Collaboration is the basis of any modern society, but many businesses think that collaboration is too expensive to engage meaningfully. Most costs people associate with collaboration are infrastructure and software related. But, the most costly aspect of collaboration is the work, time, money and energy required to actually communicate, understand each other, and manage information across multiple channels. When looking at these costs, the cost of doing collaboration needs to be weighed against the cost of not collaborating.
The most basic aspect of collaboration, understanding is a fundamental human desire. If you understand customers', employees', shareholders' or supply/distribution chain partners' needs and communication styles, you are able to interact with them in a positive manner. With modern communication technologies, finding understanding through collaboration tools is extremely affordable and can be one of the most rewarding IT investments you make.
Before the telephone (100-150 years ago, depending on location), collaboration required costly trips, in both time and money, to the location where your constituents lived. After the telephone became widely used, communication was possible, but limited. You cannot share documents, read body language, co-work on projects, or manage complex financial transactions over a solely audio technology. Thus, even with the advancement of the telephone, collaboration across large distances was cost prohibitive. Only with the integration of audio, visual, and electronic information management (documents, ERP and CRM programs, social media, etc) is understanding through collaboration affordable for long-distance business relationships.
In the current economy, data is everything. There are two major business processes that give your business control over data: storage and management. Collaboration tools are focused on the management of data, specifically your interpersonal data: employees and customers and how they interact with your business.
With the proper information management tools, you can build collaboration across multiple locations, increase understanding of your constituents' needs, and compete in a global information economy. Without the proper collaboration tools, you will be limited in scope of business, quality of employee, and customer reach.
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