What are the advantages and benefits of online collaboration?
This post will describe the various advantages and benefits of online collaboration. We shall also be examining the disadvantages of collaboration and the different levels of collaboration in an organization. Lastly, we will be describing the various elements of an online collaboration system in the workplace. Collaboration has its pros and con and yet considered highly essential.
What are the advantages of online collaboration?
Online collaboration brings many advantages for an organization or a team. The most important advantages of collaboration are:
- An increase in work productivity
- Lesser security risks
- Better project management
- Better flexibility
- Lesser turnover rates
Collaboration is the process through which a group of individuals work together in order to achieve a specific goal. The collaboration can be of many types and done on many levels. However it may be done, collaboration is the key to success in almost all organizations and industries. The important advantages of collaboration are described below:
An increase in work productivity
Collaboration can improve the work efficiency in the team. Through collaborative practices, problems can be solved easily and decisions can be made faster. Collaboration also improves the engagement and participation of the team member in the work process. In this manner, collaboration increases individual productivity and thus the project can be completed sooner.
Lesser security risks
Organizations are using online collaboration tools for the purpose of communication and also project management. Since these tools are easily integrated with cloud technology, the access to information is faster and more efficient. The use of these tools offer more security as they have great features like end-to-end encryptions and strong firewalls.
Better project management
Collaboration allows better management of projects. Since there is open and effective communication between the team members, the entire team is on the same page throughout the work process. Online collaboration tools also allow a better tracking of task completion and project progress, thus improving the project management process as a whole.
With the implementation of online collaboration tools in an organization, the employees can access their work from practically anywhere. They can also work at more convenient times than the traditional office hours. Thus, collaboration promotes flexibility for employees, allowing them to work at more productive hours, yielding high-quality work.
Lesser turnover rates
Organizations which emphasize collaboration and use effective strategies for it, tend to have lesser turnover rates. Research studies have found that collaboration leads to a more positive work environment and happier employees. The employees stay at an organization for longer periods of time, improving retention and decreasing turnover rates.
Disadvantages of collaboration
Even though collaboration has a ton of benefits, it also has its fair share of disadvantages. Some of these disadvantages are as follows:
There is a risk of collaboration overload
The process of collaboration in organizations requires the use of many collaboration tools. However, if too many collaboration tools are being used for different purposes, the employees may find it difficult to manage. The resulting extra notifications and unwanted messages can lead to collaboration overload, which in turn can cause employee burnouts.
The process may be too costly for the organization
Collaboration requires the investment of time and effort. Collaboration tools also are not that cheap and may end up costing the company a good bit of money. Some organizations cannot afford this and even if they do, it might end up being too costly for them. Since the results of collaboration itself can take time to generate, the organizations may face a loss in the meantime.
Employees may spend more time in collaborating
Collaboration does not only include one simple activity or one process. It is a large process, with many steps and takes cumulative effort to be effective. It also requires a regular investment of time and energy from the employees. In this manner, the employees may spend too much time collaborating and less on their actual tasks, thus leading to decrease in productivity.
The organizational structure may not support it
Organizations which have a more traditional structure with an authoritarian leadership style will not have much interaction between hierarchies and levels. Implementing collaboration in these types of organizations can have a counter effect as the organizational structure simply cannot support it. This can lead to bad collaborative practices and a counterproductive effect.
There can be security risks
Collaboration opens up the organization, removing barriers and obstacles between levels and functionalities. It also gives the team members easier access to information. However, this may also pose certain security risks and can be dangerous for the organization. Security risks can also happen when the employees are not trained to properly use collaboration tools.
Levels of collaboration in an organization
Collaboration occurs at various levels in the organization, in different ways. The different levels of collaboration in an organization are:
Team level for work processes
The team level is the most basic level of collaboration in an organization. In this level, several individuals get together and work closely in order to achieve a specific goal or target. The team will have a leader who is responsible for delegating tasks to other individuals. These team members will have their own roles to play with varying sets of responsibilities.
Community level for bigger purposes
This is the next level after the team unit in the organization. In this, the team members collaborate with other departments, functionalities, sectors and levels in the organization to accomplish a much bigger issue. All the members involved work with a sense of community in order to achieve the organizational goals, which follow its values.
Network level for external collaboration
The network level is also called a macro level of collaboration. In the network level of collaboration, the organization teams up or associates with external collaborators outside of the company. This can serve many different purposes from learning, exchange of best practices, business expansion, new target audiences, etc.
Elements of an online collaboration system
An online collaboration system in an organization has three important elements. These elements are:
The collaboration tool or technology
The technology used in the collaboration is the first element in the collaboration system. This tool helps team members communicate and interact with each other, even if they are in different geographical locations. Online collaboration tools and technologies can be used for other purposes as well, ranging from sharing documents to project management.
There are many different types of collaboration tools that an organization can use. Some only serve a single purpose such as communication through the form of instant messaging or chatting. Others have a wide array of features allowing team members to quickly access and share information and track the progress of task completion and such.
The organizational process
The organizational process and the policies governing it are the next element. The process is going to determine who is going to be collaborating and what they are going to be collaborating about. It is also going to determine the various resources and tools the team members need and the different guidelines they need to follow while doing so.
The people who are collaborating
The people who are involved in the collaboration are the most important elements of the online collaboration system. Without them, there is not going to be any collaboration at all. The team members are usually led by a leader who delegates tasks and roles to the different individuals. The team members also work closely to achieve the shared purpose.
This post has described the various advantages and benefits of online collaboration. We have also examined the disadvantages of collaboration and the different levels of collaboration in an organization. In addition, we have described the various elements of an online collaboration system in the workplace.
Frequently asked questions: (What are the advantages and benefits of online collaboration?)
What is the problem with online collaboration?
Online collaboration can face many challenges when it is being implemented in the organization. Some of the problems that can occur with online collaboration are:
Unclear individual roles
Teams work together in order to achieve their shared purposes. However, the team members also have individual goals and separate roles to fulfill. If the team members are not clear about their roles and what the expectations are, they might not fulfill them well. This can affect the efficiency and success rate of the online collaboration process.
No cross-functional collaboration
In order for collaboration to be efficient in an organization, there has to be interaction between different teams and functionalities. When there are too many silos in the organization which refuse to come down, there can be a breakdown in the collaboration process. This can affect the organization’s overall success and productivity levels.
Improper collaboration tools
For the collaboration process to be smooth, the right collaboration tool needs to be implemented in the organization. However, if the incorrect collaboration tool is used, it can become challenging for the team members. It can also lead to unnecessary wastage of company time while risking the employees with collaboration overloads.
What can go wrong with collaborative working?
Even though collaborative working is meant to improve the atmosphere in an organization, it can still pose many dangers. A few things that can go wrong with collaborative working are:
Employees waste a lot of time
Collaboration requires many activities to be added to an employee’s schedule. It may also increase the workload of the team members in the form of additional conversations, meetings, discussions, team activities, etc. This can also happen when too many tools are being used and employees are tasked with responding to all the notifications.
There is no return of investment
Many organizations implement collaborative working for the sole reason of increasing business profit. While collaboration does lead to profit for the organization, the results may not be seen immediately or in short-term. This can be seen as a waste of time and money for the organization who might eventually stop the process altogether.
Leaders are burning out
Through the process of collaboration, employees can turn to other team members for help and guidance in their tasks. They also might approach each other for the purpose of problem-solving and decision-making. However, it is the leaders who are more often approached for these reasons, leading to an overwhelming workload and eventual exhaustion and burnout.
What prevents collaboration?
Some of the factors that can prevent collaboration in an organization are:
- Inefficient communication
- Differing working styles among team members
- No mutual trust and respect
- Too many silos in the organization
- Unsupportive organizational structure
If you like this post, please leave your comments and questions in the space below.