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Advantages and disadvantages of online collaboration


Online collaboration is fast becoming a permanent feature of the modern workplace. Companies and organisations are attracted by the cost-effective technology allowing employees to work together anywhere, at any time using any internet-enabled device.

But what are the advantages of online workspaces when compared to traditional methods of working with colleagues and stakeholders? And are there any drawbacks?

The reality is that there are many advantages and disadvantages of online collaboration. Let’s take a look at both sides of the coin.

1. Productivity

Pros: Online collaboration gives team members the tools they need to work with others from any location, including from home and while travelling. This drastically reduces ”downtime” and allows people to be productive when it best suits them. Platforms like Kahootz also send team members automatic updates when documents have been added or amended, ensuring everyone is kept in the loop and projects keep moving at a fast pace.

research study by Deloitte found that three-quarters of those surveyed believed access to collaboration tools would improve productivity and can significantly improve productivity levels by as much as 20-25%.

Cons: Personal contact is reduced, which can lead to confusion over what is expected of team members. They may also feel that being connected 24/7 is blurring the boundaries between their professional and private lives. Online collaboration also requires each team member to be responsible 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 managers in charge of workspaces. Use task lists and team diaries to assign work and check progress, and set ground rules about when colleagues are expected to be online – and when they are not. Finally, don’t abandon face-to-face meetings – they can still be very useful, if not as essential as before!

2. Efficiency

Pros: Employees typically spend three hours a day searching for information and/or writing emails.  However, when used properly, an online collaboration tool can eliminate a lot of these redundant emails. With all of the communications in one secure, online platform, it’s simple for team members to login and find the information they need to do their job. This significantly reduces the time spent searching through long email exchanges, meaning more efficient communication.

Cons: An online collaboration tool generating just as many (if not more) emails as it reduces, can be counter-productive. On a daily basis, email inboxes can quickly get cluttered with the vast amount of notifications from an online collaboration tool. 

Solution: To control the number of emails each team member receives, ensure the correct settings and permissions are enabled for each project on the online collaboration tool. This way, a notification will only be sent when absolutely necessary, and employees will spend less time looking through emails in their inbox.

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 amount of users you need and not tied down to large bundles of licences. Also, because collaborating online allows employees to work from home or other locations, you can potentially cut the cost of office overheads such as equipment, electricity and space.

Cons: You need to choose an online collaboration package offering a fair pricing structure. Some will force you to buy licences for users 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: Shop around for the best deals and work out projected costs before signing up for any cloud collaboration package. Some vendors will provide a calculator on their website to help you do this.

4. Audience

Pros: With the right software, you can reach far beyond the ”usual suspects” within your organisation and start working closer with external stakeholders, such as your key clients, partners and suppliers. Because it is cheap and easy to bring any individual into a workspace, you can engage with more of your external stakeholders than by using traditional methods such as meetings, phone calls, paper surveys, press advertisements and similar. This brings diversity to your collaboration – resulting in more creativity and the creation of stronger 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.

Solution: Always assess why you want to collaborate with teams or individuals in other organisations before deciding to invite them to share your online workspace.

Choosing a flexible and customisable tool like Kahootz allows you to use the platform for more than one purpose. Common use cases include client portals, collaborative procurement, project management and many more.

5. Security

Pros: The most trusted online collaboration platforms 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.  

Cons: As online collaboration typically functions on a cloud-based workspace, securing the safety of information is vital on all levels. Although the original concerns associated with these tools have been resolved, there are still a few people with the mind-set that storing data in the cloud 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.

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

6. Project Management

Pros: One of the major advantages of online workspaces is 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 team members can add comments and tasks to each file. With a full audit trail of every ‘person’s interaction with the workspace, combined with team calendars and task lists, managing any size project with users across multiple organisations becomes much simpler, quicker and cost-effective.

Cons: A project is only as good as the way it is managed. Plan outcomes before inviting colleagues 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. And don’t be afraid of using traditional methods such as face-to-face meetings and conference calls if it helps keep a project on track.

As you can see, cloud collaboration software brings many advantages to your organisation. There are some drawbacks, but most can be overcome by good planning, strong management, and combining online work with traditional collaboration 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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