Overview of Online Collaboration
1. Overview of Online Collaboration
1.1 What is Online Collaboration?
Collaboration: The term collaboration can be defined in 9 simple words: Two or more people working together towards shared goals. Collaboration is a fundamental part of any working environment and it involves 3 main elements: a team, a process and a purpose (ThoughtFarmer, 2018). Essentially it is about working together with partners and customers as easily, as simply, and as effectively as possible. When it comes to business being able to communicate successfully is the biggest competitive advantage that you can have
Online Collaboration: In this day and age, where technology has flourished and has become an integral part of everyone’s lives majority of businesses and entrepreneurs have transitioned to online collaboration. Online collaboration can be defined as the process of connecting users digitally so they can communicate and work together in an online space (eztalks.com, n.d). It involves tools and platforms that users can use to communicate via audio, video or text at anytime even if they are not in the same space physically.
1.2. Types of online collaboration
Synchronous Online Collaboration
Synchronous online collaboration takes place when people work together online in real-time while they are either in the same room or at different locations (eztalks.com, n.d). For example, online collaboration tools and software like Google Docs can be used to allow two or more people to edit and write documents at the same time even if they are located on opposite sides of the world. In other cases, colleagues can use a video conferencing platform (e.g. Zoom), and brainstorm ideas via interactive whiteboards (e.g. Miro). Team communication tools (e.g. Slack) allow users to send instant messages to others privately or to different groups of people at once. In this way they can receive feedback or answers to certain questions instantly without having to communicate through email.
Asynchronous Online Collaboration
Asynchronous online collaboration takes place when people work together on the same project at different times, whether they are in the same room or located in different places (eztalks.com, n.d). The most well-known form of asynchronous online collaboration tools is email. Digital calendars (e.g Google Calendar) are also considered tools for asynchronous online collaboration as they have features for managing and scheduling meetings, deadlines and other tasks. Additionally, online storage tools (e.g. Google Drive) enable asynchronous collaboration as one person can work on something in their own time and upload it on the storage tool when they are done, so another person can continue afterwards.
1.3 Importance of Online Collaboration for Business
Now that we have established the meaning and the difference between synchronous and asynchronous online collaboration, it is time to get an insight on its importance, and understand the ways in which it can be beneficial for your business.
During the last decade and especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, more and more people are choosing to work remotely. Entrepreneur’s business activities are no longer confined to one office or building. Online collaboration has become the basis of entrepreneurial success (Gaurav Tiwari, 2021). The reason for this is that it brings about various business benefits in many different industries.
Let’s have a closer look on the main advantages of Online collaboration:
Time and Cost Efficiency:
By using an online collaboration software (e.g. Google Docs), team members are able to work on the same document in real-time and provide feedback directly on the document without having to exchange numerous emails. Most online collaboration tools and software offer free versions or flexible pay-as you go licensing ensuring you only pay for the exact amount of users you need. Moreover, by collaborating remotely businesses can save up on equipment, electricity and space (Kahootz, 2021). It is more convenient to organise meetings online via video conferencing tools especially if people live in different locations. Research shows that virtual meetings are more likely to start on time and that participants are more focused and do not waste time as they tend to do during face 2 face meetings (Arreola and Daems, 2021).
Online collaboration provides people with tools they need to work with others from any location, including from home and while travelling. It enables people to be productive when it best suits them (Kahootz, 2021). In addition, online collaboration tools automate tasks which make work processes more straight forward and save up time. In this way, you have more time to spend on more important activities and get to accomplish more during the day.
If you choose to keep all your documents and personal information within an online collaboration platform, then you do not have to worry if it is safe and secure. Majority of these platforms include firewalls, two-step authentication, encryptions, password protections to protect your data (Kahootz, 2021). However, being extra safe is always a good idea. Make a habit of keeping a backup copy of your documents on your device or on an external hard drive to eliminate any risks of losing your data.
Through online collaboration, your business can become more connected than ever. Especially if you live in a rural area away from the city, you will be able to expand your network and business without having to leave your house. Even if that is not the case, online collaboration tools can help improve your team’s communication skills as they minimize the risk of missing important updates or meetings and ensure that everything is organized and on track.
By using the right online tools, you can reach your audience/clients way faster and cheaper. Instead of contacting them though phone calls, face-to-face meetings and paper surveys, you can simply contact them through email or social media, organize a virtual meeting or create on online survey though Google Forms.
1.4 Online Collaboration Limitations:
It is undoubtable that online collaboration can bring about many benefits to a business, however, there are some limitations of online collaboration which are worth mentioning:
Lack of face-to-face interaction:
Although online collaboration tools provide real-time communication between people, they still lack the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Communication purely through the internet may cause feelings of disconnection to some people. A simple chitchat in the office kitchen or small talk you exchange with a customer creates a sense of connection that can be hard to establish online (Kissflow, 2021).
Network failure & equipment breakdown:
It is important to keep in mind that internet connection and technological devices have some limitations too. You can expect network failure or bad internet connectivity particularly if you live in rural areas away from big cities. Also, you need to be prepared in case your laptop or any other device you are working on breaks down. This is why it is crucial to save your work constantly while you are working online.
1.6 Different types of Online collaboration tools/software
There are many tools that entrepreneurs can choose from to assist them with collaboration. Many might think that such tools are more or less the same, however, there are different categories of collaboration tools that accommodate different needs and offer different user experiences.
With collaborative whiteboards users can take turns and communicate via text, graphics and drawings. Interactive whiteboards also feature digital erasers. Whiteboards are a great tool for capturing ideas, co-creating, mind mapping and brainstorming.
- Free training sessions on how to use Miro: https://academy.miro.com/
File sharing tools:
File sharing tools enable you to exchange different types of files- such as text documents, PDFs, photos, videos etc. All the documents are saved into one shared storage space in order to avoid filling up your email with heavy files.
Suggested tool: Google Drive
Online calendar tools:
Online calendars enable users to organize meetings/appointments, schedule and edit events and sync the changes across devises without having to invite and inform other people separately. Some calendars even let you enhance your events with attachments, links and automated reminders.
Suggested tool: Google Calendar
- Check out p. 28-34 for more information and guidance about Google Calendar.
Instant messaging tools:
Instant messaging tools allow you to exchange text messages and online files in real time via your device. Most instant messaging and communication tools enable the exchange of photos and videos and even have a search feature that allows you to search for specific messages that were exchanged on the past.
Suggested tool: Slack
Video conferencing tools enable live communication through video. Instead of organizing a face-to-face meeting users across different locations can meet online and experience the “feeling” of seeing each other as they would if they were face-to-face.
Suggested tool: Zoom