Collaboration is now quicker and easier with the use of technology. The modern-day practice of organizations includes the use of online collaboration software in order to improve their performance and efficiency. Finding the best collaboration software that meets the demands of an organization can be hard if you don’t have any idea of its uses. Learning the concept of online collaboration tools is a great way to maximize its features and functionality, and at the same time it will help maximize the potential of your organization or business.
What Are Online Collaboration Tools?
An online collaboration tool is used to enhance the way individuals work together to achieve a common goal. It removes the geographic barrier as it allows team members to coordinate, communicate, solve problems, cooperate and share files to each other. The team members can do their work as long as there is an internet connection available and they have an internet ready device such as desktop, laptop or a mobile phone. It increases the productivity and the effectiveness of the team.It saves time, cost efficient, minimizes travel requirements, improves the communication and enhances the collaboration. It uses a secured virtual network so you don’t have to worry about your files, they are kept in a safe place. The team will receive a notification if there are any changes made to the file so they can also track the progress of the project. You no longer need to individually inform the team regarding the update because aside from the notification, the software will also show the history of the changes. If a file is accidentally deleted, it can also be retrieved since it is capable of restoring the file to its previous version. In addition, older versions are saved so you can use it as a reference in the future.
Since the collaboration software allows different people from different geographic location and backgrounds to collaborate, it’s important that the team members clearly understand their roles, responsibilities and the goal of the team. Confusion of their task may create a conflict and division among the members which may put the success of the project at risk.
The collaboration online tools are classified according to its level, application and services.
According to the Level of the Collaboration
This classification of collaboration tool has three main types:
a. Conferencing Tools
Creating a virtual meeting room is the main function of the conferencing tools. The participants or team members are required to access a web address to join the room which has been created by a moderator. The moderator is the person who facilitates the collaboration and sharing of the information. First-time users may need to download an application before they can enter the room.
Online meetings are needed when there is an important decision that needs to be made for the success of a project most especially if the team members are located in different locations. The team members are normally notified through an email. The software also allows the team members to chat online, use video conferencing, share files and documents, get involved in surveys and join discussions. This is useful when dealing with sensitive issues and if team members need to decide on matters concerning the organization or project.
The desktop sharing is included in this type wherein the group members can view the same screen as the moderator. Some application can even allow a remote access to the computer as long as there is a permission from the user. This normally happens when someone is troubleshooting on the user’s computer.
Another example is the online chat which facilitates and manages real-time conversations.The conversation messages are displayed on the screen of both users. If a split screen is used, one part of the screen displays the local user while the other half is for the remote user.
b. Communication Tools
The communication tools are used to share files, data, messages or other relevant information to an individual or to a group of people.
The common communication tools that are used by businesses are the systems for file sharing, email hosting, project management and an accessible website platform. According to a research conducted by Georgia Bafoutsou and Gregoris Mentzas, the file sharing is the most popular and most needed feature of the collaboration software. It allows team members to access their tasks or the company information through the shared files. Most organizations use the email as their main tool for communication as it allows them to check on previous conversations for reference, unlike the phone conversations. In the business industry, team members, clients as well as the managers use the email everyday. You can also make use of reviews of collaboration software available online to determine if which software offers that best email service. Contact records and relevant data are also stored to be used for long-term communication with the help of the customer service management software. This allows the new team members to easily take over the communication channels. The project management software clearly communicates the roles, responsibilities and deadlines to each member to avoid any mix up on the assigned task.
The asynchronous and synchronous conferencing are also included on this type of collaboration tool. Synchronous communication is when the team works together at the same time. The real-time online conversations remove the gap of various concepts and ideas to effectively retain the information. On the contrary, the asynchronous communication has a time lag in relaying the information such as email and forums. This is useful for those who needs time to formulate their thoughts. There are instances that you can accurately respond to a message or forum if there is a time lag. However, it is time-consuming to wait for a response.
c. Coordination Tools
Coordination tools are the latest type of collaboration tool and it is usually available on the top collaboration software. A coordination tool is used to manage complex interdependent tasks to achieve a common goal.
The time management software or the electronic calendar is included in this type of collaboration tool. It is used to manage events and it automatically sends a reminder regarding the activities or deadlines to the team members. It has a personal calendar so you can manage your personal activities and group calendar for the activities and deadlines of the team. Another example of this type is the online proofing which allows the sharing, approving, reviewing and rejecting of files. The online proofing ensures that the group members have a proper coordination. Collaborating and sharing of structured information and data has been made easier with the use of online spreadsheets. If you want to monitor the progress of a project, you can also take advantage of the project management system.
According to Its Method
The collaboration tools are also classified according to the method of the application.
This category includes the web-based and the software collaboration software tools. Web-based collaboration software tools offer the users a real-time collaboration using the internet. It is typically the back-end service or software wherein the web-based tools are integrated into the websites. The web pages can be shared and it supports the voice and chat assistance. On the other hand, the software collaboration tools need you to install the software before you can use it. This software can be a non-real-time collaboration as it is commonly used internally to create discussions among the employees. Software included in this type usually also belongs to other categories.
According to Its Services
According to FinanceOnline, the last classification is based on the area it served such as knowledge management, knowledge creation, collaborative project management and information sharing tools.
The software that falls into this category improves the quality of service and efficiency of the team as it provides information-rich procedures and guidelines. It reduces the training time of new employees and it helps the member to deliver consistently. The information can also be shared and monitored so team members can review, contribute and validate the information.
It includes the e-learning system which delivers training and education with the use of computers that are connected to the internet. It can be a web-based self-paced training, virtual events through virtual classrooms and mentoring which can be done through coaching or joint discussion. It conducts an assessment to check the mastery of the participant before they are allowed to proceed to the next topic. The e-learning is used by corporations and educational institutions.
A collaboration tool may belong to one or more categories.It is inexpensive and some software companies even offer a free collaboration software. The latest collaboration tool has mobile apps to make sure that you are always up-to-date.Like all other software available in the market, the collaboration tool also has its benefits and drawbacks. Aside from determining what the software can do for your business, you also need to check its disadvantages in order to make an action plan to ensure the success of a project. There are plenty of reviews on collaboration software available online which are very helpful when choosing a software for your organization. You can check the list of collaboration software on CrowdReviews to determine if the features and functions claimed by the software manufacturers are true.
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