Digital collaboration has never been more important or relevant to organizations. In the face of the current pandemic, it has become clear that a digital approach to collaboration is the only way for companies to stay afloat, manage teams, and streamline productivity.
It is a fundamental factor in making employees feel happy and valued in their jobs. Introducing effective digital collaboration tools increases employee satisfaction by 17 percent and employee engagement by 19 percent.
But digital collaboration is not just about introducing new collaboration tools — it’s about a way of working that makes collaboration easier for employees even when they are working from different physical locations. That is why there is a need to better understand what digital collaboration really is and how it can change the way we work in the future.
What is digital collaboration?
In simple terms, digital collaboration is just collaborating and getting things done using digital devices and technology. It can include anything from tools, apps, software, procedures, processes, or a completely new methodology.
Digital collaboration leverages technology to improve workplace collaboration, communication, document management, content management, and information flow across the organization which in turn leads to improved employee productivity and efficiency. Cloud is an important part of digital collaboration as it helps employees collaborate in real-time even beyond time zones and geographical boundaries.
Levels of digital collaboration
It happens when two or more people share information and talk to each other for their own mutual benefit. It’s informal communication with no risks involved and minimal decision-making. The roles of all the people involved are loosely defined and the decisions are made independently by each participant.
A good example of networking is different department heads coming together to discuss the HR initiatives that they are taking.
It takes place when people support one another’s activities with no formal agreement. It is mostly formal communication with limited decision-making. The roles are somewhat defined, but the decisions are still made independently.
An example of cooperation is different teams exchanging resources like technological expertise and documents to achieve their individual project goals.
It happens when people are involved in mutual projects and initiatives where they have to actively modify their own activities and strategies to meet a common goal. The roles are more defined with formal and frequent communication. There is also shared decision making involved, but only for the joint work.
An example of coordination is the sales and marketing teams working together to meet the common goal of increasing revenue and conversions.
It involves a formal agreement where people work together to achieve a shared vision. Their roles are formalized and there is regular communication. Moreover, all the resources are pooled together and decisions are made by taking a consensus of all the individuals involved.
An example of full collaboration is cross-functional teams where a group of people with different functional expertise come together to meet a common goal.
How to improve digital collaboration in your organization
1. Take a strategic approach
Too many organizations expect digital collaboration tools to magically solve all of their collaboration challenges right away. The truth is — you can’t just buy a subscription of a collaboration tool and expect it to streamline all of the collaboration issues automatically. You have to implement these tools strategically in order for them to work.
Create a digital collaboration strategy by defining etiquette for communication and making sure every employee in the organization is aware of it. You should also document details of the different tools used within the company for collaboration along with their main usage purposes.
2. Use collaboration tools that don’t become a distraction
If you use separate tools for different aspects of digital collaboration like project management, communication, instant messaging, and video calls, it is easy for employees to feel overwhelmed and get distracted. Your employees may end up spending the majority of their time toggling between different collaboration tools instead of actually working.
To improve digital collaboration, you should use collaboration tools that help employees manage their work more effectively without hampering their productivity in any way. It’s also preferable to go for tools with centralized notifications to make sure employees are not bogged down with incessant notifications and messages from everywhere.
3. Create a central repository for storing and sharing documents
A big part of digital collaboration is sharing and accessing documents in real-time. Without a single place to store all of your work-related data, you will find yourself spending hours just tracking down the right versions of important work files. Moreover, when team members don’t have access to the same file versions, it can create confusion and affect the work greatly.
By creating a central repository for storing all documents and files, you can make sure everyone in the team has access to the right data and file versions they need to manage their work seamlessly.
4. Take note of all the time zone differences
Collaborating digitally in a global organization means working with team members across multiple locations and times zones. To streamline digital collaboration, you need to take note of all the time zone differences and find common slots of time during the day when all the team members can come together for discussions.
Start by listing out all the time zones and working hours of the team members and then look for overlapping timings where everyone is available to schedule meetings.
How to measure the impact of digital collaboration
Understand the problems
You can only see a clear impact of your digital collaboration strategy if it can solve some of your work problems and smoothen out work processes. When you introduce a new collaboration tool or technology, you need to understand what problems it is trying to solve and whether it can even solve any issues your employees face.
Look for technology fatigue
Make it a habit to regularly ask your employees about the tools that they use for collaboration. If there are too many tools that the employees need to use, it may cause a technology fatigue, making it difficult for them to catch up and keep track of everything. You would essentially be investing a lot of money into new and advanced tools only to see digital collaboration decrease in the team.
The idea is to keep the number of collaboration tools that your team uses, as less as possible so that the team members can focus more on their actual work and spend less time juggling the different tools.
Define your KPIs
If you don’t know what optimum collaboration looks like for your organization, you cannot measure the success of digital collaboration accurately. That is why you should decide on the main KPIs for digital collaboration and set benchmarks for engagement levels for every quarter. You can then use these metrics to measure the collaboration of different teams within the organization.
Also, when measuring digital collaboration, you shouldn’t focus on how many hours employees spend using collaboration tools or how many messages they send to their colleagues. That’s not where you’ll see their true value.
Instead, you should focus on how well team members collaborate with each other, how regularly they communicate to quickly resolve an issue, and how much time they spend in deep work.
The increase in productivity and efficiency, and decrease in bottlenecks as well as miscommunication is where you will see the true value of digital collaboration.
Achieving digital collaboration through contextual collaboration
Contextual collaboration helps bring all the separate online collaboration tools together to one single interface and makes it easier for teams to collaborate digitally. Contextual collaboration platforms like a digital workplace let people access all the files, conversations, tasks, projects, calendars, and other data through a unified dashboard. With an increasingly remote workforce and focus on digital collaboration, contextual collaboration has become more important than ever.
Kissflow is a digital workplace platform that allows teams to streamline collaboration, communication, processes, projects, tasks, cases, and third-party integration. As an all-in-one application, Kissflow connects all the separate business functions in your organization and allows employees to work together in a productive and efficient manner.
Ready to give Kissflow a try? Sign up today.