Work Collaboration Under Enterprise Content Management
Collaboration is incidental to business processes and not yet a structured process by itself. In fact, most collaboration occurs through ad hoc practices. E-mails and instant messaging are popular mediums for collaborative working, and these are quite unstructured.
Enterprise Content Management software can provide more structured forums for collaborative working, like virtual project spaces, whiteboards and Web-conferencing facilities. These are, however, only tools; organizations have to use these to develop structured collaboration practices.
Structuring starts with a clear idea of what needs to be completed to achieve team goals and define who does what. With these clear ideas, a plan to use the available collaboration tools most effectively can be developed.
- Shared Workspaces are virtual electronic meeting places where members of a team can make presentations using audio, video, and graphics. They can also access and interact with the documents on the workspace.
- Discussion forums allow users to review and contribute to discussions on topics of interest to them. Unlike Web meetings, discussion forums allow the users to review and post at times of their own convenience. Threaded discussion under which an original post and responses to it are presented as a continuous thread makes it easy to review the whole debate or discussion.
- Instant messaging is a real-time, text-based conversation among persons separated by short or vast distances. Unlike e-mails, which might remain unanswered for long periods, IM enables immediate to and fro communications.
- Web-conferencing technology enables not only group meetings of persons located all around the world, but also makes it possible to conduct online seminars open to a worldwide audience. Webinars can be highly useful for customer relations, business-partner education, and employee training. Conferencing products come with features such as multimedia presentation facilities, online polling, wikis, blogs, discussion forums, and instant messaging.
- Wikis are web sites where users can add, delete, and edit content. They also typically contain links to other sites, which users can reference to clearly understand the terms used in the wiki. Wikis are ideal to tap into the knowledgebase of employees, business partners, and others. Marketing personnel can use them to share up-to-date market developments and other information. They are also ideal to share best practices among co-workers.
The above tools, and others like search facilities and podcasts and carefully developed collaboration routines, make collaborative working between remotely located team members a regular and highly productive feature of organizational functioning.
What Does Collaboration Achieve?
Collaboration, using the tools available in modern Enterprise Content Management systems as outlined in the last section, provide the following benefits:
- Workers can work together across widely separated distances, in a meaningful way.
- Costs are saved because employee travel expenses are reduced.
- Projects can be completed quicker as workers can track the status of different tasks online (even from the field).
- Productivity increases when there are more interactions across departments, business processes, and even organizations.
- With customers and suppliers in the loop of online communications, customer relationships and supply management can be improved, with consequent benefits in sales volumes and production levels.
Collaborative working is essential in a team endeavor like running a business. The more it can be improved, the better business results can be. However, collaboration is usually not a structured process, like business processes. It tends to be ad hoc and unstructured in practice. Enterprise Content Management systems seek to structure collaborative working by molding it into a structured process to the extent possible, and providing the necessary tools.