The benefits of video for team collaboration
Working as a Project Manager at Adaptavist, I manage consulting engagements with client and delivery teams who are, more often than not, in different locations. We might be on-site, travelling, working from home or even working in one of Adaptavist's offices. Each project is as unique as the client and good communication is essential. Seeing Atlassian announce HipChat Video made me think about how important video is to communication and, therefore, team collaboration.
I love getting to know the people we work with and what their unique needs are. Nothing beats time spent face-to-face but it's not always practical. I get through lots of communication in a working day email, messaging, tickets, wiki pages, conference calls and more.
Real-time communication is often necessary and beats email when dealing with immediate questions or the occasional issue. Text chat beats email but an audio call beats text. You get more nuance and it's easier to express exactly what you mean and/or require. However, video trumps everything for a whole range of reasons when it comes to team collaboration.
For a start, people are far more likely to multitask (and thus potentially lose focus) on audio calls than they are on video calls. You can also share the screen so you know everyone is looking at the same thing. A recent Atlassian blog to announce the launch of HipChat video got me thinking even more about the value of video for collaborating with remote team members.
You see, my family recently relocated from Springfield, MO to suburban Seattle, WA, and as such, I am the western-most Adaptavist. This means that along with our family and friends, some of the colleagues I work closest with are two time zones away. Some are as much as eight hours ahead of me. I rely heavily on Skype to stay connected with home and I've been using HipChat Video extensively in my day-to-day work.
Context is key
Video calls are wonderful because it gives me a strong sense of the person I am speaking to. Sure, I may not see their full body language or pick up on nonverbal cues that I would if I were face-to-face, but I get a lot more context than I do when the call is audio-only.
It's especially important in the early phases of a project, where we are forming as a team. We get more insight into who we're working with. This, in turn, strengthens our relationships within the team and helps up get to a good performing stage much faster. It also helps provide me with a sense of connectedness and belonging that I would miss out on otherwise. There's something, dare I say, much more human about using video. It increases empathy between the participants.
Relationships help us succeed
I was lucky to work on a project a few months ago with a client that really understands the importance of being able to see who you are speaking to. This particular client used video for all our meetings, even though all their staff was in the same conference room for most of them. The video wasn't strictly necessary but we got to know each other really well and the project went so well that we're currently working on the next engagement.
A sense of trust
Why do I feel like this project and this client relationship is such a success? Because we formed a great relationship and built a strong sense of trust that wouldn't have been nearly as strong if our calls had only been audio-based.
I appreciate that this isn't a magic solution to remote project team work and team collaboration. However, what I do know is that success comes from a number of other factors aside from using video calls. Hard work, approachability, competence, delivering on your promises all play a big role in a successful project. Video calls can really help, though. They're especially useful if you have a not-so-positive update to give. Using video in your calls to build trust and relationships with your team or clients builds a foundation that eases bad news, and makes good news even more exciting.
So if youve been on the fence about video calling versus audio-only, why not give it a shot? You may find that you really like the extra sense of connectedness that it gives. If nothing else, your team will appreciate seeing your smiling face and seeing that you are truly engaged with the call.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I think it's time to call my mother with video, of course!