All companies need good software for collaboration, regardless of the size of the company. Even companies that have only one employee will likely collaborate with clients, partners, or contractors. Collaboration software provides all parties of a project with access to shared documentation and media information.
Some companies may not see the value in collaboration software because they have always used email and it does not cost extra. Should these companies reflect on the number of issues introduced through email, they would likely rethink their position on collaboration software. Not only is email a poor way of providing information and documentation to all interested parties, it introduces serious issues with version control and a faulty means of editing and commenting on the documentation and media in review.
Good collaboration software is the ultimate way to coordinate reviews, communication, and make sure that everyone who needs to have input into a certain project can easily keep up with the latest developments. For example, if a new product is going to be marketed and sold next month, this month should see heavy discussion on the accompanying documentation and marketing strategies. The engineers need to have the product documented in terms of specifications, and probably white papers. The technical writers will use the specifications and white papers to write instructions on how to use (and not use) the product; then their guides will need to be reviewed by engineering. Marketing will use the specifications, white papers, and guides to get a better understanding of exactly what it is they are marketing and how it works. They then create a website discussing these point with a snappy presentation of the product. Engineering and writers will need to review the soon-to-be published website to verify that the content is right and there are no glaring errors prior to launch. Collaboration software provides a means for all of these different aspects to be coordinated and for responses to be easily viewed by all parties. Trying to accomplish this over email is not only inefficient, it is usually ineffectual.
Revision control is another very important aspect of collaboration, because few incidents can be as embarrassing (and potentially costly) as providing customers with an out-dated version of a document, or worse still a version that is a very rough draft. This shows that the company is not organized enough to be able to track its documentation. Although those who work in documentation know the hazards of inadequate revision control, it can be difficult to persuade others until something very embarrassing or detrimental to the company’s image occurs. The collaborative environment provides a method of getting the latest status of the documentation or media, being able to review it (and comment or make suggestions), and find out what to use if the next revision is not ready to go public.
Several things should be kept in mind when looking for the right collaboration software.
– How will the company implement it?
– Will there be a number of projects that need to be saved and managed? If so, what is the simplest organization to create different areas?
– Can the software be integrated with things like email for review notifications?
– Is the collaboration software secure to meet contractual obligations?
– Can the software be accessed outside of the company, by contractors and partners?
Make sure the company understands the scope and needs of collaboration prior to selecting and implementing new software. Having software that is either too complex or too minimal will discourage parties from using it.