Collaborative work is about people working together to achieve a common goal. This is facilitated by the development of new technologies.
Companies and employees are more flexible. The technologies that support collaboration make it possible to easily communicate and exchange information no matter the place or timezone.
International companies, with multinational offices implement project teams that do not work in the same place or even at the same time; which means, they have unlimited access to the best resources since location is not an issue. In-person meetings are replaced by video conferences. This type of meeting reduces costs by limiting travel costs.
Since location is not an issue, project teams can work with the most competent people of their choosing because technology compensates for the geographical separation. Collaborative work also acts as a stimulus for project teams; they share and exchange ideas and creativity is maximized. The shared and differed points of view enrich strategies and development. Group dynamics and interactions stimulate the collaborators who then become more productive and efficient. And the exchange of information is a driving force for learning; meaning their professional development speeds up because they share knowledge and learn from one another. Group dynamics lead to improved performance and objectives are achieved more effectively.
Teams save time by sharing documents over a secure platform; and versioning ensure everyone is working on the latest version of a document - so work isn't repeated.
Collaborators tend to be more efficient when the companies they work for use they use modern collaboration tools.. The team gains autonomy because the employees are equipped to move forward as the project progresses.
Collaborative work also has its limitations. Data shared with too many collaborators can prove to be a threat. Sensitive business data must remain under control and cannot be disclosed outside the organization. Customer information, company figures and tariffs are examples of data that need to be protected. Organizations should also make sure to backup regularly.
Another potential issue is people overworking and blurring the lines between their personal time and work hours. That ever elusive work-life balance then becomes increasingly difficult if individuals don’t set their boundaries.
Finally, the loss of human touch can be detrimental if taken to an extreme. Productivity is lost If everything needs to be entered into a system, as it can often take much more time to write out task descriptions than to simply go over to someone and discuss face-to-face.
Harvard researchers have shown that three factors are important for collaborative work. Proximity makes it possible to bring people together, intimacy implies that everyone remains independent and permissiveness encourages relationships and activities outside of work.
Synchronous tools such as instant messaging or video conferencing enable real-time collaboration. The phone is also widely used and enables employees to quickly access information on a specific topic.
Asynchronous tools include shared calendars, online word processing and to-do lists. While email remains the most commonly used tool, today it’s heavily challenged by applications to avoid the ever growing pile of emails.
Collaborative work can be achieved with a computer tool, such as project management software, which allows team members to follow the progress of projects and organize tasks. A collaborative platform allows employees to find information at any time, share documents, and comment on or annotate pooled information.
Bringing us back to the roots of collaboration, users can collaborate with one another on tasks without using a system. As long as they’re located in the same office and speak the same language, they can get together to work on tasks and complete them with more fun, clarity and efficiency.
There are several methods to encourage collaborative work. Each organization can adapt and select the techniques that it considers more appropriate. On the other hand, these methods are very different depending on the size of the company, the purpose of the work, the means of the organization and the technical nature and training required.