Coming together online: How to foster collaboration in your company

It’s no surprise that business has changed since the birth of the internet and the growth of globalization, says Stephan J. Cico, managing director of All Covered Pittsburgh. Remote working is an increasingly pervasive trend in many industries, with nearly 40 percent of employees working outside of a traditional office setting at least part of the time.

“With so many people working together at a distance, online collaboration is becoming the new — and often only — way to work together,” he says. “Collaboration software also has had a profound impact on how businesses, large and small, interact with customers and control access to data.”

According to McKinsey & Company:

  • 97 percent of businesses using collaboration software reported being able to service more clients more efficiently.
  • 74 percent reported faster access to information and internal data.

“Still, despite these and other benefits, most companies don’t fully utilize all of the functions within their collaboration tools,” Cico says.

Smart Business spoke with Cico about fostering collaboration between employees, service providers, suppliers and customers.

What are ways to use collaboration software in your company?

From the conference room to cross-border cooperation, businesses can use technology to improve the way teams work, including:

Intra-company collaboration — Today’s collaborative documentation software permits project teams to work together on single document versions. Each team member can see who is doing what and costly duplication and misplaced files are eliminated.

Mobile and remote collaboration — Online collaboration tools help workers stay connected, regardless of location. Staff in multiple locations can work together on complex tasks, supplementing a single pair of hands with the power of multiple minds.

Location, furthermore, is no longer the barrier it was, as mobile, real-time collaborative technology can provide remote on-the-job training for new employees. Companies are also using these kinds of software to reduce overhead costs associated with fixed offices and workspaces.

Inter-company collaboration — Collaboration tools can break down geographical constraints, as companies collaborate across countries and continents to break into new markets and bring down the cost of joint ventures. This requires the use of multiple communication channels and the most advanced software available.

How can employers get more value from collaborating?

Like all commercial methodologies and skills, collaboration is most effective with clear goals for what you want to achieve and how you intend to achieve it. But much depends upon the specific application:

Problem solving — This typically takes place face-to-face, where people can brainstorm and bounce ideas off one another. With video conferencing, however, the team can work together remotely. In fact, remote collaboration can, where necessary, put world-class expertise to work solving complex and challenging issues.

Training and development — Using collaborative web-conferencing tools and software training environments, employees can benefit from hands-on learning under the supervision of an instructor, with none of the traveling expenses or facility costs of traditional classroom training.

Workload sharing — Cloud-based collaboration software makes it simple for large teams to work together. Documents are stored in central repositories and can be checked out by those who need to work on them. Project documents are tracked through their life cycle, making it easy to see the changes and updates of each contributor. Team leads can plan, assign, monitor and manage tasks to keep on top of timelines.

Global collaboration — International markets are no longer solely the domain of corporate giants. Collaboration technology allows enterprises to launch joint ventures and introduce products and services to foreign customers. Perhaps one of the best examples is the virtual organization, where thousands of individuals form remote partnerships to do business together online, using suites of collaborative software.

If your company uses some or all of these practices and strategies, it can really enhance its operations.

Insights Technology is brought to you by All Covered Pittsburgh