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How technology is transforming the way we collaborate

Even as recent as a decade ago, many organisations believed that the most effective way of working together was to bring key individuals into the same room and start brainstorming using a paper flipchart with coloured markers. That's more or less old hat these days. Collaboration has changed.

Technology has been the key driver in modernising the way enterprises deliver smarter, faster and more productive practices. In an ever-competitive global economy, this has been vital in succeeding and innovating. This feature takes a look at the key changes.

The back story

Effective collaboration is not easy. Many would agree with the saying "that two heads are better than one", but if the approach to working together is flawed or outdated, the end result is always going to be substandard. You have to work hard to get it right.

Also, it is important to point out how limited outdated approaches to collaboration are. They offer, for example, little engagement to those that are not in attendance, and when offsite colleagues and stakeholders are invited to work on a project and share their views, it can often be a laboured, sketchy affair.

Communication and collaboration

In the 21st century, communication and collaboration are heavily entwined with one another. This reflects the changing nature of the workplace, which is defined by the increasing dispersed composition of workforces and the increase in varied forms of communication to keep everyone connected.

To thrive, enterprises need to embrace technology to support high-speed, globalised forms of communication that delivers valuable ends to collaboration projects. Variety of engagement is indispensable to this, as it ensures that the channel utilised is the most practical one.

The key technologies

The range of communication tools available to organisations today is extensive, but they can be broken down to into five integral areas.

Instant messaging

On the face of it, instant messaging seems like an odd choice given its popularity as a social form of communication, but many enterprises have found it to be one of the most practical tools for quick and easy collaboration.

The speed and uncomplicated nature of the technology makes it the go-to choice for resolving problems or queries swiftly. Moreover, you are able to communicate remotely, invite key colleagues from all over the world to join the conversation and multi-task, all without compromising on quality.

Application sharing

Utilising the advantages of the cloud, application sharing software allows collaborators to share and work on multiple documents at the same time, offering benefits like real-time editing, commentary and discussion.

It's a brilliant resource and ideal for cutting out unnecessary paperwork and sending multiple chains of correspondence. All the relevant parties are shared the relevant documents once, which can automatically be sent out via email.

Wireless headsets

As traditional as forms of communication come, but as effective and reliable as ever, voice-enabled technology offers a high level of collaboration that mimics face-to-face rapport. Coupled with wireless headsets, you have even more creative opportunities to explore. The desk has evolved.

Furthermore, wireless headsets, in particular, offer the workforce a more dynamic experience of working. Collaboration does not have to be static and, as you liaise with an overseas colleague, you are free to move around and express yourself in a natural way.


For a long while, video/virtual conferencing was unable to deliver a streamlined experience, with set-up times, timeouts and signal delays resulting in meetings, brainstorms and training sessions being protracted. This costs time and money.

Not any more, thanks to telepresence, which creates the sense that all participants to an event are, in effect, present in a similar location. The idea is that despite the geographical disconnect, the experience is as true as it can be to an actual meeting.

Social media (enterprise level)

Social media, in the purist sense, is incompatible with collaboration and isn't really designed for that purpose. However, it can certainly be used to inspire ideas – you can engage with stakeholders via the medium and that conversation can act as a catalyst.

There are, however, enterprise versions, that utilise the benefits of social media and make them work from an organisational point of view. For example, take Twitter's hashtag – this can be deployed internally, with keywords sent out to team members. They key with this form of communication is its ability to lead to wider collaboration.


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