Working With People That You Never See

Collaboration tools such as email, chat, phone and video conferencing enable teams to work in ways that didn’t exist even 20 years ago. Teams don’t have to be located in the same office, building, or even city: they can work and communicate virtually, spanning time zones, distance and organizational boundaries. According to Lipnack and Stamps (p.6), “Electronic media together with computers enable the creation of spaces that are real to the groups that inhabit them yet are not the same as physical places.” 

There are various types of virtual collaboration tools that are available to business teams. As per the Genius Project, these are some of the most common types of collaboration tools and their uses:

  • Calendar sharing tools: The shared calendar facilitates the organization of appointments and meetings without the need to consult all participants. 
  • File sharing tools: File sharing tools allow you to transfer files, distribute them and give access to them. 
  • Instant messaging: Instant messaging allows you to exchange text messages and online files in real time via a computer. 
  • Document synchronization: Document synchronization aims at matching two documents. 
  • Cloud storage: Storage can be done within the organization but also in the cloud.  
  • Video-conferencing: A method of communicating with a live, visual connection by means of a video with multiple people across multiple locations.

Although collaboration tools are available to fit every type of organizational need, CIO.com describes where these tools can fall short:

  • No compelling reason – beyond using software that is necessary to perform a job, an employee would need a reason to use collaboration software. An organization would have to demonstrate why the tool is a valuable and needed resource.
  • Poor user interfaces – To ask people to adopt a new tool is difficult, especially if the interface is not intuitive. 
  • Unnecessary functionality – Users prefer to use tools for simple tasks and additional functionality can hurt adoption rates.

When it comes to collaborative tools, it’s not the tools but the people who use them that will determine their effectiveness. Lipnack and Stamps (p.13):

“The prescription for successful virtual teams:

  • Involve the right people both from internal organizations and from outside companies.
  • Carefully define their purpose and used it as a compass when they started to get off track.
  • Established excellent communication links among the team members, using a mix of media including email, conference calls, and face-to-face meetings to support interactions and relationships.”

Sources

Lipnack, J. and Stamps, J. Virtual Teams: Reaching Across Space, Time, and Organizations with Technology, New York, NY: Wiley. Chapter 1 pp. 1-24. (as of 8/10/2019):  http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=171-FrLDhvUC&oi=fnd&pg=PR17&dq=technology+bridges+distance+in+work+teams&ots=Bu0Aq598gQ&sig=I7mqF_NZWjXg2FDVpgts2Qn8osA.

Rubens, P. (2017, January 2). Why employees don’t use collaboration tools. Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.cio.com/article/3154008/why-employees-dont-use-collaboration-tools.html.

Types of Collaboration Tools. (n.d.). Retrieved November 21, 2019, from https://www.geniusproject.com/guide/project-collaboration-tools/types-collaboration-tools.