Online collaboration services and web collaboration tools allow employees to meet online in order to integrate their work, develop ideas, set goals, send messages, build systems and manage projects -- all in real time. Yes, thanks to collaborative software, the days of crowding around a conference table to brainstorm are gone. Indeed, Web 2.0 isn’t all blogs and social networks; more and more, it’s enterprise groupware, too.
Online collaboration services support three fundamental types of online interactions:
1. Online collaboration software support conversational interactions via web collaboration tools, such as e-mail and instant messaging, which enhance corporate communication.
2. Online collaboration services support transactional interactions via web collaboration tools, such as application sharing platforms, which enhance corporate cooperation.
3. Groupware software supports collaborative interactions via web collaboration tools, such as project management systems, which enhance corporate coordination.
Turn e-mails into web collaboration toolsE-mail is perhaps the most basic of web collaboration tools and many online collaboration services are finding unique ways to kick it up a notch.
Build wikis with collaborative softwareMore than collaborative software, wikis are part of a growing class of online collaboration tools known as collaborative media that allow users to create, manage and manipulate information.
Use enterprise groupware software to chat in real timeCollaborative software includes simple communication applications, including those that support instant messaging and online chat.
Employ collaborative software for conferencingA step above chat rooms and IMs is online conferencing; some online collaboration software supports voice conference, some support data conferencing and still other programs support video conferencing.
Share documents and applications via online collaboration softwareSome web collaboration tools, such as application sharing programs, allow multiple users to simultaneously access, edit and distribute project-related documents.
Start and finish projects with full-featured web collaboration toolsAt their best, online collaboration services function as animated project management systems, enabling employees to schedule, track and complete milestones within a project from start to finish as it is being executed.
- The most difficult thing about online collaboration services is convincing employees to use them. Persuade your team to embrace web collaboration tools by training them to use them, and by providing incentives for doing so.
- In order to be effective, collaborative software must be implemented within a collaborative culture. Turning your company from a competitive business into a collaborative one may take more than online tools, though; it will take offline teambuilding and training, too.
- Online collaboration services can engage not only employees, but also consumers. Use them to interact with customers in order to build brand loyalty and awareness.
- Beware of what psychologists call "virtual distance," as relying too heavily on online collaboration services can actually disengage employees from one another, when the point is to engage them.