How Online Collaboration is Changing Business
Back in 1968 the futurist and urbanist Melvin Webber argued that the world was entering a "Post-City Age", where, thanks to advances in transport and communications, people could locate or work from anywhere: remote rural locations; even mountaintops. Webber was wrong: not only has the internet exploded the potential for communication over long distances, but cities have grown. However, he was correct in one thing: communications technology are transforming the relationship of business with geography, and even the nature of business itself.
Now, this is not to say that online collaboration software is only useful over long distances. Clinked makes perfect sense as an intranet. It is quick to set up, requires no installation, and provides a broad and integrated range of tools, including the ability for employees to create documentation and content together. However, the focus of this post is the role of Clinked in helping people collaborate with clients or on projects over long distances.
Essentially, Clinked is another step closer to making distance irrelevant. What began with post, then telephones, then email, has progressed to a more sophisticated mode of collaboration. This can only accelerate current trends in the changing business landscape. Here are three examples.
Outsourcing is contracting work out to a third party. This may or may not be combined with offshoring - contracting out to a foreign business. Either way, as business is becoming increasingly complex and global, it is becoming more and more necessary to contract out to agencies or consultancies with specialist skills and knowledge. However, there are drawbacks to outsourcing. Sometimes external business don't understand the needs of their clients as fully as they should. Collaboration software can be used to enhance communication and awareness between businesses, to boost the effectiveness of such relationships. Back in 1937, Ronald Coase theorised that the only reason that businesses existed was to reduce the cost of constantly transacting with external parties. Collaboration software reduces these costs by increasing the awareness and responsiveness of those parties.
With the internet came the possibility of telecommuting. At Rabbitsoft, our software enables employees to collaborate in a "virtual office" for some of the time, giving them enhanced flexibility and ensuring we have access to the best pool of talent - even if the talent isn't located right on our doorstep (although talent is not something the City of Cambridge is short of). With rising oil prices and concerns over global warming, telecommuting also brings other benefits. But along with the benefits of flexibility, talent and sustainability, telecommuting has its costs. Sometimes online interaction can mean people fail to work together effectively, and are not aware enough what other team or business members are doing. Clinked overcomes these problems by letting users collaboratively author documents online, share files, and track each others' activity.
Like it or not, offshoring is on the rise. Offshoring is shorthand for moving operations to a foreign country, which may have a variety of benefits such as labour costs, skills, natural resources or weather. Offshoring may be combined with outsourcing - contracting out - or a company may own foreign subsidiaries. Either way, it is essential for to stay informed and for the offshore partner or subsidiary to understand your needs. This is especially difficult over long distances and with diverse cultures involved. Clinked helps overcome these barriers by enabling users to discuss, comment and share information and files easily, meaning both sides stay informed and aware of what the other is doing.