7 tech skills that will make you a better collaborator

Regardless of your position or department, you have plenty of incentive to keep your tech skills sharpened. If you’re already on top of your game, you should know that you are the exception to the rule; only one in 10 workers in the U.S. say they’ve mastered the tech tools at their disposal. American millennials “performed horribly” in a recent test meant to gauge readiness for working in the complex jobs of 2015. This digital skills gap is causing a real drain on productivity, and plenty of missed opportunities for smarter collaboration.

Technology likely impacts all corners of your business – and just as no team should be the sole “owner” of the customer, so should no team be the sole “owner” of tech. Flattened org charts and fallen departmental silos serve as a signal of this new way of collaborating.

This isn’t to say that your accountant needs to speak at the Hadoop Summit. But by adding to your tech repertoire, you’ll be able to improve team efficiency, protect against catastrophe, and help soothe the headaches of coworkers.

Here are a few of the main ways you can make a collaborative splash.

Data visualization

To paraphrase Coleridge: “Data, data everywhere, nor any drop to drink.” You’re swimming in data. Drowning in data, perhaps. But if you’re like most businesses, you haven’t entirely figured out what to do with that data.

We recently talked about the importance of storytelling in business, not just in the limited sense of telling stories that make your customers want to buy things, but also in internal scenarios. Looking to win a debate about strategy? Think about the story you’re telling. To support the story, bring some evidence. To make that evidence compelling, think about data visualization.

Whether you’re dealing with complex data or simple data, you will make a bigger impact through visualization than with a text bullet point in a presentation deck.

Presentation software

Again, you want to think about your audience not just when dealing with customers, but also when dealing with colleagues. Here’s a go-to collabohater move: schedule an unnecessary status meeting, present a dense PowerPoint featuring blocks of text, then proceed to read the text verbatim.

There are lots of tools and tricks for sprucing up your internal presentations, and your collaborators will be grateful. Be careful, though: if you’re too good, you may be asked to polish everyone‘s presentations.

Collaboration champions

Sad but true: many well-intentioned efforts to enhance business collaboration wind up failing. No implementation is going to magically transform the way you work; we’ve identified 10 ways that companies leverage their people to ensure higher user adoption and long-term success. One key factor: collaboration champions. Why settle for being a user when you can be a master?

Our Central Desktop University courses, for example, offer numerous opportunities to add to your arsenal, whether it’s mastering reporting and analytics, understanding the full potential of databases and information hierarchies, or discovering how design elements impact user adoption and productivity.

Mobile and social

We live in an omni-channel universe. If there is collaborative buy-in that everyone should be thinking about your customers, then it’s a natural extension for everyone to be thinking about new ways to reach and support those customers. You don’t need to become a marketer or a mobile developer to help the cause.

Security

A modern, forward-thinking business offers a number of perks for employees: greater flexibility, greater empowerment to work in ways that maximize individual efficiency, etc. In return, you can be a better collaborator by taking security seriously, especially if you are leveraging BYOD or have other factors that may make you more susceptible to wreaking accidental havoc.

Agility

For a number of years now, we’ve heard about the agile method behind developers’ madness. You may find that “The Agile Manifesto” doesn’t necessarily apply to your finance or customer service teams; you may even find that it isn’t the best philosophy for your development team (we’re looking forward to having a lively discussion about this topic, amongst many other topics, at this year’s Collabosphere). At the very least, though, there are basic tenets of the agile approach that can guide you toward greener collaborative pastures.

Coding

I appreciate people who sound a cautionary note about the “everyone should be a coder” idea. Even back in 2012, Jeff Atwood was pumping the brakes on amateur coders, and he’s certainly right that the code craze sometimes results in purposeless coding – and that there was already a sufficient amount of purposeless code in the universe even before your aunts and uncles all became moonlighting coders. But in addition to getting yourself (or your colleagues) out of an occasional jam by applying your newly acquired coding muscle, learning to code is a good general exercise for the brain that can help you tackle problems of all kinds. Pushing out of your comfort zone can pay unexpected dividends down the road.

Just don’t tout yourself as a professional developer after a month of free online courses, and don’t pester your actual developers with too many “What if we…” ideas that aren’t rooted in reality. Sometimes it’s a fine line between collaborator and collabohater.

Adam McKibbin
Post by Adam McKibbin

Adam McKibbin is the content marketing manager for iMeet Central. His writing has been featured in Adweek, the Chicago Tribune and The Nation, and he’s produced content for some of the leading tech brands on the Fortune 500.

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