What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit.

What is Collaboration?

Collaboration is a working practice whereby individuals work together to a common purpose to achieve business benefit. Key features of collaboration tools are:

  • Synchronous collaboration such as online meetings and instant messaging
  • Asynchronous collaboration such as shared work spaces and annotations

Many organizations are also looking at Free-form Collaboration tools to improve collaboration and reduce the number of emails used for collaboration.


Collaboration IW Cover Download AIIM's new research and find out why business leaders see collaboration as ‘crucial,’ but are confused by the rapid convergence of tools.

The survey reveals the importance of collaboration to business success - yet organizations are not providing alternatives to consumer-grade collaboration tools used by employees.


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 organization. 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 for preservation in the repository.

Many organizations see value in using Web 2.0 tools or social software within their organizations for improved collaboration and innovation, and this is then often referred to as Enterprise 2.0. AIIM defines Enterprise 2.0 as a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise.

Social software for an enterprise must according to Andrew McAfee, Associate Professor, Harvard Business School have the following functionality to work well:

  • Search: allow users to search for other users or content
  • Links: group similar users or content together
  • Authoring: include blogs and wikis
  • Tags: allow users to tag content
  • Extensions: recommendations of users or content based on profile
  • Signals: allow people to subscribe to users or content with RSS feeds

He recommends that the software must be easy to use and not impose any rigid structure for users. The roll-out should be informal, but on a common platform to enable future collaboration between areas. He also recommends strong and visible managerial support to achieve this.

The above list was expanded upon by Dion Hinchcliffe in 2007 by adding the following 4 functions:

  • Freeform: no barriers to authorship, i.e. free from a learning curve or restrictions.
  • Network-oriented: all content must be Web-addressable.
  • Social: stresses transparency (to access), diversity (in content and community members) and openness (to structure)
  • Emergence: must provide approaches that detect and leverage the collective wisdom of the community.

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