5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using


Communication in Highly Productive Virtual Teams

The Institute for the Future (IFTF) created a terrific model to help us conceptualize the kinds of communication and collaboration technology needed by a virtual team. Mary O’Hara Devereaux and colleagues juxtaposed two continua—location and time—to categorize five ways in which communication can occur:
  1. Same time/Same place
  2. Same time/Different place
  3. Different time/Same place
  4. Different time/Different Place
  5. Anytime/Anyplace

Separately, yet fairly simultaneously, I conducted a longitudinal study of twelve virtual teams (archived on a very antiquated site), tracked the communicative behavior of those teams, and correlated that team behavior with productivity measures. The goal was to discover communication differences between highly productive virtual teams and less-productive teams, and the results were published in the International Journal of Intercultural Relations.

The graphic below joins these two sets of findings by putting a few of the results of my study into the IFTF template. In the diagram below, in orange font, you will find descriptions of the purposes for which the highly productive teams used each type of communication. I believe it can serve as a useful guide for how to use the collaboration tools reviewed in this post.

(Click page numbers below to read more.)

8 thoughts on “5 Top (Free & Easy) Virtual Collaboration Tools that You May Not (Yet) Be Using

  1. Hi Dianne,
    a past business partner pointed me to your article.
    I turned my company 10 years ago into a virtual one and since then work 100% virtual with people all over the place with a focus on software development. My experience with working virtual is very positive and I would suffer giving up this work style.

    Based on my experience, I regard the research you put forward good but also very conventional with more than obvious results. Of course, that does not affect the truth you put forward.

    Concepts like “same place” or “same time” might be helpful to sort out research data and come up with a first understanding what virtual collaboration is all about, but apart from that, I don’t see those dimensions relevant in practice. In fact, I have not seen anybody I collaborate with virtually being concerned about space or time.

    More important to virtual collaborators are aspects like that they need to make a living from collaboration or investors paying for the collaboration need to make a profit.

    And that raises questions like how does the tool help me to claim my efforts to be paid via the collaboration tool used? Can I record work time? Does it write my invoices? How do I find new collaborators willing to pay my efforts? How does the tool help me so that I do not get charged for nothing and how does the tool help me to control this?

    Most tools I know fail to help with those questions, take Skype for example.

    Do you see my point? I expect to get answers to those questions gets every more important for a collaboration tool to be useful, because I see more and more people making a living via online collaboration. In short, I collaborate to make a living and I expect a tool to help me on that.

    A good collaboration tool “understands my need to make a living” and if that is not the case, then those tools not helping me specifically to “make money effectively and efficiently” are just utilities and not collaboration “tools” platforms.

    Also, we found a good collaboration platform/tool has to be as useful to my car mechanic as to my dry cleaner because I collaborate with those people as well. A good tool would help them in turn with their clients/supplier. Additionally a good tool allows me to exclusively build a long term data asset where I have full ownership and I’m free to share this data with anybody. For example, I want to share my files with my lawyer as long as I see fit and then share those files with a new lawyer by the press of a button. I want also to be able to sell or inherit this data asset.

    We use Skype a lot but based on our above experience that most tools do not help us to make money, we developed our own tool to meet this requirement.

    I would be glad to hear your opinion on the above.

    Regards,
    Peter

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    • Peter, what you’ve described does sound like a dream for a small business person/entrepreneur. Maybe now that you have “planted” the idea in public on the internet, some developer will take it seriously. We can hope! Thank you for reading and joining us here! Best of luck with your ventures.

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  2. Pingback: Best Wishes for 2014 | Cultural Detective Blog

  3. Interesting post, and nicely written. I think companies should embrace the benefits to remote and distributed working as geography is mattering less and less to business. We have begun and remain a distributed team across Hong Kong, San Francisco, Amsterdam and London. With the right tools and the right attitude, everything has been going well (apart from some occasional late nights to meet at the same time)! We write quite a bit about this as well since we are building a tool to solve the issues of online collaboration. If you like, check us out here: Nice post! It does require a certain frame of mind to be able to work effectively in a remote team, especially from all the decades of traditional office work. But social tools are changing that, and the right tools go a long way to adjusting people to the culture of remote. We write about it a lot: http://product.twoodo.com/849/overcoming-the-pains-of-team-collaboration-tools/

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  4. Web Conferencing is truly an emerging solution for almost all types of businesses. Collaboration is becoming much more important in the workplace and web conferences undoubtedly enable better and richer collaboration. Various tools like webex, gotomeeting, R-HUB web conferencing servers etc. are used by businesses to conduct a web conference.

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