As a result of the massive migration to remote work over the past year, collaboration technology has risen to the forefront of many organizations’ technology strategy. Even as employees return to the office, any organizations with part-time work from home opportunities will continue to need the right collaboration technology in the office – so that those out of the office can effectively join a meeting.
Let’s simplify the literal definition of collaborative technology by stating that it must have three things: the ability for multiple users to connect to the hardware or software locally or remotely, the ability for each user to make markups or adjustments to the materials when connected and, most importantly, for all users connected to be able to view, save, and recall those same modified materials at a later date.
Let’s take a look at a few of the features that set these collaborative devices apart:
- FLEXIBILITY/ANNOTATION – The sharing of ideas and team presentation keeps going back to the idea of a group of people standing around a white board passing the dry erase marker around. Those in these meetings have to be able to mark-up the original ideas and documents. This, however, is only effective if others can see those suggested alterations. It’s also important for the system to be flexible in allowing multiple data points, or pieces of information, to be quickly pulled into the solution, moved around the room and organized. By being able to quickly pull in the content you need, and then be able to mark that content, the team can be immersed in all of the data necessary to make a decision, and can better focus on the decision making process.
- INFOPRESENCE – While all of the devices calling themselves collaboration technology will allow at least one participant to share their screen with the group, true collaboration is realized when any content from any device can be shown on a local, large format display and appear on any connected displays or devices as well, regardless of whether they are in the same room or thousands of miles away.
- STORAGE/RECALL – Now that the meeting has ended, all the participants have put in their two cents on the project and decisions have been finalized on the next steps, the information must be retained somewhere so that it can be disseminated amongst participants and others that have to implement these changes. This means that there must be some way to store these documents with changes, so that they can be distributed. Sometimes this could just be simple screen shots captured and saved as images. Other times it could be a spread- sheet that has been updated by multiple team members on a single computer and then distributed via e-mail after. If there is not some ability to store the information and share it later, how effective would that meeting have been in the long run?
This instantly moves a large swath of the products available today that bill themselves as a part of the unified communications and collaboration market to solely unified communications. Technology that merely takes your content and has it appear on a local or remote screen is not collaborative, but rather presentative. These solutions are fine technology for sharing information with associates and starting the conversation about what can be done or should be done about the company, but that does not make them collaboration technology.
Getting your teams, both local and remote, on the same page can only happen if they all are actually looking at the same page. How often during project post-mortems, employee reviews or general team meetings is the biggest complaint that there are communication issues putting projects behind schedule or even holding back the entire company’s development? It’s a common complaint because while technology allows us to be available to work at all times of day and night, as well as whenever inspiration might strike, it can also isolate the workforce. People end up working more on their own without a capable way of bringing their independent work back to the team to develop in a cohesive fashion.
By putting a unified technology plan into place across all your company locations, be it hardware or software based, the distance between your team members shrinks to practically nothing. Team members can schedule their independent working time and bring their ideas together in order to determine the best course of action to accomplish stated goals. The technology allows for the sharing of documents both locally and remotely so that each team member participating will have access to the same content and can merge their ideas live on screen. It feels like the white boards of the past are now available for the business models of the present.
Your team can only be as effective at reaching the best solutions as their ability to communicate and work together. Putting them in the same room can often be costly as the global economy and technological development has spread the workforce far and wide. It is often only small businesses that are considered regional or local anymore, because the Inter- net has allowed even the smallest organizations to globalize their efforts. But that can only be effective if there is a way to bring those regionalized team members together in some way that makes it seem like they’re gathered locally.
The fundamental lesson of activism and changing the world always comes back to thinking globally and acting locally. Taking that same mentality, technology rollouts for business have become more important than ever. Unifying the technology available to your team members is the most assured way of creating the optimal environment to put all their best skills to use, develop the best products and solutions and see continued success. Don’t let anyone explain to you what the new definition of collaboration has become. You know what it means to collaborate. Make sure that the technology solutions being implemented are providing that resource for you team.