When I first began working, Collaboration meant gathering the team into a room and working on a piece or work or project. Today, it means working from my home office, car, airport, another city and collaborating with people in Europe, Canada, USA and Australia.
The historic organization relied on staff coming to work in the morning, working at their desks and collaborating face-to-face in meeting rooms at at the water cooler. The modern corporation inhabits a multidimensional space with fluid boundaries not limited by restrictions of geography, location or time. These changes demand that more effective methods of working together, enabled through electronic means, are essential to keep pace with the modern world. Aside from the obvious benefits of collaboration for efficiency, mentoring and responsiveness, there are greater benefits to the business such as:
- Reduced cost structure by eliminating under utilized office space
- Eliminate/reduce the need to visit the office – more time with the client
- Greater customer responsiveness – data at hand to help sales and service
- Create a culture of innovation by linking experts from a variety of areas of the business
The goal for collaboration software is to create a shared electronic space where people can work together and exchange ideas in a ‘friction-free’ environment. Achieving this means understanding how people work together and giving them the tools and work flexibility they need – not imposing ways of working on them that fit the limitations of the technology. For example, many organizations have workforces where 40% or more are mobile workers. Also, most corporations are global and partner with companies that are global as well.
The following are examples of the tools/resources the modern workforce require:
- Supportive culture
- Interaction with team members using video conferencing and team spaces
- Access to knowledge systems and SMEs by way of social networking systems
- Access to information from anywhere
- Simplified and integrated application portfolio
- Just in time learning and reduced learning curve
- Mobile communications – both voice and data
- Devices that enable the access – Laptops with Wireless
- Flexible work and home office environment
- Tablet or laptop
- Cell phone
- Network access via Hot spots
However, collaboration is about people rather than technology. The technology plays a crucial supporting role, but without a clear understanding of the human context in which collaborative activities take place, implementing collaboration software will not be successful. Collaboration is not a single tool – a whole range of different functions are important for effective collaboration. These range from methods of communication such as email, phone and instant messaging, through technologies for working together such as screen and application sharing, to the delivery of a working environment where content can be created and shared, and reference material stored. This can only be delivered effectively by taking a holistic approach to the workplace, cultural impacts and tools.