5 tips for smarter collaboration in a mobile and cloud world

Things work a little differently in a technology-connected world, and these five tips can make that work go more smoothly

I'm sure you've been through this frustration: You have a meeting, and your smartphone gives you a warning to dial in or head to the conference room -- except where in &#$@! is that number or location? Buried in the meeting details, of course. Or this frustration: Someone sends you a link to a file that when clicked or tapped requires you set up an account at yet another service or with a service that you have associated with a different email address. Good luck in getting to that file!

So many technologies are out there for our use -- on our PCs or Macs, on our mobile devices, via our browsers -- that we face a new challenge of having them work well among disparate groups.

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Don't get me wrong: I love the fact that I can access my calendar from any number of devices, not just a Windows laptop. And I can get files almost anywhere I am and on almost any device I happen to have with me. I love that I can see all my emails in one email client, yet keep them separate for security reasons. But this new world requires some changes in how we use the tools so that they work better across the new heterogeneous landscape.

Here are five tips to make life easier for your colleagues and friends in this new world -- and ultimately for yourself.

1. Send out calendar invitations, not emails, to get on people's calendars
Any modern calendar program in Windows, OS X, iOS, or Android can send out an invitation to anyone for whom you have an email address or is in your corporate address book. Use that method. It'll save people the hassle of having to take the info from their email and manually enter it in their calendars. In better calendar clients, it'll let them preview their schedules so they can see if they're even free before accepting or declining the invite.

You benefit as well: The appointment is added to your calendar, and you can see who accepted it -- without having to wade through a long string of emails to see who said yes. Plus, if you need to change the meeting's date and time, the update is sent to everyone automatically.

Note that if you still use IBM's Lotus Notes, it's not great about creating such invitations, nor about entering actual email addresses in its invitee list. Those outside your company may have trouble getting your invites to work or seeing who's also participating, so you may be at a disadvantage. Also, Apple's and Google's calendar apps don't handle complex repeating-event patterns such as those in Notes or Attachmate's GroupWise, so those users may get inaccurate invites. Depending how common such users are, you may need to simplify your recurring-event schedules.

2. Put meeting location and numbers in the Location field of your calendar entry
Many of us manage our meetings on our smartphones or tablets. On those screens, you get less detail than on a 22-inch computer monitor. If the location or dial-in information is buried in the appointment's Note section -- as is often the case -- it's hard to join the meeting when driving, walking, or otherwise not at a computer. But if that detail is in the Location field, it's immediately visible. That field is often clickable, such as to let your phone dial the number or, in the case of iOS and OS X Mavericks, for the Calendars app to estimate drive time to the address for the meeting. (If only it could show you where that conference room is in your building!)

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