Collaboration is a framework in which people can work together to achieve a common goal. It allows employees to accomplish more as a team than they would individually. Moving collaboration online is a natural transition as organizations continue to digitize their business processes and adopt digital tools.
According to a report, over 80 percent of businesses use collaboration tools to enhance their business processes. Moreover, the demand for online collaborative software significantly surged in April 2020 as most companies were forced to go remote due to COVID-19 lockdowns around the world.
It’s clear that online collaboration has now become a necessity and it is the future way of shaping organizations. But to get the most out of online collaboration, it’s important for you to understand the main principles behind it and select the right tools to enable it.
What is online collaboration?
Collaboration happens when two or more people combine their efforts to accomplish a common goal or task. It is more than communication — it’s about exchanging points of view and ideas.
Online collaboration means using the internet and online tools to collaborate. Instead of sitting in a physical office space, online collaboration allows employees to collaborate from different locations and devices by accessing virtual work environments and shared online workspaces.
The shared workspace can be as simple as a shared spreadsheet that all the employees can access and edit in a collaborative way, or it can be as complex as a complete digital workplace.
Online collaboration makes it possible for teams to work effectively even when they have team members located in different parts of the globe. When implemented correctly, online collaboration can increase productivity, simplify teamwork, and make it easier for office employees and their remote counterparts to work closely together.
The need for online collaboration in a digital workplace
Online collaboration allows remote employees to work together effectively with their office counterparts. It gives remote employees more visibility into what is happening within their team and the organization as a whole, even when they are not at the office.
Ideally, visibility goes beyond just sharing project and work updates. It is about sharing important files, allowing team-wide discussions, and making information searchable to everyone.
Support for asynchronicity
Synchronous and real-time communication like instant messaging and video conferencing can help bring teams together and improve camaraderie. But constant real-time communication can be hard to keep up, especially for remote employees. It’s hard enough for two people working in different time zones to find a common time to collaborate and communicate, let alone an entire team.
Online collaboration supports asynchronicity allowing remote employees to work according to their own schedule, conduct asynchronous discussions for non-urgent topics where team members are not required to share their response in real-time, and schedule routine team meetings only for important updates and discussions.
Successful collaboration boils down to accountability. After all, if no one is held accountable for the results and decisions that emerge out of a collaborative group, then collaboration would end up being a complete failure.
Online collaboration helps imbibe a culture of accountability in teams by making it easier to share progress, track project updates, establish priorities, and receive feedback from higher-ups.
More skill-building opportunities
When employees work together and collaborate to share their views, they can learn a lot from each other by pooling their strengths, talent, and knowledge.
Online collaboration can increase skill-building opportunities as it does not require employees to share the same physical space just to share their ideas and collaborate with coworkers. It also makes cross-departmental collaboration easier especially for departments that function in completely different sections of the office or have team members that mostly work from home.
Increased employee satisfaction
Online collaboration with the help of the right digital tools can create an environment where employees feel welcome to share their skills, views, and experience with their team members. It challenges employees to explore, refine, and test new ideas. Effective collaboration helps build trust among employees and teaches them to rely on their colleagues which in turn improves employee satisfaction and retention rate.
How a digital workplace makes online collaboration easier
As the virtual replacement of physical offices, a digital workplace platform gives employees access to the complete set of digital tools that they need to communicate, collaborate, and manage their work responsibilities. It is a unified platform that integrates disparate business applications and makes it easier for employees to access all the work-related information and data through one central dashboard.
The obvious shift towards remote work in 2020 due to COVID-19 and the continuous digitization happening across the world is the reason why 87 percent of senior managers now consider implementing a digital workplace as a major priority. While 62 percent of them have already implemented digital workplace platforms in their organizations.
A digital workplace can make online collaboration a whole lot easier for teams. Here are some of the many reasons why:
1. Improved online communication
Effective communication leads to effective collaboration. Digital workplaces have public and private communication channels that allow employees to share their ideas, discuss any possible problems, and come up with solutions. It can reduce internal emails and the need for meetings significantly. Moreover, it also makes decision-making quicker.
2. Location independence
The great part about online collaboration with a digital workplace is that employees can participate from any location using any device. Whether managers need to give quick approvals or team members need a small clarification, everything can move at a faster pace since employees are no longer chained to a particular device or place.
3. Better project management
Teams can create projects right within the digital workplace platform and collaborate online in real-time. They can also track projects, assign tasks to different members, set deadlines, and make sure all the related project information is available to the team members.
4. Streamline processes
You can digitize and structure internal business processes into streamlined workflows which can improve efficiency and transparency within the organization. When all employees have visibility about what is happening with the team, it directly leads to decreased miscommunication and better collaboration.
5. Centralized document repository
If every employee has access to different versions of the same file, it can make online collaboration a nightmare. Digital workplace platforms help avoid that by creating a centralized cloud-based document repository which makes storing and finding documents superbly easy.
With everything stored in one place, whenever someone needs to discuss a document, they can quickly pull it out and discuss it with their team members, knowing everyone has access to the same file version.
Online collaboration is now a necessity for modern businesses
Online collaboration enables better communication and workflow between employees which directly improves productivity, process efficiency, and employee satisfaction. However, it’s only possible to achieve optimum online collaboration by implementing the right collaboration tools that fit your company’s needs and expectations.
At the same time, it is important to remember that collaboration is no longer just a strategy that companies can implement and then forget. It is the key to long-term business competitiveness and success which requires constant attention. Businesses that realize this sooner than later will be the ones that succeed in the new global economy.