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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 cost-effective technology that allows employees to work together anywhere, at any time and 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 traveling. This drastically reduces ‘down time’ 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 they can keep projects moving at a fast pace.

Cons: Personal contact is reduced, which can lead to confusion over what is expected of team members. People can also feel that being connected 24/7 is blurring the boundaries between their professional and private lives.

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. Cost

Pros: Online collaboration is highly cost effective compared to traditional methods, and is within the reach of all sizes of organisation. Software like Kahootz offers pay-as-you-go licensing, ensuring you only pay for the users you need in any given month. Because collaborating online allows employees to work from home or other locations, you can potentially cut office overheads.

Cons: You need to choose an online collaboration package that offers an appropriate pricing structure. Some will charge you for users you don’t need, so be wary.

Solution: Shop around for the best deals and work out projected costs before signing up for any cloud collaboration package.

3. Audience

Pros: With the right software, you can reach far beyond the ‘usual suspects’ when working with stakeholders, partners or even colleagues. Because it is cheap and easy to bring any individual into a workspace, you can engage with more people than by using meetings, phone calls, paper surveys, press advertisements and similar. This brings diversity to your collaboration – resulting in more creativity and stronger achievements.

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 slow down the collaborative process.

Solution: Always assess why you want to collaborate with an individual or organisation before deciding to invite them to share an online workspace.

4. Project Management

Pros: One of the major advantages of online workspaces is that they ensure all project material is kept within the same workspace. This means that 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 of project 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’s work. There are some drawbacks, but most can be overcome by good planning, strong management and combining online work with traditional collaboration methods where appropriate.

Looking to purchase an online collaboration tool? To help you to make an informed decision, download our guide which the 10 questions that you need to ask a potential supplier.

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