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7 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 centralising all communications in one secure online platform. It’s simple for remote teams to log in 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.

7. Track Changes With Ease

Pros: Collaborative online workspaces, such as Kahootz, provide robust version control and tracking features that make monitoring and managing document changes easy. With the ability to track changes, users can easily see who made specific edits and when those edits were made. This feature is particularly valuable when multiple team members are collaborating on a document and need to review and approve changes before finalising a version. Additionally, the ability to revert to previous document versions ensures that no changes are permanently lost, providing an extra layer of security and peace of mind.

Cons: While tracking changes can be beneficial, it can also lead to cluttered documents and potential confusion if not managed properly. It’s essential to establish clear guidelines on using the tracking feature and communicate with team members about the importance of providing meaningful comments and explanations for their changes. Without proper communication and organisation, tracking changes can become overwhelming and hinder efficient collaboration.

Solution: Encourage team members to use the tracking feature judiciously and provide clear instructions on adding comments and explanations when making changes. Establish a process for reviewing and approving changes, ensuring that team members understand the purpose and workflow of the document collaboration. Regularly communicate with the team about the importance of maintaining clarity and organisation when tracking changes to avoid confusion and maximise the benefits of this feature.

Conclusion

In conclusion, collaborating online offers numerous advantages for organisations and teams, enhancing productivity and efficiency. Despite some potential drawbacks, proper planning, effective management, and combining online work and traditional methods can overcome these challenges. By leveraging the features of online collaboration tools, such as secure data sharing, streamlined communication, document collaboration, and efficient project management, teams can achieve seamless collaboration and better outcomes.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Types of online collaboration?

Online collaboration can be categorised into two main types: synchronous and asynchronous collaboration.

Synchronous Collaboration:

  • Synchronous collaboration refers to real-time collaboration where individuals work together simultaneously, regardless of their physical location.
  • Examples of synchronous collaboration include video conferences, instant messaging, and virtual meetings.
  • It allows for immediate communication and feedback, promoting quick decision-making and active participation.

Asynchronous Collaboration:

  • Asynchronous collaboration involves collaboration that occurs at different times and does not require simultaneous participation.
  • Examples of asynchronous collaboration include email exchanges, discussion forums, and shared document editing.
  • It allows participants to work independently, providing flexibility and accommodating different time zones.

Both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration have their advantages and are suitable for different situations. Synchronous collaboration is ideal for real-time discussions, brainstorming sessions, and immediate problem-solving. Asynchronous collaboration, on the other hand, allows individuals to work independently, review and provide thoughtful responses, and accommodate flexible schedules.

By incorporating both types of collaboration, teams can leverage the strengths of each approach and enhance overall productivity and efficiency.

What are the Features of online collaboration?

Online collaboration offers several key features that enhance teamwork and productivity:

  • Security systems: Online collaboration platforms prioritise data security by implementing encryption, password protection, two-step authentication, and firewalls. These safeguards ensure that sensitive information remains secure.
  • File sharing: Collaborative platforms allow team members to share files, documents, and resources easily. This feature promotes seamless collaboration and ensures everyone can access the most up-to-date information.
  • Discussion forums: Online collaboration tools often include discussion forums or group chat features. These forums facilitate real-time communication, idea-sharing, and problem-solving among team members.
  • Calendar views: Calendar views in collaborative platforms enable teams to schedule and coordinate meetings, deadlines, and milestones. This feature helps team members stay organised and ensures that everyone is on the same page regarding project timelines.
  • Notification systems: Collaboration tools often include notification systems that keep team members informed about updates, new tasks, or changes made by other team members. Notifications help maintain transparency and ensure that everyone is aware of project developments.
  • Cloud file storage: Online collaboration platforms include cloud storage capabilities, allowing teams to store and access files from anywhere at any time. Cloud storage eliminates the need for physical storage devices and facilitates easy file sharing and collaboration.
  • Online surveys: Some collaboration tools offer built-in survey features, allowing teams to gather feedback and insights from stakeholders or team members. Online surveys streamline the data collection process and provide valuable information for decision-making.

What are the Challenges of Online Collaboration?

Online collaboration brings numerous advantages, but it also presents some challenges that teams must address to ensure effective collaboration. Here are three common challenges:

  • Feeling Disconnected: Remote work and online collaboration can sometimes lead to disconnection among team members. The absence of face-to-face interaction and non-verbal cues can make building rapport and establishing a strong team dynamic challenging. Additionally, different time zones and cultural differences may further contribute to this feeling of disconnection.
  • Project Management: Effective project management is crucial for successful online collaboration. Projects can easily become disorganised without proper planning, coordination, and communication, leading to delays, misunderstandings, and lower productivity. Managing project timelines, tasks, and accountability becomes even more critical in a remote collaboration setting.
  • Delayed Responses: In online collaboration, team members may experience delays in receiving responses or feedback. Different time zones, workloads, and communication preferences can contribute to these delays. Waiting for replies or information can slow down project progress and hinder decision-making.
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