Online collaboration software is gaining wide acceptance. Many managers see collaboration tools as the path to productivity.
The hi-tech giants like Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Apple are all actively investing in the collaboration market.
The collaboration market is one of the fastest growing markets in the software industry. In fact, by 2021 this market is estimated to be $42.57 Billion.
Why such a huge interest in collaboration tools? Online collaboration tools have been proven to help teams to communicate more and collaborate better.
In short, they improve productivity enormously in teams and save Billions of Dollars for businesses and corporations.
Almost any tool that lets two or more people communicate while not in the same room is considered as a collaboration tool.
But not all collaboration tools are created equal. So as a project manager how do you decide to choose the right tool for your team?
Elements of good online collaboration software
Real-time communication is the cornerstone of any collaboration application. Robust communication is needed to bring the team together and keep the conversation going.
It is well understood that without electronic communication, there is collaboration software.
A good online project collaboration software creates an effective virtual office. A virtual office if created right, closes the gap between in-person meetings and online meeting significantly.
In addition to communication features, what else is needed in an online collaboration software to be effective and create an optimum virtual office?
>> Group Chart– When the team is not in the same room, they need to communicate in real-time. Group chat is an easy to use and effective tool.
The great thing about group chat is that all communication is stored in a database and could be retrieved and searched for information.
This enables to have all conversation in the project in one place and have access to it whenever needed.
>> Message Board– A place where the team can post messages for all team members to see and everyone can add comments or replies is a great tool for keeping the conversation going even when not everybody is online.
>> Interactive Whiteboard– If your team wants to brainstorm and not all team members are in the same room, an online interactive whiteboard does wonders. The neat thing about an electronic whiteboard is that the content of the board could be saved and viewed again when needed.
>> Video Conferencing– The new video conferencing tools are bringing people from far reaches of the world to the same room. The audio and video quality is excellent and the price is nill or very affordable. Video conferencing is used everywhere, from families talking to each other to corporation conducting an online meeting.
Google Hangouts is a great example of free video conferencing services available today.
>> Follow– In remote teams, it is not easy to keep track of issues or items which you are interested or concerned with. A simple Follow mechanism lets anybody to track and keep an eye on any item in the project.
>> Notification– Notification is another productivity enabler for remote teams. You can ask to be notified if the status of anything changes in the project. This frees you from constantly checking and requesting status reports, which by itself is a great time saver!
>> Document Collaboration– Working on documents collaboratively in the cloud is a huge productivity enabler. The PDF markup tool lets you collaborate with your colleagues on PDF and image files anytime and from anywhere. The system keeps both copies of the original document and the one with markups on it. Both could be downloaded by any member of the project at any time.
In the past two years, we have written extensively about online collaboration, virtual office, and remote teams. A sample of these articles is listed below for your reference.
How to bring collaboration to your remote teams
A practical guide to collaborative project management
What is Collaborative project management?
Collaboration is the secret sauce of business success
The benefits of managing projects collaboratively
Why do managers need to motivate remote workers?
Collaboration corner guest blog
A quick review of collaboration software buyer’s guide
Collaboration corner; not getting the credit you deserve
A tutorial on online collaboration software
What can go wrong with a good project management software?
Collaboration corner; office politics
Collaboration Corner; Answer to your toughest questions
What happened to the best collaboration software of 2010?
Did some say email is dead?
Is social media is a form of corporate welfare?
How can social media help you manage projects?
Why MBA’s are bad project managers?
Why is Harvard Business Review wrong about collaboration?
Why is Collaboration important to the outcome of projects?
Why can teamwork save projects from failure?
How do successful remote teams collaborate?
Why are remote workers more engaged?
The evolution of team collaboration; part 2
The evolution of collaboration: part 1
We are looking forward to your comments and suggestions. Leave us a note on this page and we will get back to you promptly.