Tactical Advice

Collaboration Supports Asynchronous, Real-Time Communications and More

The tools used to communicate and collaborate are best selected according to the task and function.
Collaboration Technology
Credit: iStockphoto/ThinkStockPhoto

Although people can collaborate with all kinds of tools, the following three types of collaboration technologies are particularly important in anywhere, anytime environments.

Presence

This technology automatically detects whether a specific individual is using a device on an organization’s network. It may also detect other information about that person’s availability status and let the individual post information about status manually.

  • Offline: The user is not detected as present on any device anywhere on the network.
  • Offline with a specific status: The user sets a status manually (for example, “on vacation” or “back Tuesday p.m.”).
  • Away or idle: The user has only recently stopped actively using a device on the network.
  • Busy: The user is on a device and actively using a communication feature such as voice or video conference.
  • Do not disturb: The user is present but has manually set this status to avoid interruptions.
  • Online: The user is detected as present and available.
  • Online with a specific status: The user is detected at a specific location (for example, “at my desk” or “mobile in Atlanta”) or sets a status manually (for example, “prepping for sales meeting” or “leaving at 2:30 today”).

By making such information available to other users on the network, presence technology can facilitate effective interactions.

Chat and Instant Messaging

Chat and IM let users exchange text messages in real time. Some people prefer to use the term “instant messaging” to refer to chat that is specifically enabled between known sets of users (also known as “buddy lists”). This differentiates IM from the kind of web-based chat found on Internet sites that supports open participation.

IM is extremely useful for rapidly exchanging small amounts of information and getting immediate acknowledgement from other parties. It can eliminate communication problems such as phone tag or the sending of a follow-up e-mail to confirm that a recipient received, read and is acting on an earlier message.

Social Media

Social media platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter have dramatically demonstrated how communities of people can interact online to share ideas and manage actions collectively. Millions of users are now familiar with social media functions such as “liking” and “retweeting.”

Organizations can take advantage of these mainstream services in a variety of ways. This includes building relationships between internal groups and external constituencies, staying up to date or sharing information.

But these services are only one way to take advantage of social media for enhanced collaboration. Others include:

  • Blogs: They can be especially useful for team leaders who want to regularly share guidance and insights with groups of internal or external “subscribers.”
  • Microblogs: They differ from blogs in that their content tends to be shorter and simpler — often just a sentence or two.
  • Wikis: These informational websites allow multiple users to edit content from their web browsers. (Think Wikipedia.)
  • Social search and tagging: They can also cultivate cooperation by adding a social component to the search and use of existing documents and information resources in digital formats.
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About the Author

Samuel Greengard

Samuel is a business and technology writer based in West Linn, Oregon. For more information, visit his website: www.greengard.com and follow him on and Twitter:

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