Enabling collaboration has become such an oft-stressed priority of new business technology solutions that, for some, the idea has lost much of its original meaning. While cloud computing tools make it easier than ever to share files and edit documents simultaneously, many people do not take advantage of solutions in a way that fosters real collaborative action. With unified communication and collaboration tools that include features such as virtual whiteboards, businesses can go beyond basic exchanges and generate real collaborative ideas.
In a recent article for Inman News, contributor Gahlord Dewald explained that most cloud solutions businesses usesolve the problem of access, but these tools turn the collaborative process into something that more closely resembles editing than working together. In particular, if someone is working with an outside party or client who they don’t know very well, the formality of the situation can make it difficult to build on ideas constructively.
“In these situations, where the structure of the relationship isn’t truly collaborative, the formality of standard text documents and spreadsheets may hinder true collaboration,” Dewald wrote. “No one wants to offend the other person by ‘messing up their work.’ It’s as if there’s some sort of hidden relationship between the structure of our working relationships and the structure of the documents our working relationships produce.”
Dewald noted that in an in-office environment, documents and spreadsheets are usually the last step of a collaborative project, during which the details are written down and hammered out. However, the brainstorming process begins in the more casual setting of a whiteboard, which allows people to lay their ideas out alongside each other in a physical space. Some of today’s most innovative companies devote large amounts of space to their whiteboards, a gesture that signals a collaborative spirit, Dewald wrote. To capture the same spirit while working remotely, businesses can use unified communication and collaboration tool sets that include virtual whiteboards.
Using UC&C for collaboration
While it can be difficult to recreate some qualities of an in-person whiteboard session over long distances, the tools address the reality that collaborators cannot always be in the same place at the same time, Dewald wrote. Web-based digital whiteboards provide an added dimension to other unified communication platforms such as voice and video. In a recent column for FierceContentManagement, editor Ron Miller referred to the idea that all collaborators had to be gathered in the same room around the same physical writing surface as “The White Board Fallacy,” noting that this approach is no longer required.
“If all the meeting participants can see what’s happening and can communicate with one another all in real time, I would maintain that there is little difference between that and being in the same room, except you can’t see the folks staring into their smartphones, not paying attention,” he wrote.
In a separate column, Miller added the qualification that the specific solution that works best for each business will vary. Companies should be careful to embrace one-size-fits-all solutions or assume that either their virtual whiteboard or their document sharing tool is enough on its own, too. By working with a managed IT services provider like FlexITy, organizations can implement a custom UC&C solution that incorporates the tools needed to enable substantive collaboration, whether it involves using video chat, virtual whiteboards, document sharing or all three.