Using collaboration to get work done may have once been more of a burden than an improvement, but new tools allow people to cooperate on tasks in ways that were once unimaginable. In a recent Unified Communications Strategies post, contributor Dave Michels explained that even today’s children working on school projects have access to collaboration tools that far outstrip the capabilities of what enterprises were once able to do. While people have always sought collaboration, technology is enabling it in new ways.
“Collaboration becomes an exercise in technology when the collaborators are not in the same time or place,” Michels wrote. “It wasn’t long ago that such a concept was nonsense. How could a gold digger in California collaborate with a geologist in London? Not easily. Today, it’s child’s play.”
He outlined some of the tools of virtual collaboration, noting a few basic underlying principles that change the way certain workflows are accomplished. The cloud democratizes users regardless of location, allowing collaboration and sharing among remote workers, mobile stakeholders and office employees. Additionally, collaboration can occur both internally and externally, with many tools serving as conduits for bringing in outside expertise from partners or consultants and for facilitating internal discussion.
Tools for collaboration
Among the collaborative tools Michels named are the “old school” options of telephone and email, as well as newer solutions such as instant messaging, video, and mobile unified communications capabilities. Conferencing tools that bring meetings to the user can cut down on the amount of time spent going to meetings, freeing up more time for doing actual work. Document collaboration that enables multi-editing allows sharing beyond simply letting users look at the same screen, while social collaboration platforms such as blogs and wikis bring people together to create content in the same venue.
All of these tools are slowly converging within the same solutions suite, according to SearchUnifiedCommunications contributor Kara Deyermenjian. She compared the confluence of unified communications and social collaboration – an integrated approach called unified communications and collaboration (UCC) – to the formation of a “power couple” relationship. While the actual tools of the two strategies vary slightly, the end goals are the same. Both are focused on improving communication and sharing among companies and co-workers.
“On one hand you have UC, a tool-based idea that focuses on the combination of hardware, software and services with an end-goal of increasing the ability to communicate across various devices, applications and locations,” Deyermenjian wrote. “On the other hand you have social collaboration, a software-focused notion striving to unite groups and teams of people that are physically spread out by improving the ability to share knowledge and improve business processes. Sure, there are some key differences between these two functions, but they are both working toward the same goal.”
While many companies have deployed some individual UCC functions, there is still plenty of demand for a fully integrated suite of solutions that can actually spur collaboration and improve business processes, Deyermenjian said. In a modern workplace that, according to Michels, might be better thought of as a way of connecting rather than as a physical location, taking further steps to build these types of features into business processes may be a necessity.