The Power of Online Collaboration: Visibility, Asynchronicity, Accountability
Collaboration is the primary reason that organizations exist. By providing a framework in which individuals can work together towards a common goal, collaboration allows people to accomplish more collectively than they can individually.
Moving collaboration to the online world is a natural fit. The internet represents the greatest collaborative medium ever created. But to get as much as possible out of online collaboration, organizations need to understand the principles behind it, and what tools best enable it.
The first principle of online collaboration is visibility. By allowing organizations to share information via a global network, online collaboration allows people who are geographically dispersed to work together more effectively than in the past. The purest example of this is the Wikipedia, which allows anyone in the world to join the collaboration in producing the world's largest encyclopedia. Yet most organizations need limited visibility; rather than sharing information with the entire world, they need the ability to share information with a specific team of authorized individuals.
Ideally, this visibility goes beyond simply allowing text on a page--it should also encompass sharing files, allowing comments and discussion, and making information searchable.
The second principle of online collaboration is asynchronicity. This doesn't mean that synchronicity is bad; tools like web conferencing are a great way to bring together teams in many different geographies. But synchronous communications are subject to the tyranny of real-time--it's hard enough for two people to coordinate a time, let alone an entire group. By allowing asynchronous sharing and contributions, online collaboration makes working together more efficient.
To make asynchronicity work, online collaboration software has to provide the context around content--when it was added, who added it, and if possible, why it was added. You can see this at work in the Wikipedia, where every edit is tracked and attributed to a particular contributor.
The final principle of online collaboration is accountability. While allowing anyone who feels like contributing to take part may work for the Wikipedia, it probably won't work within your organization. The tasks in front of you generally have deadlines and requirements, and aren't amenable to free-form volunteerism.
To make accountability work, online collaboration software needs to allow teams to hold themselves accountable by answering the question, "Who does what by when?"
Leveraging Online Collaboration with PBworks
PBworks provides an online collaboration platform that can meet the needs of visibility, asychronicity, and accountability.
PBworks allows authorized team members to access and contribute to content from any computer or smartphone. Whether working with text or files, team members can edit content, add comments, and share as needed. PBworks even indexes the text of any uploaded documents to make them searchable.
PBworks acts as a permanent repository of content and information. Each edit or revision is tracked, timestamped, and attributed to an authorized user. PBworks even retains all previous revisions, so you can revert back to earlier versions, or simply see how things changed over time.
PBworks allows you to attach action items to specific pieces of content. Need someone to review a proposal or provide a revised design? PBworks lets you link tasks to text or files to make sure the work gets done.
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