What is Collaboration? Connecting Teams and Getting Stuff Done
Why is effective collaboration technology every CIO's priority in 2019?
On the surface, collaboration is a simple concept.
When you collaborate on something, you work alongside other people to constructively explore ideas, discover new solutions and explore unique thought processes. Ultimately, the end-goal of collaboration is to accomplish something as a team – whether it’s completing a client project or working together on a customer problem.
Collaboration, just like communication, has experienced some evolution in recent years. In the past, if you wanted to collaborate on something, you’d need to pull a group of people together in person. Brainstorming sessions would take place in a meeting room, where everyone could discuss issues and maybe jot ideas on a whiteboard. However, today’s business teams aren’t always located in the same geographical space as their co-workers. Remote working and globalisation mean that businesses need to work harder to keep people connected, even when they can’t share physical files, or work side-by-side on a project.
Collaboration is simultaneously a solution of and a necessity for the digital workforce.
Communication vs. Collaboration: What’s the Difference?
Collaboration is all about exploring and generating new ideas. However, collaboration isn’t just a single event – it’s something that needs to be a consistent part of today’s company culture. Productive employees need regular access to tools that allow them to stay connected to their co-workers wherever they are. As a result, communication companies are beginning to look beyond the basic workplace conversation, to introduce applications that facilitate effective action in the dispersed workforce.
Before you can fully understand the need for these tools, you’ll first need to know the difference between communication and collaboration.
Though communication and collaboration services often come intertwined as part of a UC strategy, they’re not the same things. Communication has always been a component of how we connect with each other on a professional level and pave the way for potential collaboration. The difference is that communication is about sharing knowledge, while collaboration is about putting that information to use, and creating something with it.
For instance, if you call someone over VoIP to discuss the latest client project you’ve accepted for your firm, then you’re communicating. However, if you then followed up on that call by asking someone to join you for a brain-storming session over video where you could come up with ideas to make that project a success, you would be collaborating. When we collaborate with people, we align our goals with a group, using shared knowledge and business processes to promote a desired outcome.
Communication can easily exist without collaboration. However, without communication, it would be impossible to collaborate.
The Wide Scope of Collaboration Technology
As the workforce becomes increasingly dispersed and digital, collaboration tools have evolved beyond the standard whiteboard and meeting room brainstorming session. Collaboration for a team today might mean getting together for a real-time conversation over Slack while sharing important documents and coming up with new ideas for the future of the business.
On the other hand, some businesses might use a tool like Microsoft Teams to communicate seamlessly while they work on a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation that they’re about to demonstrate to a host of potential partners. Just like communication software, there are many different types of collaboration technology available on the market today, stretching all the way from file sharing and annotation tools, to digital whiteboards.
With collaboration tools, today’s businesses can ensure that their teams always have the tools they need to work productively together on projects and ideas intended to accelerate company performance. For instance, a collaboration app may include:
- Presence features to show team members when their colleagues are online
- Real-time messaging and file editing features
- Video and voice conferencing solutions so employees can discuss and work together on projects from different locations
- Connections to digital whiteboards
- File sharing and screen sharing services
- Video and voice recording
- Integrations with other essential business applications like UC or CRM platforms
Collaboration: Taking Communication One Step Further
Ultimately, the difference between communication and collaboration is simple. It’s the same as the difference between talking about a project and bringing your team together on a virtualised platform to complete that project over the cloud.
The new definition of collaboration as a tool for digital success is something that’s emerged to suit a changing workforce. Today’s collaborative platforms allow remote workers and dispersed employees to work together in any environment, regardless of where they are or which device they might be using. This means that businesses can access the talent they need wherever it is in the world, without having to compromise on effective teamwork.
Collaborative tools also respond to the need to align multi-generational workforces. In a world where we have up to 5 generations in the workplace at once, collaborative tools ensure that there’s a single universal hub for sharing and using business data.
With collaboration strategies, companies can be more creative, diverse and inclusive with their teams. What’s more, many communication vendors are beginning to align collaboration services with their unified communication platforms. This means that the businesses of tomorrow can connect with customers, call co-workers, and work on a team project, all without having to switch to a different application.
Communication Will Always be Crucial to Collaboration
The most important thing to remember about collaboration as the industry continues to evolve is that it can’t exist without effective collaboration.
Teams trying to work together on the same project who don’t have a way of sharing their ideas and thoughts with their colleagues aren’t going to achieve much. Communication needs to be reliable and available across a range of touchpoints before digital collaboration can truly begin to thrive. One of the biggest mistakes that modern companies make is trying to embrace collaboration before they’ve finished refining their communication stack.
If you want 5 remote workers to collaborate on a new presentation, you can’t just give them a shared brief and a piece of PowerPoint software. That method simply gets you five versions of the same project. Collaboration happens when you connect those pieces of presentation software and enhance them with communication strategies like instant messaging, video conferencing and business voice.