10 Reasons Companies Are Using “Collaboration” — and How You Can Get Started, Too.

“Collaboration” in the IT world means using technology to communicate better as a team. This can range from using free web tools (like Skype) to online subscription “workspaces” to “unified communications” that can be highly complex.

Whatever the technology, the goal is the same: to allow people to work together on projects — often in real time — regardless of where they’re located or what computer platform they’re using. And while collaboration technology has passed the beta stage, it’s not mainstream yet … but it will be at any moment. Why is it getting so popular right now?

It’s the economy. Companies want to continue to:
1) drive costs down and 2) become more efficient. Collaboration lets them do both. Team members can share and work on the same files, meet virtually, “click” to communicate in whatever technology is most convenient at that time (email, instant messaging, Voice-over Internet Protocol or other) and use other cool features that remind you of Star Trek. It’s revolutionizing the way some businesses get things done.

Here are eight more reasons CEOs are using these leading-edge technologies:

3. To increase productivity. With streamlined tools and processes, everyone can accomplish more.

4. To clear communication bottlenecks. Different communication strings can clog the communication pipeline but when everything is integrated, everyone can keep up.

5. To improve responsiveness. Team members can be reached more easily, answer questions faster and make quicker decisions.

6. To add flexibility. Since collaboration communication can be captured and stored, options abound. For example, people can join a meeting or training session in person, virtually over the Internet or later when their schedule allows.

7. To keep up with competitors.

8. To expand into new markets without having to open a new office.

9. To be greener. Less travel (air and road), less printed paper and less energy consumption all make for a smaller carbon footprint.

10. To improve operations. Tracking, reviewing, analyzing, planning — information regarding every stage of a project is right there, all in one place, archivable and searchable.

Are you new to collaboration?

Test the waters internally first. Check out free tools like Google Talk, <arel=”nofollow” target=”_blank” href=”http://www.skype.com/intl/en-us/home”>Skype and others you can find with a quick web search. Then try phone conferencing, desk sharing and webinars via subscription services like WebEx or GoToMeeting. Or “rent” a service that’s in the cloud like Microsoft SharePoint. When you’re ready to bring SharePoint in-house and integrate it more fully into your business, look into a managed communication platform like Microsoft Office Communications (make sure to involve your IT professionals at this point).

Once you’ve got your collaboration sea legs, use it with your customers. Collaboration technology can build your reputation as a company that really knows how to use technology. The biggest wow factor? Real-time, hi-def video conferencing using a platform like Telepresence or C PORT Solutions (with the necessary in-house IT infrastructure) that really, truly makes it feel like you’re sitting at the same table. As in, Can you pass the water, please? Oh, right. You’re in another time zone.