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Collaborate on documents during your meetings

A nice trick that business analysts can use now that collaboration technology like Google Docs exists is to allow meeting participants to simultaneously collaborate on documents during the meeting itself.  Simply have everyone in your meeting open up the document on their own computer, and then everyone can edit the document together in real time.  In spreadsheets, how this works is that whoever clicks to edit a cell locks only that cell for themselves, while every other cell in the spreadsheet can be edited by other users at the very same time.

This allows you do much more collaborative work in your meetings, and much more detailed collaborative work. Rather than relying on dictating your comments to the scribe responsible for updating the document, each participant can enter their own comments quickly and exactly as intended.  This saves time in the meeting, and also allows for more precision in the document itself.

Additionally, collaborating directly on documents allows for several different tasks to be taking place at the same time.  If one stakeholder is entering comments about one part of your document, other stakeholders can enter comments about other parts.  This prevents wasted downtime and allows stakeholders to work ahead when their topics are not being discussed.

A great use for this technology is to quickly gain a consensus on priorities. You could walk through a list of features and have a column for each stakeholder to enter their ranking of each feature. After you read off the name of the feature, wait a few seconds for everyone to enter their ranking, and then have a column that automatically averages all the rankings. Everyone can instantly see how everyone else has ranked the feature, and ask questions on the spot if they don’t understand other’s rankings. This may spur needed discussions and eliminate confusions about the feature. This method allows quick prioritization and records the input of every meeting participant, so there is no guesswork as to why a feature was prioritized the way it was. This allows everyone to have their say, no matter how many meeting participants there are. It works for small meeting just as well as for large meetings with dozens (or more!) participants. And distance is no obstacle. You could have participants all over the world editing the document as quickly as if they were in the same room as you.

A final benefit of opening your document to online collaboration is that the stakeholders can add more to the document after the meeting. If additional details or changes come to mind later, they can jump into the document and add them instantly.  Your document becomes a living document that doesn’t require repeated meetings to improve, since improvements can be made at any time day or night by all participants.

The quality and amount of collaboration your team experience varies greatly depending on the types of tools that you make available.  Simultaneous online document collaboration is a tool that you should employ as often as possible to make your team more effective through improved collaboration.

Want more tips? Check our BA online resources!

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