What Is Collaboration Software?

A history of collaboration software

The history of collaboration software extends back 30 years to the groupware of the 1980s.  Early groupware such as Lotus Notes promised to help employees and teams work together more effectively.  The dot com boom saw the introduction of popular collaboration tools such as WebEx, as well as early intranet and extranet software.  he rise of Web 2.0 in the 2000s brought new levels of social interactivity to collaboration, and the introduction of Microsoft SharePoint made collaboration a mainstream IT concern.

 

The 3 different types of collaboration software

Despite this multi-decade history, the term "collaboration software" remains problematic.  The main reason for this is that collaboration software is an umbrella term for a wide variety of software products, most of which are independent and bear little resemblance to each other.  In fact, there are three main types of collaboration software:

 

1)  Communication

Early groupware such as Lotus notes focused on communications.  Other examples include IM/chat.

 

2) Conferencing

Collaboration tools such as WebEx focus on conferencing, which consists of real-time collaboration where all of the collaborators involved share the same view.  For the most part, a single presenter controls that view; the other collaborators provide input by talking.

 

3) Co-ordination

Coordination was the last type of collaboration software to arrive on the scene, but as a result, it is the type which is experiencing the greatest amount of growth today.  Coordination software helps manage complex interdependent work towards a shared goal.

 

Choosing collaboration software for your team

When your business or team decides that it needs to "get collaborative," you have to decide which type or types of collaboration are required to meet your specific business needs.  In many cases, you may need all three types to get the job done.  A marketing team might need communication tools to discuss upcoming initiatives, hold brainstorming sessions using conferencing tools, then rely on coordination tools to shepherd action items and deliverables to completion.

 

PBworks offers integrated collaboration software that combines all three types of collaboration into a seamless whole.  Teams that use PBworks can communicate via built-in web-based IM/chat, and can share documents, files, and content via email.  Meanwhile, the chat feature allows a team member to summon other team members to the appropriate document or file, and the built-in teleconferencing gets everyone on an instant conference call.  One great way to leverage this conferencing is to take detailed notes during meetings so that all involved can see an agree on the notes prior to the end of the meeting.  Finally, PBworks offers a host of tools for coordination, ranging from project- and task-management to high-level management reporting of status and progress.

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