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Choosing a Collaboration Tool Capable of Working Internationally

When you’ve got team members all over the world, you have to have the right tools to keep them all up to speed. Inventure Management works with Brazilian and American employees and found itself in need of a collaboration tool that could cross international barriers easily. Janis Majors, who manages projects for Inventure, described the search process: “We are a management consulting company with clients ranging from multi- billion dollar companies to start-ups. What we needed was a cloud-based project management tool we could use as an extranet, shared with our clients. A major consideration was Google (s goog) Apps integration, as we use Google Apps Enterprise as our IT backbone, running our email system, intranet and websites. We tested more than 20 software packages that integrate with Google Apps, and when the dust settled only one contender was still standing: Smartsheet, because it is intuitively easy to use, and at the same time actually manages to track everything we need to track. We decided to go all in, and implemented Smartsheet as our only system for project management, task management and information sharing, internal as well as with clients.”

Avoiding Cultural Issues

One of the potential issues that goes along with using tools in different territories is that you may easily find yourself facing a cultural barrier, as well as any language barriers that you already now about.  Taking cultural considerations into account from the point you decide on a tool is necessary. Your training may have to reflect the diversity of your team, as well as being available in multiple languages. Majors notes, “Until now, we have held informal training sessions, mostly conducted by myself. But as we are growing and building a Smartsheet training program with several internal instructors. We haven’t experienced any difficulties with language/slang so far. But our Brazilian employees all have to be proficient in English. Implementation in a regular Brazilian company would be difficult. An advice to Smartsheet would be to consciously use the ‘simplest’ and most common way of explaining a feature, even if it is less elegant. This would increase the pace of Smartsheet’s expansion into international markets. Actually, it would not be difficult to translate Smartsheet into other languages. A Portuguese version would open up a huge and booming Brazilian market, for example.”

One of Inventure’s key considerations was choosing a tool that its staff could access, no matter where in the world they are. The company significantly reduced the resources it has to put towards IT and maintaing a server. But being sure that the different members of its team were able to fully use that tool was just as important a consideration.

What do you look for when choosing tools that will be used by team members in more than one country?

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2 Responses to “Choosing a Collaboration Tool Capable of Working Internationally”

  1. Hi,

    great article! using web collaboration tools, like webex or there are no barriers even for small companies to collaborate with a truely international team. therefore companies will have to face language barriers as well as cultural and of course barriers resulting from working in different time zones.

    Best regards

  2. Interesting to see an article about cultural issues relating to collaboration tools as this seems to be an area completely forgotten but is still very relevant.

    Certainly language plays an important role since it is a key part of everyone’s culture which means that having a collaboration environment that is localized may help overcome some of the cultural challenges. With English being used as a working language in many global organizations, English language skills still very differ between countries (also between writing and speaking).

    That being said, the main cultural issues may lie in the fact how people use an online tool between different countries. In some countries for example it is not common to share your opinion openly, or any information for that matter that might make you loose your face. I presume these are issues that can only be tackled hands-on by training and guidance from management.