How do you collaborate digitally? (+6 Tips)

In this blogpost, we will be explaining the meaning of digital collaboration and the various ways you can collaborate digitally. We will also be addressing how collaboration improves productivity and salient features of digital collaboration tools. Good collaboration in the workplace is a necessity that many organizations strive for and with the advent of remote working, it is becoming increasingly necessary.

What is digital collaboration?

Digital collaboration is nothing but the usage of digital technologies to improve workplace collaboration. It is people working together using online means such as a software-as-a-solution (SaaS) platform. According to this study by Forbes, digital collaboration has found its importance, especially in the post-COVID world, where remote-working has become a norm.

But even before the pandemic, remote-only companies have been using digital collaboration as part of their daily schedule whether it is video-calling for communication, file-sharing or cloud-based project management.

A few examples of digital collaborative tools are:

  • Shared task lists
  • E-mail
  • Social media like Slack, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.
  • Online meetings and webinars
  • Online calling and video-calling
  • Shared spreadsheets

What are the different levels of digital collaboration?

  • Networking

Networking is when two or more people talk to each other for their own mutual benefit. They might share information which might be mostly informal. There are hardly any risks involved and neither is any important decision made.

  • Cooperation

When people support each other’s activities informally, co-operation is said to occur. Here, there is limited decision-making but the communication style is a little more formal.

  • Coordination

This is a higher level of cooperation where a team with a common goal involves themselves deeply. Strategies and tactics might be modified to achieve the purpose, with formal and frequent communication. We can also see clearly defined roles and hierarchies here.

  • Full collaboration

Here, there is a formal agreement where people work together towards a common vision. There might a cooperation between different teams of varying functionalities with formal communication and clear roles. Any decision taken is made with everyone’s consideration in mind.

How does digital collaboration improve productivity?

We know that collaboration definitely improves team-cohesion and productivity. Let’s discuss how digital collaboration in particular improves productivity.

  • Improved access to information

Because all the information is up digitally, it allows quick access to every employee on board. Studies show that employees spend up to 20% of a working week searching for relevant information.

 Digital collaboration cuts down on this time, which will allow employees to use it in a more productive manner. It also allows proper access to the right employees making it easy for remote work.

  • Increased levels of interaction

Without interaction, there is no productivity in an organization. With digital collaboration, team members can interact with others more efficiently. This is particularly useful if the organization is a multinational company with employees in different nations. Not only does this improve interaction, but it can also be used to improve learning with screen-sharing, video-calls or video-chats.

  • Higher quality of learning

Using digital collaboration tools like knowledge management systems, organizations can document the experience of senior managers. This will allow new-comers or junior employees to learn without the organization spending a lot on intensive training.

Knowledge management systems are more efficient than training as they are more organization-oriented, and help to lay a proper foundation for any new employee.

  • Better task execution

When we work digitally, we can literally work from anywhere. This promotes creative freedom among the workforce. Employees no more need to come up with initiatives strictly during physical brainstorming sessions. Since they have access to their work and information, they can come up with new ideas and implement them easily from anywhere at any time.

Compulsory features in digital collaboration tools

Though digital collaboration is here to make work a lot easier for employees, it still is serious business. For digital collaboration to take place in a smooth and efficient manner, there are certain features that they must have compulsorily. Let’s look at these in detail.

  • Communication features

This goes without any saying. A digital collaborative tool is a communication tool in essentiality. It should allow both text and verbal communication like one-on-on messaging, group messaging, areas for discussion, video-calling, group video-calling, etc.

  • Provisions for file sharing

A digital collaborative tool should have the necessary space for file sharing between employees, in addition to automatic version controls. It can also be used with people or clients outside of the organization.

  • Quick access to information

While digital collaboration allows people to gain quick access to information, all information shouldn’t be out in the open. A tool for this should allow managers to set limits for access.

  • Features for auditing files

Auditability is an important feature for security measures. It allows you to keep track of the files being accessed and the changes being made to them.

  • Project management tools

Since digital collaboration is all about accessibility and transparency, the application should have the ability for task management. It should help you track the progress as well as organize your workflows so that everyone is on the same page.

  • Protecting identity

Though transparency is important, in many situations anonymity is a plus. It can be a great benefit for the management in concerns such as seeking feedback and also seeking feedback from introverted employees.

  • Strong security features

An organization is filled with sensitive information which has to be protected at all costs. Thus, the tool being used should be encrypted and trusted.

How can we improve digital collaboration?

Here, we shall discuss the various techniques to improve digital collaboration.

  • Keep time-zones in mind

This is particularly important in a global organization. Not all team-members would be ready for a meeting or a discussion at any given point in their day. Thus, it becomes essential to find a common slot for everyone to be on board.

  • Have a central access to information

If files and information are stranded or stored in different places, it becomes difficult to quickly access them. This might lead to miscommunication and an overall waste of time. There has to be a single place for storing all work-related information with the right access to various employees. When the correct information is out there, we can ensure that it will be used in the right manner and efficiency.

  • Get the right tool for your team

It can become burdensome for the team-members if there are various tools for communication, file-sharing and project management. Getting the right tool with the right qualities and features for communication, task management and centralized notifications will help the team work more productively and efficiently.

  • Be strategic in implementation

Rather than expect digital collaboration to soar overnight, ensure the policy is implemented in a strategic manner. Before digital collaboration, ensure that all the employees are on the same page about communication, transparency and roles and responsibilities. Only then will digital collaboration be a success.

  • Understand collaboration fatigue

With incessant video-calls and video-chats, many employees are experiencing ‘zoom’ fatigue. When there are too many tools for collaboration, employees might also experience technology fatigue. It overwhelms them leading to a decrease in productivity and cohesion. Reducing the number of digital collaboration tools and asking for regular feedback from the employees will help to reduce tech fatigue.

  • Understanding the situation

Last but not the least, understand the situation. Is there a need for this particular tool? Is it required right now? If your new digital collaboration tool is going to create problems than solve any, it might not be a good idea to implement it.

Conclusion

In this blogpost, we have explained the meaning of digital collaboration and the various ways you can collaborate digitally. We have also addressed how collaboration improves productivity and the salient features of digital collaboration tools.

Frequently asked questions:

What are digital collaboration technologies?

They are basically technologies that are used for collaborating digitally. It is usually used in remote-only or global companies. It has an advantage of connecting a larger network of participants, thus increasing their interaction and productivity.

How do you use technology to collaborate?

Various ways to use technology to improve collaboration in the workplace are:

  • As an online communication tool

Online communication tools like Slack, allow a smoother and faster workflow. Here, team members can interact with each other for updates, questions or feedbacks instantly.

  • Following proper communication guidelines

It is important that the technology is used efficiently and appropriately. Employees should be on the same page about what can be discussed on the digital platform and what can be discussed outside of it, in-person or on a call. It also is important to remind employees to use the digital collaboration tool for work reasons only and not personal.

Using video-conferencing appropriately

Those who work remotely can feel isolated and unmotivated. Using video-conferencing as a method to promote team-spirit and company culture can be a good use of the digital collaboration tool. Of course it is important to use it in the right manner to avoid issues like ‘zoom’ fatigue.

  • Considering a project management tool

Tools like Asana can help employees with their task management. It can create to-do lists, distribute responsibility and also share files between employees. Project management tools can also help in transparency and accountability. Additionally, they can be used to ensure a seamless workflow, even if someone quits mid-way.

  • Use cloud technology

G suite and Office 365 allow your employees to access their workspace from anywhere at any time. With the right access and security settings, this is a smooth way of ensuring productivity and creativity among employees. All your team needs is a stable internet connection.

  • Providing the right training

Change is not easily accepted. It is the same with digital collaboration. Give your employees time to adjust and get comfortable with the tool. Ensure that they are being provided with the right training so that they learn to use the tool properly.

How does digital technology improve work collaboration?

Digital collaboration allows employees to work from anywhere at any time, provided they have a strong internet connection. It helps them solve problems with flexibility and comfort. Digital collaboration tools ensure smoother communication between team-members, thus allowing them to perform work quicker with lesser misunderstandings.

Is online collaboration good or bad?

With COVID-19, remote working has become the norm and so has online collaboration. It has been found that many employees actually prefer digital collaboration to in-person collaboration. It gives employees flexibility in terms of distance and time allowing convenience in organizing meetings.

Online collaboration tools like project management tools allow easier management of tasks and faster completion of projects. Organizations have also found virtual-meetings to significant reduce costs in organizing meetings. Not only can meetings can be held urgently, but also be accessed from anywhere.

Here, hundreds and hundreds of employees can attend the meeting at once which otherwise would be very difficult. It also has been found to be a major success among introverted employees who otherwise would not open up as much.

If you have any questions or comments please let us know.

Citations

https://www.glasscubes.com/digital-collaboration/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_collaboration
https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/se/Documents/technology-media-telecommunications/deloitte-digital-collaboration.pdf
https://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/picking-the-right-approach-to-digital-collaboration/
https://www.commonsense.org/education/top-picks/best-student-collaboration-tools
https://www.learnersedge.com/blog/4-tips-for-effective-digital-collaboration-in-the-classroom

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