How to make the most of Dropbox's new document collaboration tools.
Dropbox Australia and New Zealand managing director Charlie Wood offers these five tips for improving team performance by using Paper for better communication – and we've added comments including references to alternative products.
1. Collaborate in real time
Gathering feedback helps move a project forward, but emailing files back and forth can lead to version control issues and one-off conversations. With Paper, team members can work together in one document at the same time.
Changes are reflected immediately so the most up-to-date version is always shown. Comments – which are visible to all collaborators – can be added to provide feedback without making changes to the document itself, and are useful to keep everyone in the loop.
2. Make information available to all team members
When information gets stuck in private silos such as emails or personal folders, collaborators lose visibility into the project. Paper provides a central hub for team content. Invite co-workers to share your Paper document or folder, then everyone can edit and access the most up-to-date information, anytime.
And if someone joins a project that's already in progress, they can easily catch up by reading through the documents or checking the version histories. Since Paper shows who has seen a document and when, you'll know who is up to speed and who might need a nudge.
Other services providing shared access to documents include G Suite, Office 365 and Zoho.
3. Keep your team on track
Paper makes provision for due dates in task lists. Knowing who owns each part of a project or who is taking action helps keep the team aligned on progress.
Mentioning (@mention) people in the body of a document automatically gives them access so they can edit or update their sections. Paper will even notify you when they complete a task.
Another service that's particularly designed for such project-based collaboration is Podio.
4. Work anytime, anywhere
A successful collaboration strategy not only improves productivity but also provides employees with flexibility in terms of how, when, and where they work. As working from home will become more common with in the future, collaboration tools such as Paper will be crucial to business success. Work flexibility is particularly important to attract and retain millennials.
We’d add that younger workers aren't the only ones looking for flexibility. Those in the middle may have family responsibilities for the generation below or above, and older workers benefit as much as anyone from being able to avoid the peak time commute by working at or close to home or starting and finishing at non-standard times.
5. Use any device
Paper provides the same user experience on mobile platforms, and the Paper apps for iOS and Android will soon provide offline access so users can take Dropbox Paper with them even when internet access isn't available.
The mobile apps for G Suite and Office 365 already support offline access. An inherent problem with online access is deciding exactly how conflicting edits should be reconciled when an offline copy is resynchronised with the online 'master' – there's no single approach that will be right for every set of users in every situation.