Does Technology Help or Hinder Collaboration?

More and more businesses are embracing collaborative technology to produce more efficient and team-based processes. If used properly, these technologies can increase the quality and value of collaboration and promote a more positive work environment and company culture. The following are just a few of the ways that technology can enhance your company’s collaborative efforts.

Faster and Easier Document Preparation Among Teams

File-sharing allows everyone to keep up with the status of a project in real time, and it enables the collaboration and coordination of projects that require input from many members of the organization. Using a wiki or Google document, members of a team can add to, remove from, or edit a document all at the same time. An annual report that requires the input of multiple collaborators can be compiled efficiently and quickly without shuffling back and forth between departments.

More and Better Input From All Team Members

There is a democratization effect that occurs when a platform is digital rather than face-to-face. Hierarchies are stripped away, and employees often feel more comfortable sharing their comments and opinions. This leads to a freer and more open collaboration in which more ideas are shared, and solutions are produced quickly and with less effort.

In an article written for Forbes.com titled “How Technology Enhances Collaboration,” Mike Schaffner observes, “Collaboration technology can also be a vehicle for people to put forward their opinions and allow others to comment and discuss the merits of someone’s positions. Technology doesn’t care who you are or what your rank in the organization is. It dispassionately publishes your position to all, where it must stand on its own merits. It can be a great leveling device.”

Conferencing Without Regard to Geographic Location

No longer do companies have to rely only on the resources available within the organization. Technology makes it easier to utilize experts and partners from an array of geographical locations. Conferencing has gone well beyond the simple conference call.

With a cutting-edge call collaboration device, conference calls in which employees lean in one at a time to shout their questions awkwardly into a clunky phone speaker are a thing of the past. These new phones not only remove background noise and isolate the main speaker from up to 12 feet away, but they allow participants to access and view documents and drive in-room presentations without the need for a dedicated computer in the room.

According to Kim Thomas in a report published by the Economist Intelligence Unit, “Distinctions of geography will become less relevant as social networking tools become more widely adopted. Project teams will no longer need to sit together in the same office; they can be made up of employees in different offices or in different time zones.

Resolves Conflict Quickly and Efficiently

In any collaborative effort, there will most likely be some amount of disagreement. According to Padmasree Warrior, Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Cisco, “it is important to point out that collaboration must not be confused with consensus or teamwork. Collaboration does not mean everyone must agree before any decision is made. Nor does it suggest that there is no room for individual creativity. Quite the contrary! Collaboration encourages clusters of experts with diverse skills to make decisions quickly.”

One of the benefits of using collaborative technology is that the feedback is often instantaneous. Because comments and disagreements are dealt with immediately, there is less opportunity for members of a team to feel overlooked or unheard. Placing disagreements at the forefront of the project and resolving them as they come up actually helps the project move forward more quickly and with less resistance.

As new and better collaborative platforms emerge on the IT scene, companies will have the opportunity to use these technologies to their competitive advantage. The collaborative business model is no longer theoretical, but is rather here to stay. Fortunately, the technology that has helped to produce this model is also firmly entrenched as the solution with which to support it.