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What Is Collaboration?

Collaboration in the workplace has become a hot topic for a number of executives and employees looking to positively affect business outcomes. On the most basic level, collaboration happens when two or more people work together toward a common goal. But the vagueness of the term—and its wide application across numerous technology solutions—have left many still wondering “what is collaboration?” and how can my company benefit?

Real-life collaboration

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when someone says “collaboration?” Is it an unexpected musical or design pairing? While not quite as provocative as a top 40 hit or the latest runway fashion, many of us encounter collaboration every day.

Think through your personal life—fixing a meal, planning a trip, getting your family ready for the day, even choosing a show to watch on Netflix. All of these are collaboration examples. Collaboration touches just about every aspect of your daily life—except maybe the self-check-out lane at the grocery store.

Collaboration in the workplace

With all of this collaboration happening in your personal life, it’s sure to spill over into your workplace, right? While gone are the days of teams being in the same office or even the same time zone, that doesn’t mean that working closely in real time with our colleagues has become any less important. Particularly in a world where businesses rely on teams that are grappling to connect with one another over numerous devices, locations, and time zones to meet deadlines, stay engaged, and innovate.

Simon and Garfunkel (now there’s a collaboration) weren’t completely on point when they sang “I am an island.” Despite our best efforts to make it through the day on our own, we need to work with our colleagues to get things done. Reflect on how often you work with others to obliterate your to-do list. Meetings, group projects, having someone review your work before finalizing it—these are all workplace collaboration examples.

But not all collaboration happens face-to-face. Much of it happens via online collaboration tools and software. With more than 43 percent of the U.S. workforce working remotely according to a 2017 Gallup survey, collaboration apps and solutions can help bridge geographical divides—whether across town or across the country—and bring teams together to work more effectively and efficiently.

The rise of cloud collaboration software that provides a consistent user experience across devices and stores work off-premises is helping increase adoption, too. With solutions that are available anywhere, at any time, no matter which device you might be working from, modern technology is making it possible for future of work to expand well beyond the standard office and traditional 9-to-5 schedules.

Enterprise collaboration solutions you likely already use

You might be surprised to know that you already use some kind of collaboration technology in your day-to-day work life. Do you use a web conferencing solution to hold meetings? Or a team collaboration platform to message and share files throughout the day? What about document sharing to help escape email hell? Well, you’re already on the collaboration technology train.

Here’s a deeper dive into some popular collaboration apps and their benefits.


  • Web Calling: Web calling, or “web conferencing” as its also known, is a collaboration solution that enables users to place calls via an internet browser, mobile, or video device. Users can simply have a voice call, similar to a regular phone call, or you can incorporate video, share your computer screen, chat, poll attendees, and even share ideas via a digital whiteboard. Web calling elevates the dreaded meeting to true collaboration.

  • Video Conferencing: A subset of web calling solutions, video conferencing technology enables users to transmit live video during a call. Many smartphones—with built-in cameras have a native video calling app installed—think iPhone’s FaceTime—and several web conferencing solutions have video capabilities for enterprise collaboration users. As more and more colleagues collaborate remotely on a day-to-day basis, having some face time with one another helps teams humanize communication, bond, and form relationships, as well as easily meet on virtually any schedule regardless of location.

  • Team Collaboration: Most often, we reach out via email when we have a quick question or need to share feedback on a file. But this approach leads to inboxes that are as cluttered as our schedules. Per IDC, workers spend 36 percent of their days searching for information. Team collaboration solutions can help reduce that time and shift tasks away from cluttered inboxes to an all-in-one collaboration platform that enables work whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. With both desktop and mobile apps, users can message, collaborate on documents, share files, or meet if needed to ensure work doesn’t stop when the meeting does.

  • Document Collaboration: How often have you asked your colleagues to review a file via email and received several versions with conflicting markups, leaving you to reconcile the edits? It’s an exercise in frustration. Document collaboration solutions, particularly those that enable version control, can help eliminate the unnecessary confusion and extra work. No overlapping edits; no multiple versions of a file floating around; and some offer a single repository for the final files. Everyone on the same page.

    Additional benefits of enterprise collaboration solutions include:

    • Accelerate project delivery times
    • Improve communication among and across teams
    • Keep projects moving forward between meetings
    • Ignite innovation because idea sharing isn’t limited to meeting times
    • Help erase hierarchies and give a voice to all team members
    • Enable team members to work whenever and wherever they want from any device
    • Reduce travel and training costs

    Embrace a collaborative mindset

    Modern collaboration solutions strive to make our ability to effectively communicate and work together even more seamless and effortless, whether we’re in the same office or across the world. As the workplace continues its evolution to the workplace of the future with more open offices, remote workers, and a work from anywhere at any time approach, embracing a collaborative mindset and the collaboration solutions that enable it will become vital to workers at all levels.

    As you seek to answer “what is collaboration,” look no further than the technology you use every day and how you work with others.

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