The Future of Remote Collaboration: How Teamwork and Tech are Evolving Together

Written by Mike Ranellone on March 19, 2020

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In the last decade, we’ve seen cloud productivity suites like G Suite™ and Office 365™ change the way collaborative work happens. The ability to track changes to a shared file in real time doesn’t just let people collaborate from different geographic locations — it also lets them work together simultaneously rather than passing larger completed project versions back and forth. Other changes, like the evolution of agile and scrum-based workflows for software development, have contributed to improve efficiency and productivity in group settings. 

Here at JumpCloud, we think this kind of tech-enabled collaboration is only the tip of the iceberg, especially as remote work becomes more of a norm and a necessity. We’re excited about the potential for businesses to connect with the right talent across the globe, and for IT teams to play a role in imagining and creating the kinds of environments that will help people work together. Here are some of the advances in remote collaboration we’ve been curious about lately. 

Evolution of Existing Remote Collaboration Tools 

Project tracking and time management apps like Trello, Asana, Basecamp, Monday, and Harvest help teams coordinate collaborative processes from conceptualization to delivery. More recently, we’ve seen these types of solutions shift their focus away from passive documentation and endless comment threads, in the interest of creating a single, central location where a project lives and where people go to work on it.

These project management tools are developing deeper integrations with other digital workspaces, and it’s now easier than ever to version control projects in a group setting without manually syncing multiple platforms. As these kinds of tools continue to grow and change, they could get better at tracking progress on their own and require even less user interaction for reporting and status updates. They might also use AI and machine learning abilities to more actively identify gaps in efficiency and suggest workflow and process improvements.     

New AR/VR Work Environments  

Although augmented reality and virtual reality technologies have yet to enter the mainstream, demand for better remote collaboration tools could drive their development and adoption. Video conference calls serve their purpose for now, but they leave something to be desired compared to the level of human interaction and non-verbal communication we’re able to see and react to in a physical meeting room. Advances in AR and VR might restore some authenticity to virtual gatherings, giving us the sense that we’re in a shared space with our colleagues instead of a 2D checkerboard of headshots. 

In terms of teamwork, AR/VR tools could help remote workers visualize concepts and demonstrate them to each other. At JumpCloud, we never underestimate the value of a low-tech group whiteboard session, and we’re looking forward to the possibility of doodling together remotely. 

Some existing tools already let users display, explode, and examine CAD drawings in a 3D virtual environment — this framework might be used with other kinds of models, and for education and training. And as we get better at analyzing the mountains of data now available, AR could give us ways to visualize that data in more intuitive formats beyond the confines of a monitor.  

Flatter Management Structures & Collaborative Decisions 

With stronger and more automated analytics in mind, some businesses are starting to imagine how democratized access to data might influence team leadership structures. More employees could be empowered to make critical decisions, with less need for top-down consultation and cumbersome review and approval processes.

We could see the kinds of cooperative, task-oriented team structures embraced by developers become more popular outside the tech field, replacing today’s rigid management hierarchies. A more flexible, interwoven org structure could give employees a greater sense of purpose and remove mental barriers to innovation and creative thinking. 

Modern Infrastructure for Remote Collaboration    

The next wave of remote collaboration tools is going to be enabled by massive investments in infrastructure that include 5G connectivity and near-universal access to modern internet speeds. As high-speed internet access around the globe starts to look less like a luxury or a utility and more like a basic human right, we’ll see businesses tapping into an even deeper and more diverse talent pool and relying more heavily on the technological advances described above. 

High-Level Benefits of Optimized Collaboration 

Hopefully, the future of collaboration means more than shiny new gadgets and modernized versions of business as usual. With universal web infrastructure powering modern collaboration tools, we could see rapid economic growth in historically underserved geographic regions. Increases in productivity could help remote workers find more flexible approaches to work/life balance, and businesses might get better at identifying, prioritizing, and developing the brightest ideas, no matter where they’re from.

Optimized remote collaboration could also make organizations more resilient in the face of disaster, with team members safely spread out across the globe. And in the meantime, we’ll keep looking forward to the squeak of a virtual dry-erase marker on a cloud-hosted whiteboard.      

Mike Ranellone

Mike is a writer at JumpCloud who's especially interested in the changing role of tech in society. He cut his teeth in the ad agency world and holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Colorado-Boulder and a B.A. in English and music from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. Outside of JumpCloud, he's an avid skier, cellist, and poet.

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