Collaboration technologies are tools that enable people to effectively interact in a virtual environment such as in discussion forums and messaging, video and audio conferencing, business directories, web cams and knowledge portals. Collaboration technologies are deeply embedded in the workplace today and the technologies that aid in the development of different forms of collaboration are rapidly evolving. As such, collaboration technologies have become highly significant because they make communication, clearer, easier, more productive and persuasive (Boughzala et al., 2012). Furthermore, they minimize costs such as travel cost and allow for various expertise and perspectives in a single discussion. Therefore, collaboration technology is more than just a way of digitizing old ways of doing tasks; but they make new ways of doing things possible.
In many businesses today, tasks are becoming less about the places people go to more of what they do. The most recent development in technology has helped to create a more distributed workforce, from the cloud to ubiquitous internet to a variety of new devices. This development has given the workforce plenty of flexibility to work wherever and whenever they want and can. By embracing these new innovations, organizations can improve their efficiency and alter the way employees turn information into action. Moreover, collaboration technologies keep employees of an organization connected regardless of their distance or location, which not only improve workflow but also increases productivity across the entire organization (Brown et al., 2011).
Collaboration technologies functions by connecting the right talent in different locations, which enables businesses to attract and retain the talented employees by supporting new compute experience that accommodates mobility and the level of flexibility that the modern employees expects. In the past, collaborating meant scheduling face-to-face meeting in conference rooms and offices. However, this is no longer a common occurrence, since under the current global workplace; workers are often dispersed making it harder to schedule face-to-face meetings and manage the subsequent travel expenses. As a result of the workplace becoming less of a physical location, organizations are incorporating collaboration technologies to conduct their business (Brown et al., 2011).
Examples of Collaboration Technologies
As a result of the complexities of the current business environment, collaboration technology entails a broad range of tools that makes it possible for people from different locations to work together such as mobile phones, video conferencing and emailing.
1. Mobile Phones
The need for businesses to increase their productivity and profitability through mobile technologies like Apple, Samsung and Blackberry, is constantly rising as these technologies expand and grow. Additionally, as a business grow and constantly adopts to keep up with the current trends, so does it require additional complex information from accessing documents to running complex information and executing various mobile tasks. There has been a wide range of innovations that have been made with regards to mobile phone technology in the past 15 years. No longer are they used to only make calls and send text messages, but also include a wide array of software and application, which can enhance collaboration in a variety of setting including the workplace.
Mobile technology has enabled businesses to have an unprecedented level of interconnectedness between customers, employees and other stakeholders. Current mobile phone softwares are not only faster, but also enhances collaborations among employees. For instance, using special apps designed for video communication and note-taking employees can interact easily with each other regardless of their distance. Furthermore, mobile phones have also revolutionized the world of e-commerce with a variety of e-commerce apps that offers enhanced shopping experience without visiting the physical location of the shops, such as purchasing garments and house hold products (Boughzala et al., 2012). Mobile phones innovations have also revolutionized the way people share information. Using specialized apps members of a team can quickly and easily send any kind of information to each other even if they are separated by distance, which ensures that everyone remains updated.
2. Video Conferencing
Video conferencing allows for face to face communication between two or more locations simultaneously with audio transmissions. It differs from mobile phone video calls in that it’s solely designed to serve multiple locations or conferences rather than individuals. The introduction of high capacity, low cost broadband communication services in the 1990’s, together with the innovation of powerful computer processors and new video compression techniques enabled video conferencing to make significant inroads into the fields of education, business, media and medicine.
This ability to connect people in different areas to communicate on a face-to-face level is what has made video conferencing as one of the best examples of collaboration technology (Brown et al., 2011). Currently, personal video conferencing systems such as webcams and personal computer system have become available to nearly everyone. The accessibility to this particular technology has greatly enabled long distance communication between almost everyone. Businesses were amongst the earliest to adopt video conferencing; with the world becoming more of a global village and businesses looking to cut down on travel costs, video conferencing is a cheaper way of enhancing collaboration. Workers of one company in different location can easily work together by simply setting up regular meeting through videoconferencing.
3. Instant messaging
Designing effective collaborative tools for people in the workplace is critical in today’s economy. While there has been numerous economic investments made in the development of effective work group systems, some have not been entirely convincing. Consequently, despite the fact that there are numerous tools available, many companies still rely on the now almost obsolete email for communicating in collaborative work (Boughzala et al., 2012). At the same time, the way people communicate is rapidly changing. Professionals and managers usually communicate in multiple social networks rather than sticking to a single work group. Hence, collaborations that take into account the social media context will be a more successful way of collaboration.
In many businesses, employees are currently collaborating more through the use of Instant Messaging. It is often used as either a complement to emails or as its replacement. Usually, the adoption of Instant Messaging in many organizations has been at the lower levels. This is because many workers have carried over habits from social settings and given the current popularity of social media platform many prefer this form of communication. Furthermore, the increased popularity of instant messaging is as a result of its speed and ease of workplace communication.
Mobile phones, video conferencing and instant messaging are all technological tools used to enhance collaborative communication. They all bridge the distance gap between employees and enhancing communication. Moreover, they also cut the organizational general expenditure by cutting out the many travel costs usually involved. Despite these similarities they also have fundamental differences. The mobile phone is a communication device that enables its users to send text messages and place call to someone in any place. They also can be fitted with particular application that can enable a user to communicate in other ways. The benefits of using the mobile phone are its speed in reaching the intended person as many people currently owns one. On the other hand, video conferencing is a device made specifically for face-to-face communication irrespective of the distance. While instant messaging is an application that allows the rapid transfer of messages from one person to another.
Boughzala, I., Gert-Jan, V. d., & Limayem, M. (2012). Team Collaboration in Virtual Worlds: Editorial to the Special Issue. Journal of the Association for Information Systyems , 734
Brown, S., Venkatesh, V., & Zhang X. (2011). Designing Collaborative Systems to Enhance Team Performance. Journal of the Association for Information Systems, 12(8), 556-584