I receive one of two responses from people when they find out that my business partner works in another state and that we have spent only hours together in person. The first comes from those who are not familiar with the ease of collaboration, and invariably runs along the lines of "How do you get things done?" followed by "Wow, new technology is so amazing." The other reaction comes from those who have modern business experience and can't imagine how work would ever get done without collaboration. These folks are nonchalant, taking it for granted that technology today allows us to work with people from all over the world.
Collaboration allows businesses to access the skills of a broader network of people because they don't have to look only locally for their talent. Collaboration also increases the efficiency of single-site small businesses, allowing for more constant communication even when employees are at meetings or are working from home. This flexibility keeps a business running more smoothly no matter what is going on in the personal and professional lives of those in the office.
Of course, with collaboration becoming such a trend among all businesses, vendors are tripping over themselves to provide related products and services. With so many new options on the market, it's hard to know what's worth buying for your business and what you should bypass. But if you break your buying search down into a few basic categories and look at specific issues within those categories, purchasing collaboration tools becomes significantly easier.
Why Are You Interested in Collaboration?
Before you get started on the buying process, you should take some time to think about what uses your business has for collaboration. By narrowing down your company's needs in advance, you eliminate the impulse to buy unnecessary products. Think about what you want to get out of collaboration and how each item will improve your business's efficiency, productivity, and employee satisfaction.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Why does my company need collaboration?
- Who in the company will participate in this collaboration? Will files and programs need to be accessible to everyone or just to key people?
- Do we need tools primarily to stay in touch when we are out in the field, or would collaboration also be useful for working from home or during business trips?
- Does anyone in the company need to use collaboration to communicate with clients or partners?