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Business collaboration: Real time vs. asynchronous

Working teams today might be in the same office building or halfway around the world. With a variety of workplace setups making the business industry more diverse all the time, business collaboration tools have become an integral solution for remote collaboration. Small and large companies routinely access these tools, and there are numerous tools that provide all-in-one and one-off solutions for business collaboration.

If your business uses a collaboration tool, you may not have thought about its timing unless it causes problems with your workflow. For instance, some companies still rely heavily on email to exchange information during the day. Unless an individual is checking email, it may go unnoticed for hours. That is an example of asynchronous collaboration. Real time collaboration, on the other hand, is a conference call or a chat window. The difference is the immediacy of the message.

When and when not to use real-time collaboration tools

Real-time collaboration tools can work great in some instances. They provide tremendous support in time-sensitive communications and may allow more than one person to provide feedback during the moment. They’re great to use for brainstorming or debating the merits of solutions. For teams that routinely interact with prospects and clients, a real time collaboration tool may work best. For instance, demonstrating the way a product works will require a collaborative tool. Some tools will include one function, while others may include a suite of applications that can benefit your team.

Sometimes, a real-time tool can be more of a distraction than an aide. Chat windows, white boards, and other sharing applications can be used for tasks that are not work related. Also, unless some type of recording or saving feature is included with the application, some real time collaboration tools may not be available for recall after the fact. The cost is often higher with these tools, and they may require certain capabilities like a camera and high speed internet for video conferencing or web conferencing.

When and when not to use asynchronous collaboration tools

On the other side of the fence are asynchronous collaboration tools, which are rarely helpful for time-sensitive projects. These tools may include discussion forums, email messaging, blog or video posts or slideshows. Asynchronous collaboration tools are preferred by some precisely because they aren’t real time. There generally isn’t the expectation of an immediate response, allowing users to take their time to digest and respond to a message. Perfect for sending informative information, these tools can be accessed at a later time to make updates, reread, or to compose a reply.

However, these tools do have their limits. They may not be the best solution for getting feedback in a specified timeframe, or at all. If the items are un-editable, the static nature of the content may also be difficult for some employees to use. Some people feel these solutions are less personal, and many require login credentials, as well as a higher level of security to use as recommended by an employer.

Choosing the right applications

For collaborative tool developers, creating a tool that intuitively moves between states of collaboration may be one of the most challenging directives. Since there are multiple positive uses for each type of tool, the right application should feature some combination of most-used services ranging from email to application sharing.

For employers, the best solution is often one that includes an option for asynchronous as well as real time collaboration features. Each company must determine which solution is best and develop a process for using one, the other, or both, depending on the type of work being conducted on a regular basis. Be sure to also take into consideration employee preference, and ease-of-use of the applications available.

Every company is different, and every team is different. To make the process of choosing a tool easier, include a focus group of people who will use the tool on a daily basis in the decision-making process. Try listing out your team’s needs prior to considering any tool. Evaluate how easy it is to use a tool during daily activities, the range of collaborative offerings it supports, and if it can easily be used outside of the team if needed.

Getting all of your employees on the same page when it comes to collaboration is an important part of running a tight business ship. By using some of the tips and considerations above, you should be well on your way to creating an environment where important information won’t get lost in the communication shuffle.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

Goodbye Google Hangouts, Hello Blab.IM

Why Email is a Better Virtual Assistant

20 Best Small Business Collaboration Tools

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