The Real Power behind Collaboration Tools

Collaboration, taking all the data we are collecting and sharing it with suppliers, vendors, and employees and making it work for our businesses in an efficient and effective manner. Sounds easy, but when you factor in big data you have to take a hard look at what kind of collaboration you are really talking about and how you are integrating it into your business model.  Within some industries such as construction, with the increased use of modeling, used to design buildings, has created individual files well beyond a gigabyte in size.  Sharing and collaborating on a big data file between multiple people and locations can provide some interesting obstacles, in addition to accounting for concerns such as security, system neutrality along with the revision and intellectual rights controls. 

There is real power in the use of collaboration tools they can provide employees with quicker, clearer and more effective answers to their questions, and it will certainly speed up the decision making process from the top to the bottom of an organization. However, some companies find the cultural change in accepting and actually using collaboration tools can be challenging. Changing the thought process around how a company accepts and implements a collaboration process which could include not only business processes, but social interactions as well to bring together different views, concerns and answers to many questions can create some cultural issues as well as process and policy challenges. 

The whole idea behind business and social collaboration is to bring together and empower your business to take advantage of your entire knowledge base and to reduce the overall impact of geographical challenges. Innovation comes through the brainstorming process where employees and vendors have the opportunity to share ideas, overcome obstacles and share knowledge and experience to drive businesses into the future.  One of the biggest advantages of collaboration is businesses' ability to take advantage of the intellectual knowledge capital that you already possess.  Through the native growth and use of social collaboration tools, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, employees are becoming accustom to sharing ideas, posting questions, and utilizing groups to find answers and to solve difficult problems. 

There are basically three types of collaboration tools or software, although as software features and functionality continues to grow the lines in some cases may start to become blurred or even cross over to becoming a more holistic tool. The three basic types are centered on communication, conferencing, and coordination.  These are then categorized into real time processes such as video conferencing, chat systems, and active support systems that support real time discussions and analytical decision making. Then, there is non-real time collaboration such as email, electronic workflow systems, and shared resources such as calendars. Each one of these types of collaboration tools plays an important part in the overall method that you choose to manage and document collaboration within your business. 

Some of the things you might consider if you are thinking about a collaboration tool, be it software or a cloud based system. Ease of deployment; employees, vendors and customers don’t want to deal with a complex setup and deployment process. People want things to be clearly labeled and quick to load and use. Security; this is a difficult one because people want to protect their data, but we also need to share it so our business grows and projects get done so we have to have confidence that what we upload and share is protected. Questions like how are we going to share, but control documents? Where are they going to be stored? How much control over who has access to those documents do you have? These are all great security questions that you will want to explore during your evaluation process. Integration; which is another tricky one because everyone defines integration differently; from simple file export and import to full systems and database integration, one is easy to accomplish the other might not be so easy. Depending on the other software you are already using, such as accounting systems, CRM systems, and management systems integration and data sharing between systems to limit or eliminate double or triple entry of data is a big consideration. 

One of the biggest considerations regarding collaboration and integration of databases is now that you have collected all this data, how do you search it and run analytics on the data so you can actually put that data to work and use it to make smarter and faster decisions? Having it is one thing, using it is another, but if you can’t put the data to work then why do you collect it? This is the question that collaboration systems are trying to solve.  Bringing value to how data is being moved and used throughout your organization, capitalizing on the knowledge capital of your employees and vendors and utilizing their experience to drive your business faster and further in the future. 

About the Author: Scott Lewis is the President and CEO of Winning Technologies Group of Companies. Scott has more than 30 years of experience in the technology industry and is a nationally recognized speaker and author on technology subjects. Scott has worked with large and small business to empower them to use technology to improve work processes, increase productivity, and reduce costs. Scott has designed thousands of systems for large, medium and small companies and Winning Technologies goal is to work with companies on the selection, implementation, management and support of technology resources. Learn more about Winning Technologies at or call 877-379-8279.
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