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Tools for async collaboration
Darryn King
Darryn King
Freelance Writer
min read

Tools can make or break async collaboration. The very same messaging application, for example, that might be used to share inspiration, facilitate small work tasks, and bond team members, might also confuse processes, disrupt deep work and be a source of constant distraction. But while some tools foster async collaboration better than others, it's more important that team members are mindful of the way they use all their tools, and that they follow the org's communication guidelines.

Your team will need particular tools for the particular kinds of output you produce. But here are several common types of tools that today's async-first teams use every day, and the async considerations that go with them.

Video conferencing tool

Because syncing is essential to async collaboration. Whatever video conferencing tool you use, a recording/transcribing function — or separate recording/transcribing tools — will also be imperative for async-first teams, allowing team members to catch up after the fact.

Project management tool

Effective asynchronous collaboration requires a project management tool that promotes transparency and visibility across all the goals and objectives of the organization. (See Designing an async-first workflow.)

Document editor

Knowledge teams need an online document editor to create, edit, and collaborate on documents, along with a transparent and accessible archiving system. By utilizing sidebar chat functionality, the document editor can also serve as an internally transparent system for work discussions. This is preferable to email, which keeps information siloed between sender and recipient.

Asynchronous audio and/or asynchronous video platform

Conveying meaning through tone of voice and facial expression, asynchronous audio or video are richer than text alone. Being multimodal in your asynchronous communication, in general, can alleviate the "information overload" effect of excessive text-based communication.

Team bonding/non-critical work communication tool

Used asynchronously, instant messaging applications are useful for team bonding and non-critical work communication. Ensure your team members are aware of how these applications can be used asynchronously.

Let your Slack chat messages expire quickly

"At GitLab, only 90 days of Slack activity is retained. After that, it's gone. This is intentional, as it prevents Slack as being useful as a tool for managing projects end-to-end. Slack, Microsoft Teams, and similar tools are instant messaging platforms, which may work to the detriment of a truly asynchronous culture.

Leaders who are serious about ensuring that their team can rely on a single source of truth will be ruthless when it comes to instant message retention. If team members know that they can search their instant message history for updates on a given project, there is no motivation to document progress in a place that is universally accessible. This creates massive knowledge gaps and further splinters communication, alignment, and understanding throughout an organization."

The GitLab Handbook

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