Is online collaboration the future of how companies do business?

Online collaboration involves virtual work environments.
Online collaboration involves virtual work environments.
Matjaz Boncina, iStockphoto

Globalization is a hot buzzword in the media right now, and for good reason. Many corporations are have operations worldwide. A large company might have offices on multiple continents. And some large companies are making unprecedented alliances with competitors. While face-to-face interactions still play an important role in conducting business, it's just not possible to limit all collaborative projects to personal meetings.

That's why many companies are looking into online collaboration. Online collaboration uses the Internet as a common meeting and work space. Instead of sitting in a physical conference room, employees access virtual work environments. That work space might be a shared database in which employees can store and access data in a collaborative way, or it might be as complex as a full-fledged virtual environment. They save their work in a shared database, and everyone works from the same files and data.

Although online collaboration has the potential to allow employees working in different geographic areas to team up on projects, some people have reservations about it. Not only are there technical challenges that companies must address when investing in online collaboration, but there are also social concerns. The way people collaborate in an online environment may be very different from how that same group of people would work together if they were in the same room.

The situation is even more complicated if two different companies wish to collaborate on a project together. Both companies must work to get beyond the competitive mentality. Some corporate executives view business deals with the perspective that their own company must benefit as much as possible, while the other company shouldn't benefit much at all. That attitude doesn't bode well for collaborative projects.

When applied correctly, online collaboration can streamline complicated situations. Whether companies purchase off-the-shelf project management software or commission their own unique applications, they can use these tools to simplify teamwork and increase productivity.

What are the benefits of online collaboration? Keep reading to find out.