Online Collaboration Tools: Advantages and Disadvantages

Posted by Christine Ziebell on 5/11/2016 3:51:42 PM

 

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Online Collaboration Tools: Advantages and Disadvantages

The era of online communication has truly come of age as more and more businesses switch to different types of online collaboration tools. The original teething problems associated with these tools, such as lack of security and connectivity issues, have by and large been resolved. 

Broadly put, online collaboration may be defined simply as,

‘A way for a group of people to work together, simultaneously, in real time on the internet.’

There are many forms of online collaboration tools both intra-team communication tools tailor-made for the requirements of a specific organization as well as more generic ones that can be used by anyone. These can be further divided into document sharing apps, messaging platforms, as well as social networking. Some online collaboration tools are geared towards internal use only, whereas others can be applied seamlessly also for external communication (with clients, vendors or other interest groups).  

The more advanced tools can enable the user (if he is capable of such multi-tasking) to remain in touch with his team, all while editing multiple documents and being part of a chat session. Also, a lot of time is saved as each and every individual would know just what his colleagues are doing and would be able to work accordingly unlike with conventional emails. A brief overview of statistics may well give us a bird’s eye view as to how online collaboration tools are changing the business world around us.

A typical office worker receives an average of 121 emails daily.

That’s a staggering number of mails and once people start answering all of them and start getting responses from all their colleagues, chances are that a lot of productivity would be lost all across the organization.

This can be avoided by a well-designed online collaboration tools. In fact, these tools were predicted to be important to 86% of organizations by the middle of this decade, ages back. An astonishing 96% of executives cite “ineffective communication” as the main reason for failures at the workplace.

In a typical 40 hour workweek, employees spend an average of 28 hours weekly, simply searching for information from and/or writing emails.

An online collaboration tools, if designed and used properly, can eliminate a lot of redundant emails and ensure that the employee spends his/her time doing what he/she is being paid to do rather than having long, meandering email exchanges with colleagues.

It is estimated that proper application of online collaboration tools can significantly improve productivity levels as much as 20-25%, whereupon, 90% of companies using online collaboration tools have stated that they have benefited from them.

However, not all online collaboration tools are alike; some may actually hinder productivity rather than increase it. Firstly, because of the “per user per month” pricing applied by most online collaboration tools, many companies choose to offer access to them only to selected employees – thus, in fact, causing a hindrance in transparent communication across the workplace. Secondly, an online collaboration tools that generates as many (or more) emails as it reduces, can be counter-productive. If every single action or event on the online collaboration tools causes an email to be fired to everyone involved, people’s emails can easily get cluttered with hundreds or even thousands of online collaboration tools notifications on a daily basis. 

Conversely on the other end of the spectrum are online collaboration tools that have so many inbuilt filters that a lot of crucial data may be lost, and this holds true even more so if the worker simply puts in a mute request and forgets all about it.

Then there are the inevitable security issues with messages being leaked, online collaboration tools getting hacked and classified information falling into the wrong hands. However the current crop of online collaboration tools has managed to resolve most of these issues quite significantly and their benefits far outweigh any inherent disadvantages they might have.

Saving of physical space:

This is arguably one of the most significant advantages an online collaboration tools brings to an organization. Not only can it solve the problems associated with cramming large numbers of people in the same room, but helps cut down on traveling times and costs, quite significantly.

Fosters teamwork:

Team members can, quite literally be anywhere, as long as there is an internet connection yet would be able to collaborate on the same project. Irrespective of their dispersal in any part of the globe.

Quick decision making:

A report does not have to be manually handed over to one’s immigrate supervisor who will then work on it and either give it back for revision or send it upwards through the hierarchy.

Once the work is done all the echelons of an organization receive relevant notifications and can take the appropriate action. In this way all the team members who are involved in the project are kept in the loop in real time. And whatever changes are necessary are done faster than ever before.

Access to global talent:

Thanks to online collaboration tools, corporate entities are not hide bound and as such have access to a wide pool of talent not just in different countries but even different continents as well.

However, as with almost all aspects of technology, there are also some disadvantages to online collaboration:

Too many chiefs and not enough Indians:

The age old adage of “Look busy..Do nothing” applies to online collaboration as well.  A few workers may be busy shooting comments left, right and center and basically end up disrupting the work of the entire team. While the actual workers may end up taking a back seat and their input is lost in a storm of excessive office communication.

Connectivity issues:

Sometimes, there are power outages or bad internet connections, and with a well integrated team, a breakdown in team communications can effectively mean no work gets done. 

In conclusion, online collaboration is definitely the wave of the future and is here to stay, but as with all technologies, organizations need to invest not just in acquiring these tools but also in creating processes to use them effectively.

Category: Productivity


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