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Advantages and Disadvantages of Online Collaboration

Online collaboration is fast becoming a permanent feature of modern workplaces and remote teams. Companies and organisations are attracted by collaboration tools that allow employees to work together anywhere, at any time using any internet-enabled device.

But what are the advantages of online workspaces for collaborative working in comparison to traditional methods such as video conferencing with colleagues and stakeholders? And what are the potential drawbacks and disadvantages when using cloud-based platforms for online communication?

Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin and examine the key features of both the disadvantages and advantages of online collaboration.

1. Productivity

Pros: Collaborative software gives team members the necessary tools and resources to collaborate within their organisation regardless of their location, including from home and while travelling. This drastically reduces ”downtime” and allows people to be productive at their convenience. Platforms like Kahootz also send automatic updates when documents have been added or amended, ensuring everyone is on the same page and projects keep moving at a fast pace.

research study by Deloitte found that three-quarters of those surveyed believed access to collaborative software would improve work flow and significantly improve productivity levels by as much as 20-25%.

Cons: With remote work, personal contact is usually reduced, which can lead to confusion over what is expected of certain tasks and time tracking. They may also feel that being connected 24/7 is blurring the boundaries between their professional and private lives. Moreover, online workspaces also require each team member to be take complete control & responsibility for their own tasks and keep each other accountable, to ensure deadlines are met.

 Solution: Make sure team members are clear about their roles and responsibilities, and put effective team leads in charge of workspaces. Utilising task lists, team diaries and effective time tracking methods to delegate assignments and monitor progress, while establishing clear guidelines can help teams check progress, and set ground rules about when colleagues are expected to be online – and when they are not. Finally, don’t entirely abandon face-to-face meetings for online meetings and video calls. In person task management and project discussions can still be very useful, if not as essential as before!

2. Efficiency

Pros: The typically workday includes three hours a day searching for information and/or writing emails. That’s fifteen non billable hours a week! However, when used properly, online collaborative working tools can eliminate a lot of these redundant emails and streamline resource management. One key feature of collaboration software is the centralisation of all communications in one secure, online platform. It’s simple for remote teams to login and find the information for multiple projects. Easy to use interfaces significantly reduce the time spent searching through long email exchanges, meaning more efficient communication.

Cons: With all its features, project tracking tools can generate just as many (if not more) emails as it reduces, this can be counterproductive. On a daily basis, email inboxes can quickly get cluttered with the vast number of notifications and direct messages.

Solution: To efficiently manage the number of emails that team members receive, it’s important to implement the appropriate settings and permissions for each project. By doing so, a notification will only be sent when absolutely necessary, helping prevent unnecessary alerts and allowing individuals to devote more time to their project tasks. Automated filters, reduced inbox clutter and streamline communication can complement online collaboration resulting improved productivity and better project outcomes.

3. Cost

Pros: Online collaboration is highly cost-effective compared to traditional methods and is within reach of all sizes of organisation. Software like Kahootz offers flexible pay-as-you-go licensing, ensuring you only pay for the exact number of users you need and not tied down to large bundles of licences. Additionally online collaboration enables individuals to work remotely and share files from any location, potentially reducing office expenses such as equipment, utilities, and space. By adopting Kahootz, organisations can benefit from significant cost savings while maintaining productivity and efficiency.

Cons: You need to choose a package offering a fair pricing structure. Some will force you to buy licences for other tools you don’t need, so be wary. On the other hand, a “per user per month” pricing model may lead organisations to limit the access to only selected users. This, in turn, can cause a disparity in transparency and communication across the workplace. 

Solution: Before committing to any cloud collaboration system, it’s recommended to research and compare pricing plans from various companies. Take time to estimate the total projected expenses for all your team to avoid any potential budget overruns. Some vendors will also provide a ROI calculator on their website to help with this process, simplifying the decision-making process and ensuring cost effect solutions for your virtual collaboration

4. Audience

Pros: With the right software, you can reach far beyond the “usual suspects” within your organisation and seamlessly collaborate with external stakeholders, such as your key clients, partners and suppliers. Because it is cheap and easy to bring individuals working together into an online workspace, you can increase engagement with your external stakeholders more than by using traditional methods such as meetings, audio and video calls, paper surveys, press advertisements and similar. This brings diversity to your real-time communication – resulting in more creativity and the creation of stronger and healthy relationships.

Cons: It can be tempting to widen the number of people you collaborate with, without properly assessing the reasons why you need to engage with them. This can lead to a diffusion of focus and a slowing down of the collaborative process with online tools.

Solution: Collaborating with teams or individuals from other organisations can be beneficial, but it’s important to assess your motives before inviting them to your online workspace. Consider your goals, resources, and potential challenges to ensure that the collaboration is worth the effort. Clarify expectations to promote a productive and positive collaboration. In the end, the success of your collaborative projects depends on collective efforts, so choose wisely!

Choosing a flexible and customisable tool like Kahootz allows you to use the platform for more than one purpose. With its drag and drop functionality, user-friendly interface, and short learning curve our powerful collaboration tool can be used for a variety of business processes including client portals, collaborative procurement, project management and online forums to increase engagement.

5. Security

Pros: The most trusted collaboration tools have many safeguards in place to protect their users’ data. By having encryptions, password protection, two-step authentication and firewalls; users can have the peace of mind knowing their sensitive data is secure and safe. Most cloud storage services prioritise security as one of their key features.

Cons: Remote collaboration typically functions on a cloud-based workspace, making data security a vital concern on all levels. Although the original concerns associated with online collaboration tools have been resolved, there are still a few people with the mind-set that storing data and file sharing in a cloud storage system is not as secure as keeping it on their personal servers.

Solution: Any online collaboration software vendor should be able to provide evidence of their security credentials if asked. This should also be the case for free versions and mobile apps offered through their service.

Looking at their list of clients also provides insight. If security-conscious organisations, (from the public or defence sectors for example) trust their team collaboration software to host their data, then that can only be a good sign.

6. Project Management

Pros: One of the major advantages of a collaborative online workspace is that they ensure all project materials and communications with external parties are kept within the same workspace. This means you don’t have to worry about keeping track of emails and different versions of attachments – online workspaces in Kahootz retain archived versions of every document, and group conversations allow for comments to be added to each file. With a full audit trail of every ‘person’s interaction with the workspace, combined with team calendars and task management , managing any size project with users across multiple organisations becomes much simpler, quicker and better organised.

Cons: A project is only as good as the way it is managed. Plan outcomes before inviting colleagues and support teams to join a workspace and appoint effective managers to oversee progress.

Solution: Make sure that team members are clear about expectations, milestones, goals and deadlines for current and future projects. And don’t be afraid of using traditional methods such as face-to-face meetings and conference calls if it helps assign tasks and manage projects.

As you can see, online collaboration brings many advantages for your organisation and improves team’s productivity. There are some drawbacks, but most can be overcome by good planning, strong management, and combining online work with traditional productivity tools and methods where appropriate.

Researching online collaboration tools? Make an informed decision by downloading our guide containing the 10 key questions you need to ask a potential supplier.

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