It’s funny but we usually think about collaboration as a good thing. Employees working together to solve problems and to move your business forward is a goal that separates successful organizations from unsuccessful organizations.
So can collaboration be bad? The answer is a resounding NO! Collaboration should be fostered and nurtured for organizations to thrive. Uncontrolled collaboration however, can lead to lost work and lost ideas.
So what is uncontrolled collaboration? Think about the ways your staff works together. Brainstorming meetings are great, right? You would think that when employees put their heads together to work on a specific problem that your organization will benefit. Unfortunately, this is not always the result.
Puzzled? How can working together possibly be bad? The problem is not about collaboration or working together, the problem is in preserving the work product of the collaboration. Meeting notes get lost or every person has their own version. Ideas get lost because they are not properly document or stored in a central location. Work products such as brochures, contracts, memos and such need revision control so everyone’s thoughts and ideas can be captured.
In most organizations these documents get stored on network drives and sent via e-mail. This leads to multiple versions of the same document. In many cases documents are overwritten and work is lost. With revision control and true online document management, unlike simple document file storage, work is never overwritten or lost. So instead of frustrated employees who give up on working together you can have productive employees that all contribute to your success.
Here’s how collaboration should work. Picture a brainstorming meeting where someone is the official note-taker. This person writes up the notes and uploads them the online document management system. The document management system then sends out a message to all participants that the meeting notes are available for review. If another employee wants to make changes to the notes, they can. All they have to do is to check out the document; leaving the previous version viewable to others, edit, and then check it back into the document management system. The system stores and protects the current version and previous versions. This enables the meeting participants to be able contribute to the notes or supporting documents for whatever project they are working on.
The next step in the process is to accomplish the tasks were laid out in the meeting. Again, by keeping documents in an online document management system, staff can work together without overwriting each other’s work. This collaboration model is what most organizations envision when staff works together. However without structure you can wind up with uncontrolled collaboration and frustrated employees.
For more information on using an online document management system to foster collaboration, please visit our business process management and workflow automation page.