee that will stop them creating you a JIRA ticket and adding to that work!)
The old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words; that’s definitely the case when it comes to communication. A kanban board is just the first step.
Think of all the images you use everyday – diagrams, flow charts, photos, mockups, wireframes. They deliver information clearly and concisely, and they save you more time than you realise.
The visualisation of work and ideas acts as a common language, something every department in your business will understand. It increases visibility. Not only is information communicated more quickly, but it’s also collected together in one place, so those outside of your team, like stakeholders, are kept in the loop as well.
3. Choose your tools wisely
The tools you use are the key to truly effective collaboration.
Tools are your method of communication. If your information is in a beautifully organised kanban board or an industry standard diagram, but you have no easy way to display it and most importantly discuss it with others, you’re back to being blocked again.
So how do you choose the right tools?
Clearvision has some advice in this area. In building Spectrum, a collaborative platform for centralised management of multiple tools and teams, we carefully selected best of breed tools to integrate into Spectrum’s framework. In doing this, we were aware that “best of breed” is liable to change as technology evolves. To combat this we’ve made Spectrum flexible, so it’s simple to adapt and add new tools—and so when making your choice, we recommend thinking about the future.
For effective collaboration, you need tools that will scale with you and integrate with any other tools your organisation uses.
Take the Atlassian tools as an example. We’ve already mentioned Atlassian JIRA, which now comes in three variations: Software, Service Desk and Core, purpose built for dev teams, IT teams and business teams respectively. This means all teams in a business can be working (and collaborating!) on the same JIRA instance, in the same way all teams within a business can contribute to a shared knowledge base thanks to Atlassian’s wiki software, Confluence.
Atlassian’s tools integrate with each other (you can update a JIRA ticket from Confluence, for example, or trigger a build in Bamboo from HipChat) but what really pushes Atlassian to the forefront of collaboration is the Atlassian Marketplace. The Marketplace means anyone can build an add-on for the Atlassian tools and make it available to the wider Atlassian community.
This means that functionality is always increasing. The Atlassian tools don’t just enable better collaboration, but they’re built around collaboration as well.
Obviously we’re just skimming the surface with this post. There are endless tools, trends and techniques out there to help you with collaboration. What are your favourites? Let us know in the comments – we want to hear your thoughts on what’s in store in the future!
Chelsey is a Marketing and Social Media Executive for Clearvision. She writes about agile methodologies, software development, and collaboration and culture in the tech industry. Chelsey is passionate about literature, the intersection of fashion and tech, and the Oxford comma. Thankfully, Chelsey writes better blog posts than she does bios.
Who that knew flowcharts and pop music are the perfect combination?
Several years ago, a Lucidchart fan created this video, which breaks down the Beatles’ classic “Hey Jude” into a flowchart set to music. It was all kinds of awesome and quickly got attention on the web. We loved it so much that we’ve decided to continue the trend by adapting some additional hits into the flowchart format, starting with “Roar” by Katy Perry.
To spice it up a bit, we made things into a competition. We wanted to help people decide, once and for all, which era had the best music. And what better way to do that than with lyrical flowcharts? We’ve created a series of videos similar to “Hey Jude”, so you can take a second look at your favorite songs through the decades. Choose between classic greats like Queen and modern stars like Beyonce, then vote for your favorite. The flowchart format will reveal interesting quirks of each song, from repetitive lyrics to inventive imagery.
So head over to the Songtacular Flowdown and pick your favorite video. It’s a bracket-style competition so you’ll have a chance to vote more than once. Start with your favorites this week, then check back each week to see new videos and watch the best of the best rise through the ranks. Plus, you could win a $500 Amazon gift card if you predict the winner!
Try as it might, even Google can’t do everything perfectly. While Google Apps for Work has become the productivity suite of choice for over five million businesses, including Lucid Software, it has yet to match the intricate functionality of its desktop forerunners, some of which enjoy as much as a 25-year head start on their cloud-based replacements.
Believe it or not, the first version of Microsoft Word appeared in 1983 as Multi-Tool Word for the now-obsolete Xenix operating system.
For instance, you can’t make columns in Google Docs. You can’t make an object teeter or swivel in Google Slides as you can in PowerPoint. Google Drawings’ shape library, while pleasant, is a bit short on technical forms.
Still, deficiencies like these don’t have to be deal breakers. Here are our top ten picks for must-have extensions, apps, and add-ons that complement the power of Google Apps for Work with useful and innovative features:
The makers of UberConference, an app that can open a conference call with all the other editors in a Google doc, might not have reinvented the wheel, but they have made collaboration a lot smoother. You’ve probably found that the more people working on a single Google doc at a time, the more chaotic it becomes. This app lets you open a video or audio call with the other users in order to sidestep the problem of editing over one another. It’s also a great standalone conference call platform, with an unprecedented array of options, including screen sharing, one-on-one chatting with other callers, and PIN-free entry mid-call.
That’s right, the word grammar is now an adverb. If you’re not sure what that means, this is the app for you. Because its algorithms are designed to take context clues into account, this grammar and spelling checker is superior to Microsoft’s proofing tools: it identifies not only misspelled but also misused words. Best of all, it works anywhere you type online.
Tired of staring at your empty inbox, waiting for an important email? Instead of keeping that extra tab open 24/7, install Checker Plus to start reading and listening to emails instantly just by clicking the icon in your browser. With customizable visual and auditory cues to let you know when you receive new emails, you’re sure to stay up-to-date. If you have multiple accounts, try color-coding it to indicate which email account received a message.
With the advent of cloud technologies, people now are more likely to look for information online rather than in print. What better way to publish in the cloud than to prepare those documents in the cloud as well? Lucidpress, an online publication software, is ideal for generating and sharing documents such as flyers, magazines, newsletters, and lesson plans, whether you intend to print them or post them on your Twitter account. then share or publish them in print or online. Its wide variety of professional templates coupled with the intuitive drag-and-drop interface make this a great tool for both seasoned designers and first-time self-publishers.
If there were a Miss World or Mr. Universe for diagrams, chances are the winners would come from Lucidchart, an online diagramming application that is not only a replacement for Microsoft Visio but also a step up in terms of ease and elegance. In Lucidchart, simply drag and drop to create professional-looking charts and diagrams, including flowcharts, wireframes, mockups, and more. Edit them in real time with others on your team. Then, with the extension for Google Apps, place those graphics directly into Google Docs. You can also create and share Lucidchart files without leaving Google Drive.
While Google Slides doesn’t currently support add-ons, PowerPoint isn’t the only option for those in need of more robust presentation software. This cloud-based video and presentation software is not a watered-down Powerpoint; rather, it’s a whole new take on how communication should engage its audience. For instance, its standard library of cartoon people strikes the perfect balance between professionalism and fun that will keep viewers’ eyes glued to the screen.
If you prefer your wealth and fortune to come easily, possibly on a silver platter, this add-on is for you. Instead of starting from scratch, you’ll have access to a variety of easily customizable templates ranging from personal finance to resumes and more. You’ll be astonished at the mileage these templates get out of the seemingly simple Google Sheets and Docs features—install it in both for maximum convenience.
This Google Docs add-on automatically creates a table of contents that corresponds with the heading text throughout the document, allowing you to jump to relevant portions quickly. You have two options: you can either install this app today, or you can continue to meander through long documents aimlessly by employing a combination of mouse-clicking, slider-dragging, key-pressing, wheel-rolling, and eye-rolling, while you helplessly try to spot the section you need before it whizzes past. I’ll leave it up to you.
It was hard enough to organize a messy set of data without facing the necessary load time associated with cloud-based Google Sheets—but this digital toolbox makes it all worth it. Splitting cells, changing text case, and shuffling values are just a few of the functions made easier (or possible) with Power Tools’ handy one-click toolbar.
I debated about not including this one, as it seems so obvious, but this app can really make a difference when it comes to adopting software as a service (SaaS) as a way of life. In short, this app will automatically open Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files that you drag into your browser, with Docs, Sheets, and Slides respectively. You can then edit and save them, either in their native Microsoft formats or their Google counterparts.
While I hope you found this list useful, finding additional extensions suited to your needs is easy. Just visit the Chrome web store, or click “Get add-ons” under the “Add-ons” menu found in Google Sheets, Drive, and Docs.
By now, you’ve probably seen Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was a huge box office success, but you can’t please everyone—especially fans of comic book movies. See if this flowchart accurately predicts your pet peeve about the film.
Over the past year, our team discovered something: Lucidchart users don’t always show off their diagrams within Lucidchart. Instead, they typically export documents as PNG or JPG files, add them to Microsoft Word or PowerPoint, and present to their supervisor or co-workers.
While we’re pleased that our export options are so popular, we want to save people those extra steps. After surveying users, we saw a need to make Lucidchart itself a great presentation tool. That’s why we developed our brand new presentation mode.
Presentation mode lets you organize your diagrams into slides, then show them off in fullscreen mode, zoom in and out, and easily navigate between them. Getting started is simple:
1. Open the presentation panel and click “+ Slide”.
2. Drag your cursor to select which part of the diagram you want to include in your slide.
3. Repeat until you’ve created enough slides for your presentation.
We’ve also added some special features. Highlighting allows you to light up specific sections of your diagram, while clicking the gear icon lets you set timing and layer options for your slides.
Once you’ve selected your slides, all you need to do is click “Present” at the top of the editor. You’ll be giving professional presentations in no time, right in Lucidchart. Check out our tutorial on presentation mode to learn more, and please let us know what you think!
Do you need a quick way to open OmniGraffle documents? Try Lucidchart’s free OmniGraffle (.graffle) file viewer for Chrome and Firefox! You’ll be able to view files from your desktop, email, and the web.
Open .graffle or .graffle.zip files by dragging and dropping into the viewer.
How to use the free OmniGraffle viewer
The viewer runs right in the web browser, so you don’t have to download anything. Here’s how it works:
Install the Google Chrome or Firefox extension (coming soon) in your web browser.
Once it’s installed, a Lucidchart logo will appear on your toolbar (to the right of the address bar).
The next time you need to open an OmniGraffle file, click the icon and follow the instructions.
Anyone with the extension can view OmniGraffle files instantly—no pricey OmniGraffle license required. It’s compatible with files created in both OmniGraffle 6 and OmniGraffle Pro 6. To edit, save, or export the document to another file format, just sign up for a free Lucidchart trial.
Additional viewer functionality
The OmniGraffle file viewer opens both local and online files. So you can choose to upload a file from your computer, or to right-click a file on the web and open with Lucidchart. Those with Gmail accounts will be able to open .graffle files directly in Gmail by right-clicking the attachment and selecting “Open in Lucidchart”.
The viewer uses the same process to open online OmniGraffle documents outside of Gmail; simply right-click the file hyperlink to see its contents. And users can just as easily view diagrams on their phones and tablets as they can on their laptops. We hope you get plenty of value from the .graffle viewer. As always, happy diagramming!
We’re excited to offer free OmniGraffle file import to Lucidchart users! Although OmniGraffle is a common desktop diagramming tool, no other online diagramming app currently offers import of OmniGraffle files.
You don’t have to own a Mac—or even an OmniGraffle license—to try it out. Simply upload an OmniGraffle file to see its content. If you’d like to edit the document, sign up for a free trial of a premium Lucidchart account. Whether you’re a former OmniGraffle user or you just work with OmniGraffle files, we think you’ll find this feature very convenient.
Our OmniGraffle import is simple to use. You can access it two ways:
1. From the documents page, select the Import button and choose OmniGraffle.
2. From the editor, select File > Import, and then choose OmniGraffle.
In no time at all, you’ll be editing your OmniGraffle (.graffle) files online with Lucidchart’s collaboration-friendly software. Since our program is completely web-based, it’s the perfect OmniGraffle alternative for those who work with both Mac and PC.
This feature is still in beta; feel free to send us your feedback on it. We’d love to know how we can improve. We have more OmniGraffle-related features on the way, so stay tuned.
If you don’t have a Lucidchart account yet, sign up free now to try OmniGraffle import for yourself!
At Lucidchart, we’re positive that diagramming can help with any professional problem, no matter what industry you’re in. But sometimes the possibilities are overwhelming. How do you map out a problem—or a solution—if you’re not even sure what kind of diagram you should use?
We’ve whipped up a useful (and slightly silly) quiz to help you choose a diagram. Lucidchart has a large library of diagram choices, some of which you’ve probably never heard of. Find out which diagram is most useful to you by taking this short quiz, then explore that shape library in Lucidchart.
Let us know what your results are—did we get it right? Or is there a diagram type that you think everyone should know about? Tell us in the comments.
Let’s say you need to create an org chart. You know they have infinite uses—organization charts can help you show company hierarchy, illustrate a family tree, or capture the relationships between species—but you’re not sure how to get started.
Luckily for you, Lucidchart makes it easy, just like any other diagramming task. Sign up free if you don’t already have an account. Then read on for step-by-step instructions on making an organizational chart with our software.