Like most companies these days, Mindjet uses a variety of collaboration tools to get things done. In an effort to better understand the inner workings of those processes, I sat down with the users themselves – real Mindjet employees — and asked for feedback.

Here are three truths that our round table yielded:

1. Collaboration is Not All or Nothing

One of the most common mistakes is thinking that collaboration is an all or nothing deal. While the excitement over joining the conversation is understandable, constantly engaging everyone in your organization over these platforms would be like being on Facebook all day: you wouldn’t get any work done.

Instead, the general consensus was that these tools are more effective when used in smaller groups.

“The bigger the group, the more important it becomes to have meetings,” said Robin Cangie, Marketing Programs Manager. “If it’s just me and a couple other people, it’s easy to collaborate with tools. But when there’s a bunch of us involved, having a daily standup is key to the success of the project because everyone can take 15 minutes to come together, get on the same page, and leave feeling individually involved and invested.”

2. Styles Vary

It is often said that collaboration is about the right tool for the right job, so it made sense to learn that the usage of each tool varied widely by department.

“The moment you have to pull someone in from a different department, it’s harder to get a response through the tools we use here in Marketing,” said Tamara Barros, Marketing Associate. “Their default response is usually e-mail, and then you forget all about the original context.”

Anna Li, Marketing Manager, agreed. “When I create tasks for people, in my mind that means the ball’s in their court. But because people from different departments often use different tools, I have more luck with just going up to their desk and talking to them face-to-face. That’s when product can get in the way of collaboration – if not everyone is familiar with the tool, how can you expect everyone to use it?”

3. Email isn’t Ready to Budge

While many recent studies show that these tools can be great at decreasing e-mail usage, it turns out they can also be great at increasing it as well. In addition to being the one system most everyone is familiar with, e-mail is often the central hub for all platform notifications.

Further, everyone in the discussion agreed that using e-mail was the preferred method for having “private” conversations with colleagues, or for interactions with people outside of the organization. When asked about the chat features that often aim to provide a similar but quicker experience, Cangie noted, ”I think of chat as real time – it’s a different expectation. If I chat them, it’s because I have an immediate need. It can be…demanding. I don’t use it unless I work a lot with the person or know them well.”

Tricky Business

“There are some people you know you can collaborate with over tools and some people you can’t,” summed Nicolette Androski, Marketing Event Coordinator. “And you get to know that from working with them. People not wanting to collaborate or not knowing how will always, always be a roadblock. It’s comes down to a culture problem.”

In the end, collaboration is about people — not technologies. Teams will always do well to get together and discuss their projects in person or over platforms, but when it’s time to do the actual work, that onus is on the individual. And that’s as much a part of the collaboration effort as any tool or any face time.