- Synchronous, where everyone interacts in real time, as in online meetings, through instant messaging, or via Skype, and
- Asynchronous, where the interaction can be time-shifted, as when uploading documents or annotations to shared workspaces, or making contributions to a wiki
Shared workspaces are among the most visible entries in the collaboration space. Aimed at rolling document and application sharing up with chat and perhaps versioning and other auditing capabilities, they may have more or fewer features, and may be available either for license or on a syndicated basis “in the cloud,” as they say. Google Docs is a notable example of the latter, Microsoft SharePoint and EMC Documentum eRoom of the former.
Wikis are perhaps best thought of as online encyclopedias or “how-to” manuals. They are applications that let users freely create, edit, and reorganize content using a Web browser. Perhaps the most visible example of this breed is Wikipedia, and variants exist throughout enterprises of all kinds and sizes.
The plus and the minus of wikis are that more or less anyone can enter anything into the resource – so while they’re a great way to capture and share what people know, they also must be vetted to ensure nothing erroneous gets planted within (intentionally or otherwise). The good news is that, over time, active wikis tend to be of fairly high quality due to the self-policing nature of an engaged user base.
Collaboration at the conceptual level, involves:
- Awareness – We become part of a working entity with a shared purpose
- Motivation – We drive to gain consensus in problem solving or development
- Self-synchronization – We decide as individuals when things need to happen
- Participation – We participate in collaboration and we expect others to participate
- Mediation – We negotiate and we collaborate together and find a middle point
- Reciprocity – We share and we expect sharing in return through reciprocity
- Reflection – We think and we consider alternatives
- Engagement – We proactively engage rather than wait and see
Collaboration relies on openness and knowledge sharing but also some level of focus and accountability on the part of the business organizations. Governance should be established addressing the creation and closing of team workspaces with assignment of responsibility for capturing the emergent results of the collaborative effort.