Articles

Working in the cloud: Five ways to maximize online collaboration

By Lawrence Masle ’94

In June 2010 a group of innovative thinkers set out to create a new type of agency to deliver strategic and creative services using all the advantages of cloud-based computing. UP, the organization that emerged, has no offices or employees. Just high-powered collaboration and a growing list of satisfied clients. Here are five lessons we have learned about maximizing performance in the cloud.

1. Collaborate. As simple as this may sound, the first thing to remember is to collaborate with your community. For example, when setting out to write this article, I posted a note on the UP private Facebook page to tap into the creativity of my fellow colleagues. Today’s fast-paced life often makes us think we don’t have time to seek the thoughts of others, but the cloud speeds access to creative thinking, anywhere around the globe. UP leverages creative talent from around the globe, regardless of physical location. And that’s a real strength.

2. Organize. Another must for collaborating in the cloud is to utilize a good project management system like Basecamp from 37Signals. You can create project groups, manage files, create conversation threads and stay connected to your counterparts. The real value here is that all communications around a particular project are captured and documented by the system. If you don’t do this, you’ll soon find that you are experiencing email overload.  Did you ever have 1,000 unopened e-mails? It becomes a communication bottleneck, not only for you, but for your colleagues.

3. Give. Third, remember to give. If you are part of an online community, remember to post valuable content that others will find interesting. It will also help you to establish a more solid thought leadership presence. If you’re only asking questions and taking from your peers, you’ll soon find that your cloud-based partners are less willing to collaborate the next time you need help.

4. Upload. Fourth, don’t store all your files on your personal computer or laptop. Utilize cloud-based storage facilities such as DropBox. Not only will your colleagues have immediate access to the latest version of a file, but you won’t have to worry about backups. And if you need to send a large file to a client, don’t do it via email. Use a cloud-based file transfer service like WeTransfer, which also can be customized with your company brand.

5. Talk. Lastly, remember to talk. Email communication is great. It’s not intrusive, and it builds a historical trail. But sometimes the best form of collaboration and creativity is through direct dialogue. This can be done via the cloud, too.  At UP, it’s not uncommon for us to have a group conference call or creative session via Skype with colleagues based in Shanghai, Amsterdam, Stockholm and New York … all at the same time.

Just like any form of technology, the cloud is an enabler. Utilize it to enhance and accelerate creativity, and release the power of your individual and collaborative talents.

Lawrence Masle ’94 is a borderless business development and brand strategy expert based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

A T-bird organization
You won’t find titles like vice president at UP. “None of us is trying to climb a corporate ladder,” Lawrence Masle ’94 said. “There is no hierarchy.” What the agency does have is the experience of 11 Thunderbird alumni from three continents. Besides Masle, the network includes the following T-birds:

Peter Barclay ’98 Washington, DC Digital and Mobile Marketing Strategist
Michael Zhou ’02 Beijing / Shanghai Digital Marketing and Social Media Marketing Specialist
Daniela Bryan ’85 San Francisco Bay Area Global Executive Coach / Sustainability Advisor
Renée Meyer ’85 Basel, Switzerland Finance in Sustainability Advisor
Craig Heinze ’81 Barcelona, Spain Borderless Business Development
Colleen Foster ’84 Minneapolis, Minnesota B2B Marketing Insights / Sustainable Facilities
Lynn Wallace ’94 San Francisco Bay Area Marketing Strategist
Susan Grattino ’94 Denver, Colorado Marketing Strategist
Tracey Schofield ’98 Seattle, Washington Marketing Strategist
Monika Kenter ’01 Seattle Washington Marketing Strategist
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