In recent years, the word "collaboration" has been thrown around more than ever before, especially in marketing and other, similar areas of the professional sector. While collaboration software is indeed one of the most important aspects of any successful business strategy, its meaning and impact have fallen by the wayside somewhat as a result of overuse of the word. The fact is, collaboration means something different for every organization. depending heavily upon products/services rendered, overarching goals and more. At its core, however, collaboration occurs when two or more members of a team work together to solve problems and achieve a common goal.
If you wish for your organization to get the most out of collaboration, it's always helpful to take into consideration the reasons for which you might want to introduce collaboration to the workplace to begin with. There are a number of benefits that come along with collaboration when it is successfully pulled-off, including the following:
Saved Time — Time is of the essence in any industry, and the more you can save, the better. When employees collaborate with one another, they're effectively saving your organization time by achieving the end goal in a much quicker fashion than would be possible otherwise. Time is money, after all, and the more you can save by embracing collaboration techniques, the better.
Strengthened Team Relationships — In many ways, your team is akin to a family unit. Building effective working relationships between members, then, is of the utmost importance. Collaboration is an excellent way for team members to become more comfortable with the concept of working with one another to reach a common goal. In this way, it serves a dual purpose that can be highly beneficial to any team or organization.
Improved Project Management — Managing a project or team can be more difficult a process than many people give it credit for. Collaboration is one of the best ways to ensure that you're getting the most out of your team, as it helps to improve communication and keep easily avoidable mistakes at bay. When people work together, the chances that things will fall through the cracks dissipate immensely.
Better Organization — It's easy for things to go missing when you're in the middle of a project, which can result in a great deal of headaches and wasted time. Better organization is something that every company should strive for, even if things are already going well. In many cases, collaboration is the best medicine when you're trying to improve organization.
As one might expect, there are a few different levels of collaboration, each of which can have unique effects on your business. Learning how to collaborate effectively is all about understanding the ways in which you can actually go about the process. While there are countless "sub-levels" of organization to consider, it can be helpful to internalize aspects of the three most common options to embrace.
Team Level — At it's very core, collaboration is about a small group of individuals (usually between two and ten) working together to solve a problem. This is often referred to as "team level collaboration," which tends to be the most intense, as well as the most effective. When a team collaborates on a project, each member can rest easy knowing that they're part of a small group and only have to focus on what's going on inside of it.
Community Level — Once you start moving past team level collaboration, you'll typically find yourself operating at the community level. In modern organizations, this typically involves working with others within your social community to improve upon things on a larger level, which could include customer service, the UI of your social space or content creation strategies. While a community is typically larger than a team, it's one step below the network level of collaboration.
Network Level — If team level collaboration is viewed as a micro approach, network level collaboration is macro. Network level takes into consideration not only your organization, but the outside individuals who are directly tied into what it is that you do — clients and customers, for example. The major difference between community and network level collaboration is that the former typically involves only internal employees, while the latter serves both internal and external audiences.
Collaboration has always served an important role in professional settings. In the past, however, employees were typically required to work within the same office as one another in order to collaborate. Phone and email certainly helped to make things easier for remote employees, but these in and of themselves are not enough. As technology progressed, however, a more effective group of solutions quickly made its way to the forefront — social business software.
Social business software comes in a variety of different shapes and sizes, but the cornerstone of just about every option is increased collaboration abilities. With collaboration software on your side, you can ensure that everyone on your team is able to work together without running into various boundaries, even if they're located across the world from one another. While no two social business software platforms are exactly alike, there are a number of common features that are standard among most, including:
Document Sharing — The ability to share documents in a streamlined manner is of the utmost importance for those who are attempting to collaborate with one another. Most social business software platforms feature robust document management systems, ensuring that you and the rest of your team can share essential files with ease.
Internal Communication System — Your team needs to be able to communicate in as efficient a manner as possible in order to stay on task and avoid overlooking important aspects of a project at hand. Well-designed social business software can all but completely replace email and other commonly used vehicles for communication, and since everything is located in one central place, finding archived conversations is a breeze.
Content Creation Platform — There are a number of reasons why you might wish to consider publishing content both internally and externally — inbound marketing comes to mind. Great social business software comes along with a content creation platform that allows you to publish attractive blogs and wikis with a few simple clicks, effectively helping to bring in a new audience and increase your organization's presence on the web.
Robust Search — Looking for an old document, conversation or blog post that has seemingly gone missing? It's scenarios such as this when a robust internal search feature can make or break your experience. Using tags and other variables, social business software allows you to find what you're looking for in a quick and efficient manner.
Personal and Group Calendars — Sometimes the most difficult aspect of the workday is simply keeping track of meetings and other events that require your attention. Personal and group calendars are inherent features in most social business software platforms, and they can make all the difference in the world in regards to your ability to stay present and involved at all times..
At this point, it should be clear just how much your business can benefit from focusing on collaboration. Even if you have the best social business software, the right mindset and a talented group of employees on your side, however, collaboration is not without its struggles. There are plenty of ways in which you can work towards improving collaboration within your organization, however, with the following being just a few examples:
Focus on Open Communication — In order for collaboration to truly work, communication has to be placed at the forefront of every project. Your team should always feel comfortable communicating with one another about concerns or questions they may have, as well as whatever other input might push a project in a forward direction. Team leaders, then, should do whatever they can to foster a more open environment for communication whenever possible.
Schedule Training Sessions — Learning how to use social business software is typically an easy process, although training your team can help to make things even simpler. Training sessions can be completed within a physical office or remotely via teleconferencing, and they don't have to be time-consuming. Go over the basics, and if your employees are receptive to it, schedule more detailed sessions to cover every aspect of your platform in as thorough a manner as possible.
Identify Key Employees — In every organization, there are a handful of employees who set the bar for productivity, ingenuity and work ethic. Identifying those who are most likely to help steer your company in the right direction and giving them leadership roles can be a great way to improve collaboration, especially if they have the skills it takes to lead a team.
Hold Daily Status Meetings — Social business software is an excellent tool for ensuring that your entire team is on the same page throughout the course of a project, but it doesn't end there. Daily status meetings can be exceptionally helpful, as they allow employees to voice questions, comments and concerns before the day gets going. The end result is fewer hurdles and a more effective approach to the workday, especially when there are a number of projects being handled at the same time.
Set a Clear Outline — No matter what project you're setting out to take on, you'll always have a better chance of achieving success if you set a clear outline for yourself and your team. Outlines help to ensure that you don't stray off track, and throwing one together doesn't have to take as much time and effort as you might think. Even if it's basic, an outline will no doubt help to keep you and your team moving in the right direction.
As time progresses and technology continues to influence the modern business landscape, collaboration will only increase in both popularity and necessity. Get started now, and you won't have to worry about your organization falling behind.
Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.
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