Understanding Collaboration: What is It, and Why Should You Employ It?

In today’s business world, winning requires committing to a strategy, collaborating with teams, and coordinating actions to ensure progress. The American industrialist giant Henry Ford once said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Emphasizing the word “together” is the meaning of collaboration expressed straightforwardly.

The words collaboration, cooperation and teamwork are often used interchangeably. However, there are differences among them. If we put it in a sequence, it would be teamwork that comes first, when a group of people would gather to work. Cooperation pushes them forward to their own goals but under an organized plan. Finally, collaboration ensures efficiency and productivity for interactions in the long term and towards one general goal or set of goals.

What exactly does collaboration mean?

Collaboration is working better with individuals or groups to achieve common goals. It’s not just about working together but working better. Leveraging people’s interactions fosters communication, allowing more space for creativity, openness, and innovation. Collaboration starts from the micro-level of business actions and all the way up, from instant messaging between teammates to cross-departmental resource sharing on a single project.

In a collaborative business environment, individuals learn from each other, share their experience, knowledge, resources, and are flexible with change. This reflects on the productivity of teams and results in faster delivery of projects.

Non-collaborative business environments, on the other hand, are not necessarily failures. They can still deliver successful projects, but the key metrics won’t be the same. They will need more time and resources. Less flexibility will result in higher risks, and less productivity will increase the employee churn. This may result in less satisfied clients and stakeholders.

When you compare collaborative with non-collaborative businesses, the statistics will surprise you. What wuill surprise you even more is how simple it is to foster collaboration. Well, maybe not easy, but applicable. It requires adopting the collaborative values in your business, overseeing the process to make sure everything is well-executed, and providing your team with suitable technology to adhere to the collaboration aspects and benefit from it.

Collaboration vs. teamwork

Sometimes people confuse teamwork with collaboration, thinking that both concepts are the same. However, they are not quite the same. Teams are groups of independent individuals sharing the same set of skills, working under the administration of one team leader, and their goal is to deliver their assigned tasks efficiently. When you combine the work of individuals or teams, you get teamwork.

Meanwhile, collaborators form an interdependent, diverse pool of skills, working with each other without a single leader but with leadership sense in every one of them. Their goal is to create efficient solutions for their assigned projects mutually.

People think independentlyPeople think together interdependently
Requires a team leaderRequires a sense of leadership
People share goalsPeople share values
Short term relationshipLong term methodology
Similar skills in the teamA diverse set of skills
Combine their work to deliver resultsDeliver results collectively

Learn how to foster collaboration in the workplace.

The key features of collaboration

  • Communication rises to the next level in collaborative environments. It ensures all individuals and teams are connected. Will build more channels across departments. It allows more conversations, meetings, and brainstorming sessions.
  • Diversity embodies openness to ideas, creative solutions, new points of view, intelligent problem-solving techniques, and adaptability to new strategies. When everyone in the company can participate, and that would diversify the results.
  • Productivity improves when people collaborate. Key performance indicators will rise. Individuals and teams will have a purpose, and work will be done faster and better than before.
  • Sharing knowledge and combining experiences inspire solutions and save valuable resources. Overall, problem-solving becomes more manageable, and employees are encouraged to learn and teach each other.
  • Values unite individuals in a collaborative environment. They give them a reason to do their best, be responsible and active members, and show them the impact of their contributions.

What collaboration looks like at work

Nowadays, many businesses, local or international, small or big, are moving towards collaboration workspaces. The following examples will give you inspiration from industry leaders.

There is no better start than a piece of advice from Dell itself “Your choice of collaboration solutions is critical to helping them stay productive, keeping them connected and maintaining business continuity.”

Dell, the multinational computer technology company, empowered its employees with a dedicated collaboration solution. It allows them to work remotely while staying connected. They believe collaboration solutions brought more security, with a high-quality experience for employees to work reliably.

Adobe, the software company, welcomed the new era of collaborative work by combining its creative solutions with collaboration tools and presenting it as a unit to end-users. Adobe wanted to share this experience and its benefits with everyone. It introduced Creative Cloud to boost the ability to share the work with clients and colleagues and supported it with its famous software.

What would be a better example than Microsoft, the technology titan itself? With over 150 thousand collaborating employees. Microsoft created a state-of-the-art solution to organize the collaboration process between its employees. The software is called Teams, and the name says it all.

Microsoft went further, from implementing collaboration to encouraging companies to do so. By offering Teams as a platform that every business can use. You may want to consider that and all you need to do is to reach out. We’ll introduce you to the features of Microsoft Teams and how it would comply with your business needs.

Let’s break it down with some real-life scenarios of how effective collaboration can be employed in various company departments.

Scenario #1

A real estate company wants to sign a purchase contract with a seller. The transaction coordinator is communicating with the seller about the agreement, then has to get an approval from the company’s legal department, and the seller’s lawyer might also be involved. So far, we got over 4 to 5 people, minimum all involved in this contract. All these people are a part of different teams, and some are external actors. The ideal solution would be to create a collaborative workspace where all the parties could collaborate on closing the deal instead of having random meetings and sending emails back and forth. Moreover, the real estate company might want to structure and templatize their sales deal process to achieve operational excellence for each purchase.

They can create a template workspace, add all the necessary documentation and file templates, pre-built tasks and everyday tools that will help their teams close deals faster.

Would you like to know more?

Download free Microsoft Teams Use Case Catalog

4 steps to effective use of Microsoft Teams

Scenario #2

A construction company has multiple projects on different site locations. The project manager must stay up to date about the progress of each, but this is physically impossible due to the long distances between locations. A collaboration platform would allow interactive conferences with on-site engineers, visually checking the construction progress while taking notes, and sharing results with other stakeholders. Instructions and tasks can be given, assigned, and documented while on the call. Even inviting external contractors to participate in real-time is easy with the right platform.

To scale collaboration, they can create a digital workspace for construction projects with all the content tasks and tools already included for teams to work with, and then replicate it for the rest of the projects. It will reduce manual work and save time which can be used on more important things such as budgeting, approving plans, customer relations etc. The external contractors can be granted guest access to join the teams and channels.

Learn more about how to templatize collaborative processes.

Scenario #3

Suppose you are a B2B software company that has multiple strategic accounts. To provide the best service for them you need to bring together specialists from various teams such as customer support, sales, product, IT, legal and others. To make sure everyone is one the same page about what needs to be addressed regarding each account you may want to have a collaborative space for all stakeholders involved in account management. You can provide them with the right structure for focused communication, file templates, tasks, and everyday tools. It will ensure your team collaborate in the most efficient and coordinated way.

Learn how to use Microsoft Teams for Sales Management!

Collaboration in the realm of technology

Day after another, collaboration platforms are replacing traditional communication methods. Both business owners and employees are demanding this transformation. The whole business culture is changing rapidly. Remote work, agile business models, and collaborative environments are becoming more popular among business owners. Tomorrow’s competition will not be exclusive to what your business offers but will include how your company operates because the operation is becoming part of success.

Businesses differ in their processes and strategies, and every business is unique on its own. Choosing the proper collaboration platform is important, and you may want to consider multiple solutions before you make the final decision. It is also important to realize that employing a collaborative platform entails administrative work and management. Luckily, there are solutions that can help you with that.

Templatizing the collaborative process 

Whether you’re a big, mid-sized or a small company, running a virtual workspace requires effort and management. And for the collaborative process to be uninterrupted and consistently productive, you need to quickly address all tech-related needs. For example, creating new teams for new projects and accounts, managing memberships, figuring out what purpose each team serves, etc.  Following up with all of these and more takes a significant amount of time. However, you can avoid all that hassle and use collaborative templates to automate all these processes.

Collaboration templates

With templates, you do all the work once by creating the ‘prototype workspace’ with all necessary content and configurations like security policies, naming of the teams/channels, memberships, and then replicate it as many times as you need. 

Through templates, you templatize collaborative processes and automate creation of collaborative workspaces. So, whenever a new project, campaign, client, or any other collaborative activity starts, with one click, you provide your team with all the right tools. It’s all pre-defined!

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