How to Improve Remote Teams’ Communication

By Liza Mock on Jan 12, 2016 in Tips and Tricks

communication

We learn to speak before we stop needing diapers, so why is communication such a challenge? And if you think being on the same page when everyone’s in one office is hard, wouldn’t you agree that when you work with a remote team, it becomes even more of a problem?

The solution is to find tools that connect people and to establish processes to use them. It’s what makes the difference between a remote team that works together seamlessly and one that ends up pulling their own (or each others’) hair out.

If you’ve used Gliffy, you’ll know you can get to that “AHA!” moment faster with a diagram than with words alone. That’s because images are less ambiguous than words and leave less room for error. Many of us are visual learners, able to grasp ideas more quickly if they’re accompanied by an image. That’s why Gliffy is such a powerful communication tool. Bonus: using Gliffy greatly cuts down on email!

Four Things a Team Can Do With Gliffy

There are many things a team can do with Gliffy, but we wanted to give you the four that would make the most impact.

1. Use diagrams when introducing something or someone new whether it’s a teammate, a new product, a marketing initiative or a company-wide process.
2. Get coworkers from different teams to collaborate and leave input directly in the diagram using notes, layers or version history.
3. Set up a company standard for using diagrams by creating shared templates.
4. Help everyone look visually consistent by uploading company logos and icons to be shared by the team.

Let’s dive into more detail. Click on any of these diagrams and use them as a template.

Use Diagrams for Introducing Something or Someone New

Familiarizing a remote team with something brand new can be a real challenge. It can result in countless email threads, unanswered questions and miscommunications, but adding a visual component can speed up the process and smooth bumps along the way.

Org Charts for New Team Members
org_chart
Introducing a new team member using an org chart instantly clarifies where in the company structure they fit in, whom they report to and which departments they will be working with.

Roadmaps and Development Plans for New Products
product_roadmap

development_plan
Having a product roadmap and a product development plan to go with the introduction of a new product will answer many questions such as when each phase will begin and which team will be responsible for it.

Process Flow for New Marketing Initiatives
marketing_process_flow (1)
Clarifying a new marketing initiative with a process flow diagram will make it easy for everyone to understand the goals and vehicles to be used.

BPMN for New Internal Processes
bpmn
Adding a visual explanation in the form of a BPMN to any new process eliminates the need for countless email chains and cuts down on confusion. A diagram also serves as a reference and can make implementing future changes faster and easier. Additionally, you can add a link to any shape, so a diagram can also serve as a way to store links to many sources of information in one place.

Achieve Cross-Team Collaboration

Even if your team shares an office it can be difficult to get different departments to communicate. Creating a diagram and using popup notes, layers or version history to get and view input is a great way to get different teams on the same page.

cross_team_development_plan

For example, a basic development plan can be used as a planning and communication tool by the product, marketing and engineering teams. Once a release schedule is established, the product team can add requirements, details and links to additional documentation.

cross_team_development_plan w. marketing

Marketing can add a customer communication plan as a second layer on top of the release schedule.

cross_team_development_plan w. engineering

layersEngineering can add a third layer and plan team resources. The layers feature is very useful for creating such a document. Each team can work on their own individual layer, which can be made visible or invisible. In addition to being a great tool for individual teams, this is also a great way for everyone to stay connected and get a better understanding of the workings and plans of other teams.

Create Shared Templates

Making diagramming a regular part of your team’s process saves time and eliminates confusion. But how do you get people to do it if they’re not used to it? The best way to start is by determining the types of diagrams that will be used most frequently then creating shared templates of those diagrams so no one has to start from scratch.

To make a shareable template in Gliffy, start by naming and saving your diagram. Consider adding a company logo or images that will make your diagram distinctive to your business. Once saved, your diagram will be accessible to anyone sharing your team account in the Gliffy Account Diagrams folder. To access it click File>Open.

BROWNIE POINTS: Establish a diagram naming convention with your team and stay consistent. That way everyone will be able to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily.

Add Shared Libraries of Images, Icons & Logos

You can add whole libraries of custom images to your Gliffy account. In fact, we’ve written an entire blog complete with a video on the topic. Check it out.

But if you want the quick and dirty version:
1. Scroll down to the bottom of the shape navigator on the left-hand side and click More Shapes.
2. Select Add Custom Library from the popup window.
3. Drag and drop your images* directly or browse your computer to upload an entire folder.
4. Name your library.

*We recommend that you import images in SVG format whenever possible. They can be enlarged to any size without losing resolution.

Being part of a remote team can be great for some and a miserable experience for others. Either way, having the right processes and tools makes all the difference in the wold. Gliffy is simple yet powerful. Use it and add “visual communication” to your team’s arsenal.