How Do You Collaborate?

By Eileen Feretic  |  Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 00:11 AM

By Eileen Feretic

These days, no man--or woman--is an island, especially in the workplace, where collaboration is critical to business success. But how often do U.S. workers collaborate, what tools do they use and how do they feel about them?

These and other questions were answered in the recent study "Building the Future of Collaboration," which was conducted by Forrester Consulting (www.forrester.com) on behalf of Adobe Systems (www.adobe.com). The findings show that both daily collaboration (35 percent) and weekly collaboration (34 percent) are common for the majority of survey respondents in the United States.

When it comes to tools, the "telephone (87 percent) and, when possible, face-to-face meetings (77 percent) are the predominant means of collaboration." When the work involves people in different locations and time zones, e-mail messages and attachments (77 percent) are the primary mode of collaborating.

However, employees don't appear to be thrilled with current collaboration tools. According to the survey, U.S. workers "complain tools and methods need to be faster and more efficient (66 percent); reduce the need for retyping gathered information (55 percent); reduce paper (51 percent); and be more engaging (47 percent)."

The survey also covered newer technologies, such as conferencing and Web 2.0, and found that "conferencing technologies are catching on with distributed teams but have not reached critical mass." Only 11 percent of respondents are using video conferencing (but 42 percent believe it can improve collaboration), 17 percent are using team sites and 25 percent are using instant messaging tools.

Though respondents said that Web 2.0 technologies meet some of their needs, these tools currently "do not present a mass-market solution." According to the Forrester survey, adoption is only 7 percent for social networks, 5 percent for blogs and 4 percent for wikis. Not surprisingly, the use of these new technologies is highest among younger workers.

The tough economy in 2009 undoubtedly stalled the growth of collaboration technologies. But, let's face it, doing business today increasingly requires us to work more closely with more people who are scattered around the world.

Technology provides the collaborative tools that can make those global interactions happen quicker and less expensively than ever before. So companies need to face the inevitable and figure out how to make collaboration work for them.

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