They expect their work and home environments to be more seamless. Customer expectations have changed dramatically as well. They want more personalized services and they want them now. Providing instant responses to customer queries is one of the main things helping organizations stay competitive. While public platforms no doubt enable quick responses, queries quickly become unmanageable when you have to respond to an ever growing list of customers, employees, and partners.
Personalizing or customizing a public social network like Facebook is difficult As a mass consumer product, there is little you can do in how you organize your documents and how you interact with your coworkers and teams. Search capabilities are thinly spread, and tracking down conversations becomes a headache when you have to go back to a conversation you had months or years ago.
These platforms are great when you have an instant need to connect, but fail hard when you need a document management system that keeps an organized archive of your activity. Employee engagement has always been a hard nut to crack. While social media may often be considered the marketing department's foster child, it affects the entire organization and has the potential to deliver immediate solutions when implemented right. The familiarity of Twitter and Facebook makes social intranet software with collaboration tools friendly and easy to use.
These platforms are also significant to how employees learn and interact. Placing an ROI on adoption and user engagement is difficult and challenging, but the productivity rewards are very real. The true potential of online collaboration tools is yet to be fully realized as the question of whether an intranet solution is better than a public platform continues to perplex many organizations. For brands and businesses, everything starts with investing in an employee culture that embodies the organization's vision and social intranet software is well positioned to do exactly that.
Online collaboration tools transform work from being a place to being about access. With a computer and a browser, including mobile devices like the iPad, you are still plugged in and are able to receive and post updates. Your business has likely started to feel the pressure from social media. Employees may subtly demand collaboration tools in the workplace. It's just a matter of time before your needs and demands cross paths. The online collaboration tools in social intranet software are well positioned to meet the needs of both worlds and get to the next phase of workplace collaboration.
The most comprehensive resource for managers and future managers who want to make a real difference in their organizations. From employee engagement to internal communications to productivity and talent management, you??? Help departments work beautifully - no matter where they are - with an intranet that does more than just store old HR docs. See what is truly possible with Communifire's modern, flexible intranet solution. Tour Feature Tour Take a tour of Communifire's features.
Mobile Apps Your intranet. Solutions Intranet Software Zero learning curve. No IT department required. Internal Communications Software Communicate important news to your employees. Knowledge Management Software Build a living library of self-serve knowledge. Collaboration Software Never miss a milestone again. Document Management Software Keep all your documents in one place. Employee Engagement Software Engage your people in a digital workspace. There are many benefits that come along with collaboration when successfully pulled-off, including the following: Saved time - Time is of the essence in any industry, and the more you can save, the better.
When employees collaborate with each other, they're saving your organization time by achieving the end goal in a much quicker fashion. Time is money, after all, and the more you can save by embracing collaboration tools, the better. Strengthened team relationships - In many ways, your team is like a family unit. Building effective working relationships between members, then, is important.
Collaboration tools are an excellent way for team members to become more comfortable with the concept of working together to reach a common goal. In this way, it serves a dual purpose that can benefit your business. Improved project management - Managing a project or team can be more difficult a process than many people give it credit for. Collaboration tools are a great way to ensure you're getting the most out of your team, as they improve communication and keep easily avoidable mistakes at bay. When people work together, the chances that things will fall through the cracks dissipate immensely.
Better organization - It's easy for things to go missing when you're in the middle of a project, which can result in headaches and wasted time. Better organization is something that every company should strive for, even if things are already going well. In many cases, collaboration tools are the best medicine when you're trying to improve organization. The levels of collaboration in your organization.
Team level - At it's core, collaboration is about a small group of individuals usually between two and ten working together to solve a problem. This is often referred to as "team level collaboration," which tends to be the most intense, as well as the most effective. When a team collaborates on a project, members can rest easy knowing they're part of a small group and only have to focus on what's going on inside of it. Community level - Once you start moving past team level collaboration, you'll typically find yourself operating at the community level.
In modern businesses, this typically involves working with others in your social community to improve things on a larger level. This could include customer service, the UI of your social space, or content creation strategies. While a community is typically larger than a team, it's one step below the network level of collaboration. Network level - If team level collaboration is viewed as a micro approach, network level collaboration is macro.
Network level takes into consideration not only your organization, but the outside individuals who are directly tied into what you do??? The major difference between community and network level collaboration is that the former typically involves only internal employees, while the latter serves both internal and external audiences. The elements of online collaboration tools for business. What is online collaboration? To put it simply What does online collaboration do for business? The 3 crucial elements of online collaboration.
A skilled leader - Just as every ship needs a captain, online collaboration doesn't work efficiently without having a skilled leader around. Leadership usually comes in the form of a single person or a small managerial team who exhibit the skills necessary to guide a team through a project. While leadership skills are essential, they're not enough.
An effective leader will have at least some experience with online collaboration tools, perhaps having worked as part of a team via social intranet software at one point or another.
A competent team - Having a solid leader around is surely important, but it's not enough. A competent team is essential to getting the most out of online collaboration tools, comprised of employees who have the ability to adapt their style of work without issue, and are also able to contribute ideas and information to move a project forward.
All team members should exhibit strong communication skills as well as the ability to work well with others. In many ways, choosing the right team for online collaboration is not unlike staffing a traditional business, although the technological element means managers need to be even more discerning in who they allow on their team.
A shared goal - One of the most crucial aspects of quality online collaboration is that everyone needs to be working toward a common goal. This is what drives people to give it their all and truly add to the conversation. Whatever the goal is, it's important that it be outlined ahead of time so everyone involved can remind themselves of what they're working for. A goal is only achievable if it's clear and present. Trust - Trust is the thread that binds everything together in online collaboration. Many instances cause the people involved to rely on each other to a certain degree, especially with specific tasks.
Strategy - The first thing to think about when adjusting your process is strategy. Strategy directly affects how you reach your goal, and it's especially pertinent when working with others. Having a solid plan that you can refer back to when necessary will assure you not only stay on track, but don't run into issues along the way.
Typically, strategy is outlined by whomever is leading a team. Priorities - Once a strategy is set in place, priorities need to be outlined. Each person who is part of a team will likely have their own unique set of priorities, although it's not uncommon for certain individuals to handle similar tasks. As with having a solid strategy to follow, properly outlined priorities will keep you from straying from the path you set for yourself.
Data sharing policies - No one wants to police members of their team, but it's always important to remember to implement data sharing policies when working with people in a collaborative space.
In many cases, rigid guidelines won't be necessary. When you're dealing with sensitive information, setting clear policies around data sharing can be an integral part of seeing a project through in the most secure manner possible. Social intranet software - Without social intranet software, online collaboration wouldn't be nearly as streamlined as it is today.
Company intranet software serves as a portal that allows employees to build discussions, share documents, schedule meetings and perform a variety of other essential tasks. Online collaboration tools are becoming more and more commonplace as time goes on and is a natural evolution from the forums, information silos, and other platforms that came before it.
Teleconferencing via chat apps, a VoIP phone system, or other tools is a great way for people who are working together to actually have a face-to-face conversation without having to be in the same room. Most businesses use these platforms to some extent, and some wouldn't be able to get by without it. When combined with online collaboration tools, teleconferencing tools can be quite powerful. Integration with existing systems - Integrating collaboration tools and teleconferencing tools with systems that already exist in your business is important.
Sales, inventory, and other existing systems can sometimes get lost in the shuffle when transitioning to an online collaborative environment, but they don't have to. More often than not, it comes down to choosing the right type of social intranet software , as not all options allow you to consolidate everything into one spot. Online collaboration tools for business in the modern age: While no two social intranet software platforms are exactly alike, there are a number of common features that are standard among most, including: Document sharing - The ability to share documents in a streamlined manner is important for those who are attempting to collaborate.
Most social intranet software platforms feature robust document management systems, ensuring that you and the rest of your team can share essential files with ease. Internal communication system - Your team needs to be able to communicate in as efficient a manner as possible to stay on task and avoid overlooking important aspects of a project. Well-designed social intranet software can replace email and other commonly used vehicles for communication, and since everything is located in one central place, finding archived conversations is a breeze.
Content creation platform - There are many reasons why you might consider publishing content both internally and externally - inbound marketing comes to mind. Great social intranet software comes along with a content creation platform that allows you to publish attractive blogs and wikis with a few simple clicks, effectively bringing in a new audience and increase your organization's presence on the web. Robust search - Looking for an old document, conversation or blog post that has seemingly gone missing?
It's scenarios such as this when a robust internal search feature can make or break your experience. Using tags and other variables, social intranet software allows you to find what you're looking for in a quick and efficient manner. Personal and group calendars - Sometimes the most difficult aspect of the workday is keeping track of meetings and other events that require your attention. Personal and group calendars are inherent features in most social intranet software platforms, and they can make all the difference in the world with your ability to stay present and involved at all times.
How to tell if your business is ready for online collaboration tools. How though can you tell if your business is ready for online collaboration tools? Here are 5 telltale signs. You already have a socially collaborative culture. The need for content aggregation is rising.
You have high employee turnover. Could online collaboration tools help cut down your turnover rate? Project management is a headache. Tips for implementing online collaboration tools into your business. If you're able to internalize the following tips, you should be able to get on track with minimal interruption should a problem occur - Start slow, but start now - Transitioning to an entirely new type of work environment can be a jarring process, especially for team members who have never used online collaboration tools in the past.
Starting slow allows you and your team to dip your toes into the water rather than dive in head first, which typically results in less stress and associated issues. If your team is overly confused, productivity is only going to fall. Choose the right social intranet software - With so many different options to choose from, finding social intranet software that is right for your company can be a trying experience. Avoid one-size-fits-all software, which cannot be tailored specifically to the needs of your organization.
Work with a collaboration expert - For some people, online collaboration is not only a new and exciting concept, but something to base a career on. Collaboration experts are out there, many of which have developed their own proprietary software and know the ins and outs of working in a socially collaborative environment. Having someone on-hand for at least a short period of time is one of the best ways to get a team up to speed with online collaboration and will keep potential issues from popping up.
Tips for getting the most out of online collaboration tools for business. Here are a few examples: Focus on open communication - In order for collaboration to truly work, communication has to be placed at the forefront of every project. Your team should always feel comfortable communicating about concerns or questions they may have, as well as whatever other input might push a project in a forward direction. Team leaders should do whatever they can to foster a more open environment for communication whenever possible.
Schedule training sessions - Learning how to use social intranet software is typically an easy process, although training your team can make things even simpler. Training sessions can be completed within a physical office or remotely via teleconferencing, and they don't have to be time-consuming.
Go over the basics, and if your employees are receptive to it, schedule more detailed sessions to cover every aspect of your platform in as thorough a manner as possible. Identify key employees - In every organization, there are a handful of employees who set the bar for productivity, ingenuity, and work ethic. Identifying those who are most likely to steer your company in the right direction Hold daily status meetings - Social intranet software is an excellent tool for ensuring your entire team is on the same page throughout the course of a project Daily status meetings can be exceptionally helpful, as they allow employees to voice questions, comments, and concerns before the day gets going.
The end result is fewer hurdles and a more effective approach to the workday, especially when there are many projects being handled at the same time. Set a clear outline - No matter what project you??? Many of the entries include information about the topic, the participants, the shared instruments such as the Large Hadron Collider if any, funding, and the type of collaboratory, based on a proposed typology.
Challenges for geographically dispersed groups include members being blind and invisible to one another; time zone differences; differences across institutions, countries, and cultures; and uneven distribution of members across participating locations. People working with others at distant locations are both invisible to those colleagues Bell and Kozlowski, and blind to their actions and situations.
In addition, people working virtually with remote colleagues are often unaware of the detailed context of those colleagues' work Martins, Gilson, and Maynard, Research has shown that face-to-face communication is a valuable contributor to team performance Pentland, Without explicit communication Olson and Olson, or opportunities for periodic in-person visits, remote others do not know what individuals are working on, what their roadblocks and challenges are, and how they can help or be helped Cramton, Technology solutions such as those outlined later in this chapter can help provide group members with the awareness they need to collaborate effectively, but group members must use these tools for this to happen.
In other words, people need to take extra effort to report to remote others what they are working on, what the open issues are, and in general what the current context of work is, using e-mail, videoconferencing, teleconferences, or other electronic media. There are additional issues of awareness not about the details of work but about the higher-level context of work. For example, a manager might unwittingly schedule a meeting during a remote location's predicted blizzard, or, crossing country boundaries, during hours outside of their normal workweek e.
Conversations that include people at the same location may also include references to weather, politics, and sports familiar to the local participants, but not to those in remote locations Haines, Olson, and Olson, Finally, people starting a virtual collaboration may have difficulty establishing a work norm, and individuals joining an existing virtual group may have difficulty learning and adhering to such a norm once it has been established.
Scheduling meetings that include participants from around the world can be a challenge because of people working with collaborators in different time zones. Constraints on available meeting times can range from merely being an hour off to having no overlap in people's working days Kirkman and Mathieu, These constraints can lead to inconveniences to group members, such as the need to calculate and document accurate times among collaborators.
Alternatively, some group members may have to make compromises to their own schedules, such as meeting early in the morning before their typical workday begins, during lunch, or late in the evening Massey, Montoya-Weiss, and Hung, ; Cummings, Espinosa, and Pickering, Science groups increasingly cross university boundaries.
Academic institutions have different teaching schedules some schools are on the quarter system, some semester, some intensive 8-week sessions. Different institutions also have different interpretations of rules about use of human subjects or about who owns intellectual property Cummings and Kiesler, , In addition, academic institutions use different technologies. Crossing country boundaries can create challenges regarding laws and expectations about intellectual property.
In particular, regulations about the use of scientific specimens can differ, especially in human medicine. Laws and expectations related to intellectual property differ not only in terms of ownership of discoveries, but also in terms of the use of ideas and writings of others, as expressed in different definitions of copyright and plagiarism Snow et al. Expectations can also differ around protecting the privacy of human research subjects e. Even more subtle than differences in laws and expectations about intellectual property are differences in unspoken norms of work, definitions of various terms, and work style expectations Kirkman, Gibson, and Kim, For example, in the United States, organizational decisions are often made by a high-level steering group and then announced so that others will buy in.
In Japan and India, the decision-making process is much more consultative, as decisions are worked out in small groups to gain buy-in before being announced more ceremonially to the whole organization Gibson and Gibbs, Subtle factors about conversational style also can differ. A conversation including people from these two cultures can create impressions of disrespect on the one hand and assessment that the other has nothing to say on the other.
Although beyond the scope of this report, there are many cultural differences when working across country boundaries, and these can have important effects on communication and ultimately effectiveness Fussell and Setlock, Some very large, geographically distributed research organizations e. Often, members of geographically dispersed groups are not evenly distributed across all participating locations O'Leary and Cummings, The culture and communication style of the headquarters typically dominate, and the group members at remote locations may experience lower status and less power, while their needs and progress are invisible to others Koehne, Shih, and Olson, Power and attention are more evenly distributed if each location has a critical mass of people, although this presents its own challenges.
As noted in Chapter 5 , Polzer et al. In particular, conflict was highest and trust was lowest when there were two co-located subgroups e. As discussed in Chapter 4 , individuals with social skills, such as those who score high on personality inventories as extroverts, are more likely to easily monitor and respond appropriately to actions and attitudes of others in their group or team McCrae and Costa, Social skills are likely to be especially valuable in distributed groups, given that members need to communicate regularly and explicitly about the work being done.
Trust is an important binder of any group or team, and engendering trust is especially important when members have infrequent contact with each other and few opportunities to directly interact face-to-face Jarvenpaa, Knoll, and Leidner, Thus another salient member characteristic is technological readiness—a disposition to learn new technologies and to access training to make the learning easy. Also required at the individual level is the openness to explore new ways of working, in which one explicitly communicates actions that normally require no special thought Blackburn, Furst, and Rosen, In addition, the individual must be willing to commit the time needed to learn the new technologies, both to get started and then to share best practices as the technology is adapted to the work.
Because remote collaborators cannot see and interact with each other directly and may have to overcome divisive boundaries, they often must learn new habits of working, many of them through technologies. In addition to good e-mail habits e. There is growing evidence that effective leadership can help science groups and teams meet the challenges of collaborating across long distances. For example, Hoch and Kozlowski conducted a study of virtual teams and found that when teams were more virtual in nature, traditional, hierarchical leadership was not significantly related to team performance, whereas shared leadership discussed in Chapter 6 was significantly related to performance.
This result was expected because the lack of face-to-face contact and often asynchronous nature of electronic communication makes it more difficult for team leaders to directly motivate members and manage team dynamics. The authors also found that for these teams, structural supports were more related to team performance than hierarchical leadership. Structural supports provide stability and reduce ambiguity in ways that may compensate for the uncertainty that characterizes virtual environments. Such supports include providing fair and transparent rewards for virtual teamwork and maintaining ongoing, transparent communications while managing information flow.
These and other leadership strategies that can help increase the effectiveness of virtual science teams are discussed below. One of the important leadership activities for distributed groups occurs in meetings. The leader must explicitly solicit commentary and contributions from everyone, even polling individuals across all locations Duarte and Snyder, This ensures not only that needed information and opinions are heard, but also that those at the smaller, distant locations feel respected for being asked.
Also, when scheduling meetings among people who reside in disparate time zones, it is important that the leader fairly distribute the inconvenience of working outside of regular work hours to participate in the real-time meeting Tang et al. Also, the leader must be proactive in finding out what team or group members are doing Duarte and Snyder, In a co-located setting, this is done by informally walking the hallways. In a distributed science group or team, it requires regular contact with all members.
Frequent contacts, by e-mail instant messaging, voice, or video, are critical to supplement more formal scientific or technical progress reports. This contact also helps members know that they are valued members of the collaboration. The experience bases of individuals from different locations are likely to differ more greatly than the experience bases of individuals who are co-located.
As discussed in Chapter 3 , shared experience facilitates the development of two interpersonal processes that have been shown to enhance team performance—shared mental models shared understanding of goals, tasks, and responsibilities and transactive memory knowledge of each team member's unique expertise Kozlowski and Ilgen, In addition, team members' direct interactions shape team climate shared understanding of strategic imperatives —another process shown to improve team effectiveness.
As such, virtual teams and groups are more likely to be successful if they engage in activities designed to overcome the lack of opportunities for shared experience, focusing, for example, on establishing common vocabularies and work style as explicit goals Olson and Olson, Kick-off meetings are often used as a forum for members to explicitly assess habits and expectations, discuss differences, and agree on ways to resolve differences to increase chances for success Duarte and Snyder, To enhance readiness for collaboration, leaders can engage with members to foster intrinsic motivations, create extrinsic motivations, develop trust and respect, and thus improve group or team effectiveness.
Individual members of a distributed group may have intrinsic internal motivation to work with the other members, either through personal ties or based on the realization that they need each other's expertise in order to succeed. Both of these behaviors generate respect; when people feel they are respected, they are more likely to be motivated to contribute Olson and Olson, If these conditions do not hold, then the leader may need to create extrinsic external motivators, including group rewards and individual incentives that reflect how well the person contributed to the group discussed further in Chapter 8.
Activities designed to foster trust and team or group self-efficacy—two other team processes shown to enhance effectiveness in non-science teams—may bolster the chance of a science team or group's success. First, because trust is slow to develop in a distributed group with fewer occasions for people to learn how trustworthy others are and to become familiar with others' personal lives , leaders could provide exercises or activities for developing trust.
For example, virtual chat sessions, in which people are encouraged to talk about their non-work lives and share things about themselves that indicate vulnerability, have been shown to build trust Zheng et al. Although such sessions can be valuable, the need to develop trust is one of the primary reasons that many teams conduct a face-to-face meeting of all participants at the outset of a project.
Engaging the participants in team professional development activities can also build teamwork and trust see Chapter 5. This attitude encourages people to do extra work or find solutions when obstacles arise. Again, team-building exercises can help engender this attitude. As with trust, team self-efficacy enhances success in co-located as well as distributed teams, but when team members are distant, these processes are harder to establish and maintain. When work is routine, such as on an auto assembly line, most people know what to do and what others are doing to coordinate their work.
When work is complex, it is more challenging to keep track of what needs to be done and who is going to do which tasks. Collaborating at a distance is particularly difficult when the work is complex, as it is in team science Olson and Olson, For example, in a study of software and hardware development projects that were high in complexity, Cummings, Espinosa, and Pickering found that spatial boundaries working across different cities and temporal boundaries working across time zones were both associated with coordination delay.
Coordination delay was defined in this study as the extent to which it took a long time to get a response from another member, member communication required frequent clarification, and members had to rework tasks. One solution for managing complex work at a distance is to divide up tasks into modules so that most of the coordination and discussion happens among people who are co-located, essentially reducing the critical communication required across locations Herbsleb and Grinter, Because of the stresses of distance to awareness, communication, and coordination, the design of the work is critical Malone and Crowston, , and cognitive task analysis may aid in the distribution of work see Chapter 4.
If it is not possible to change the design of the work, then group or team members will be required to engage in extensive efforts to coordinate their research tasks. Geographically distributed science teams and larger groups are typically composed of members from separate organizations e. The culture and incentive structures of these organizations influence the collaborative readiness of groups or teams that cross its boundaries. An organization's culture sets the stage for the degree of competitiveness among, and status of, its members. The members within an organization work to act in ways that are aligned with reward structures.
Misalignments, due to the incentive structure being individually focused versus team-focused or knowledge-driven versus product-driven, can have deleterious effects on its members' ability to successfully engage in team science. In academics, disciplines vary in their competitiveness. For example, some scientists conducting research on Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome AIDS , such as geneticists, immunologists, and pharmacists, may be intensely competitive because of the large amount of money and prestige associated with finding a cure.
Coordination of distributed work is always easier when a scientific discipline or community has a culture of sharing and cooperation Knorr-Cetina, ; Shrum, Genuth and Chompalov, ; Bos, In projects requiring individual scientists to submit data to a shared repository, reward structures e. GenBank, a genetic sequence database of the National Institutes of Health NIH , requires genomic data to be entered into the database as a precondition for publishing.
These datasets are the standard format for the output of hard work by the scientists, but differ from traditional publications. Nature editors would then certify this review process when young professors came up for tenure with these kinds of publications. In , there were Molecule Pages published, 88 under review, and under preparation see further discussion of authorship, promotion, and tenure in the following chapter. Competition can also play a role in scientific research.
Not only is it a great motivator, but also it is the most immediate source of corroboration and error correction. Creating parallel teams is common in particle physics. For example, as detailed earlier in Box , two separate teams built and operated different detectors at the Large Hadron Collider in order to find and examine the Higgs particle. These large international teams worked independently and announced their results simultaneously, yielding two broadly consistent sets of results that have been accepted with high confidence. The leader of a distributed science group or team is often affected by decisions made at the organizational level, such as the university.
The organization may dictate the design of the research project or designate how many people are located at each site, which can in turn affect how interdependent the tasks are, with the consequent stresses on communication and coordination. The funding agency or organization ultimately determines the project budget, which in turn dictates how much money is available for technical capabilities and support. Although the leader can argue for the importance of technology suites, support, and training to facilitate remote collaboration, the keeper of the funds often makes the final allocation.
When multiple organizations are involved, as is often the case in long-distance collaborations, there are additional issues to work out. Explicit efforts to align research goals across institutions may delegate the institution-specific goals to a secondary level. Legal and financial issues may have to be negotiated, for example, to reconcile varying approaches to allocation of project funds in different countries. In large academic research projects, there are issues related to who gets credit for the results, not just the publications, but at the organizational level, as well as who gets credit for the funding award and who owns the intellectual property.
Although many organizations seek to foster flexibility and creativity through a flatter organizational hierarchy, this approach works best for co-located teams, where it is easier to communicate and share context and tacit information. For large, distributed groups, work goes more smoothly with at least some authority and designated roles and responsibilities Hinds and McGrath, ; Shrum, Genuth, and Chompalov, One recent study found that leadership that is shared and provides structural supports e.
Organizations and group leaders may benefit from the use of an online assessment tool called the Collaboration Success Wizard, see http: The respondent can ask for immediate feedback on where the team or group is strong, where vulnerabilities might lie, and, importantly, what to do about them. Following completion of the surveys, project leaders can obtain a summary report, again showing strengths, vulnerabilities, and what to do about them, because there are occasions when different individuals or subgroups may have different views about their work.
In this section, we first review the kinds of technologies that have been used to support distributed work, with different kinds of work benefiting from different constellations of technologies. The committee's framework follows closely that of Sarma, Redmiles, and van der Hoek , categorizing technologies as communication tools, coordination tools, and information repositories, adding significant aspects of the computational environment see Box Although we refer to specific technologies, the point is not to recommend a specific current technology, because it will quickly be replaced with newer versions.
We rather wish to emphasize the types of technology that are useful and why. We then present an analytic scheme to guide people in choosing the right constellation of technologies for their work. Classification of Technologies to Support Distance Work. Communication Tools E-mail and texting.
E-mail and Texting E-mail is ubiquitous, and many experts have characterized it as the first successful collaboration technology Sproull and Kiesler, ; Satzinger and Olfman, ; Grudin, ; Whittaker, Bellotti, and Moody, One of the cornerstones of its success is that today it is independent of the device or application used to send and receive it, and, with attachments, it is a way to share almost anything the recipient can read.
As happens with other technologies, people also use it for managing time, reminding them of things to do, and keeping track of steps in a workflow Mackay, ; Carley and Wendt, ; Whittaker and Sidner, ; Whittaker, Bellotti, and Moody, Instant Messaging IM , sharing primarily simple text messages with another person or even a group, has made significant inroads into organizations. In some cases, it has replaced the use of e-mail, phone, and even face-to-face communication Muller et al. There is evidence that it is sometimes used for complex work discussions, not just simple back and forth about mundane issues Isaacs et al.
It is also used effectively for quick questions, scheduling, organizing social interactions, and keeping in touch with others Nardi, Whittaker, and Bradner, Except for e-mail attachments which can include elaborate drawings, figures, and videoclips , the technologies listed above are text-based, even in the abbreviated world of texting. Voice and Video There are a myriad of opportunities to communicate beyond text in today's world, and many are used heavily. The telephone trumps text in being able to convey tone and to have immediacy of response.
Many people have telephones from which they can teleconference, at least on a small scale. Half-duplex lines are capable of transmitting only one direction at a time. As a consequence, often the speaker will talk longer than necessary, not sure if the recipient has understood Doherty-Sneedon et al.
Additionally, conversational turn-taking is often signaled by an utterance from the one who wants to take the turn while the current speaker is speaking Gibson and Gibbs, These are entirely cut out in a half-duplex line, creating awkward competitions for who will speak next. Although tone of voice can add meaning to the words said, facial expressions and body language add another layer.
In large meetings, video helps convey who is present without an explicit roll call, and by eye contact and expression, conveys who is paying attention. One can see not only the people but also the situation or context they are witnessing. The richness of voice and video, however, can create barriers to people who are from different cultures.
As noted earlier, the expected pause structures in conversation are different in the Western and Eastern cultures, often creating miscues. Because Westerners are used to a shorter pause structure than Easterners, they will dominate the conversation Hinnant et al. Similarly, when video shows facial expressions and eye contact information, because those modes of expression are interpreted differently in different cultures, people again may make wrong attributions of interest and consent.
For greatest effectiveness, a video connection should be arranged to mimic a sense of physical presence.
Eye contact and gaze awareness are key linguistic and social mediators of communication Kendon, ; Argyle and Cook, In video, as in real life, people tend to focus on the face of the person with whom they are talking and attempt to make eye contact by looking at the eyes of the person. Unfortunately, to appear to make eye contact over video requires a person to look not at the projected eyes of the remote person but at the camera.
Therefore, to convey eye contact, extra effort needs to be expended to move the video of the remote person as close to the camera as possible. Without this careful adjustment, meeting participants will appear as if they are glancing sideways or at the top of other participants' heads, both of which can be interpreted as disinterest Grayson and Monk, Conversations are often accompanied by gestures referring to an object, a document, data, or a visual image. Blogs, Forums, and Wikis Longer conversations from larger numbers of people are usually accomplished through chat rooms, blogs, forums, and wikis.
Chats are nearly real-time, whereas blogs, forums, and wikis have a longer time between contributions. When used for distributed science, all are typically restricted to a designated work group rather than being public. Wikis similarly are free-for-all conversations, but are even less structred in formatting. Forums are typically set up for discussion threads, whereas wikis can take any form whatsoever.
The large groups of scientists participating in the Biomedical Informatics Research Collaboratory used wikis extensively to share test protocols, tips, frequently asked questions, announcements of the availability of new software tools, and articles of interest Olson et al. Virtual Worlds Virtual worlds are graphical, 3-D representations of physical spaces and have drawn considerable attention from both industry and academia Bainbridge, They allow a person to experience a realistic environment, usually through an avatar.
Avatars can explore a space, manipulate objects, and, when networked together, interact with other people's avatars. The Meta-Institute for Computational Astrophysics is a collaboratory based exclusively in virtual worlds.
No IT department required. These limitations of virtual collaboration may not be obvious to members and leaders of the team or group. While the methods and approach we are using to connect together change agents in a community to organize around and realize strategic change are very much still emerging, I can say from experience now that the following is generally required:. Some very large, geographically distributed research organizations e. A competent team is essential to getting the most out of online collaboration tools, comprised of employees who have the ability to adapt their style of work without issue, and are also able to contribute ideas and information to move a project forward. For more information on Second Life, see http: But for those who are principally tasked with carrying their organizations forward into the digital future , they are currently facing perhaps the single most challenging large-scale enterprise activity of our time.
The institute provides professional seminars, popular lectures, and other public outreach events in the game Second Life 3 Djorgovski et al. Such simulations of real worlds have been in common use for training in the military for a long time Johnson and Valente, Although multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft 4 also allow for a wide range of playful interactions, Brown and Thomas speculated that real leadership skills might be learned in a game such as this because it involves extensive quests with a substantial numbers of players. A class of technologies exists to support collaborators in finding a time to work synchronously, and a second set of technologies supports coordination during their time together.
Shared Calendars Although the original introduction of group calendars was met with resistance, many organizations have seen value in their use Grudin, ; Grudin and Palen, Calendars support the coordination of meetings, finding a time when the important participants are available. When colleagues do not respond to requests in their usual timely way, one can view their calendars to discover whether they are out of town or in a meeting.
The information also allows for planning when to contact a person e. Shared calendars can be particularly valuable for geographically dispersed colleagues who are in different time zones, reminding people of when the workdays overlap and where they do not. Awareness Tools Today, awareness information is conveyed in the status indicators of IM systems.
With IM, the user has control over what status indicator to convey to others, but the feature comes at the cost of remembering to set it and actually setting it. The cost of receiving the status setting, however, is very low.
Many IM clients list the person's chosen colleagues who agree to be monitored, and their status is typically listed in iconic form on the edge of the screen.