Online collaboration is enabling people across the globe to connect and engage in meaningful work. Here are typical collaborative processes and quick tips, largely from a social and technological perspective, to answer why people need collaboration, and reasons that may help or inhibit us to engage with people and use technologies that support our collaborative projects.
1. Making People Connections
Various reasons for establishing connections with people may require you to step back and ask yourself, and possibly your team, what exactly you need. Do you need subject matter experts or simply bring different points of view into your collaborative project? Here are some typical ways to establish people connections.
- Creating an Online Community. Online communities are designed for long term group interactions and ongoing recruitment. Is an online community right for you?
- Starting a Conversation. Sharing ideas sometimes involves getting a conversation started to find people interested in your work. But getting to know people first may be an important step, especially for small business requiring access to many people.
- Defining Subject Matter Experts. How do you define expert? An expert on the topic of your collaboration may be found in industry specific organizations or simply asking people you already know that may be associated with an expert.
2. Selecting Collaboration Tools
How do you choose the right technology for your collaborative project? Just as you wouldn't choose a sailboat you couldn't sail, it's important to base your selection on user preferences, ease of use, and other factors like group size and budget. And don't forget the fine details of sharing information across multiple device platforms to save you time in the long run.
- Matching Collaboration Needs with Tool Choices. Collaboration is a choice among people advancing an idea so it important to understand the group process. Online collaboration is not one-size-fits all.
- Deciding On Collaboration Tools Based on Group Size. Collaborating groups need a common tool to collect and store information. Interestingly, collaboration tools may already be at your disposal. Here are some pros and cons of small and large groups to see what may naturally work best.
3. Managing Projects in Organizations
Managing project requirements, costs, and the dynamics of a project team depend on collaboration to keep your project running smoothly. An integrated communication platform will benefit your team throughout the project lifecycle to handle the demands of the triple constraints-schedule, resources, and scope/deliverables. Here are some quick tips for managing projects to help team members work towards your collaborative project goals.
- Being a Leader, Not Only a Manager. Some people say the key to successful project management is leadership. But I would like to add, project success may very well begin with being a better manager.
- Conducting online meetings. Online meetings are effective for people even in your location or across the country because they make the best use of time. You can be sitting at your desk or in your home office, which will limit the interruption of traveling to a team location. Because of differences in time zones and work schedules, remember to pick a time that is conducive for the majority of the team.
- Tracking Time and Budgets. Keeping on schedule and budget are fundamental to project success. Project apps that extend your communication platform will help collaborators track time throughout the day to better manage their milestones and ongoing assignments.
4. Maintaining Document Libraries
Project teams need tools for building, maintaining, and accessing document libraries, in many cases, across geographic boundaries and time zones. Some of the documentation requirements of the collaborative group start with project planning and may even expand to outside sources for document repositories.
- Collaborative Group Documentation. The multitude of software technologies for housing group documentation is evolving for good reasons. Groupware designed for the collaborating group has the features to capture and store information, including video, meeting notes, research and project documentation. Here is a basic definition of groupware to get you started.
- Document Management Practices. Types of collaborative tools are geared for individual and collaborative group styles. Advantages of using a technology suite give you options to be productive, including document version control, member workspaces and portals, and messaging tools.
- Capturing Real Time Information. Conducting research for your collaborating team can be a fun job and also a daunting task. Here are some resources to help collect real-time information.
5. Focusing on Achievable Outcomes
Collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes. Meaningful collaboration may be what your group is seeking. But how do you keep focused and remain committed to the collaborative goal?
- Building a Teamwork Culture. Nurturing meaningful collaborative relationships may require getting team commitment and building a cultural framework that helps further the collaborative work.
- Staying Focused on the Big Picture. Learning from others who have a track record in getting things done can offer a wealth of information as we sometimes go through trial and error.
- Creating Value in Research and Experience. Disciplined research is often overlooked as a means to learn about contributing to collaborative work. Learning about your field and collaborating in an education environment may be great place to start or revitalize your career to obtain valuable collaboration experience.