Although many people might prefer their own solitary approach to working, even when working in an office, a collaborative workplace environment has been proven to lead to a more productive workplace overall. But why exactly is this?

Well, to understand business collaboration and its benefits, we first need to look at what collaboration in business actually means, and how it can be effectively implemented.

What is business collaboration?

Also known as 'collaborative working', business collaboration is where two or more individuals (or companies) work together to achieve a shared business objective. It may sound like a simple and obvious working practice, most people will collaborate with their colleagues every day, but rarely is this efficiently implemented on a business-wide scale.

Fortunately, there are a variety of methods that can be used to maximise collaboration in business and improve overall production output in your workplace.

Types of business collaboration

Collaborative working comes in many forms but the most common and effective types are synchronous or asynchronous working, and collocated and non-collocated working strategies.

Synchronous business collaboration is where employees work on tasks at the same time whereas asynchronous business collaboration is the opposite, i.e., working on the same task at different times.

Both of these methods have their own benefits and the type of project you're conducting will often dictate which method is most suitable for your business. For something like written content, an asynchronous approach would be better suited, as one team member can write the document, and another team member can check it over after it is complete.

In this situation, it doesn't make sense to have both team members working on the document at the same time as they might interrupt each other’s work. Whereas, for something like developing a web application, it's common to split the application up into smaller chunks and have team members working on their own individual branches simultaneously. This method is particularly useful for the cyclical nature of Agile development.

As for the other two types of collaboration in business, a collocated approach to business collaboration means having employees in the same physical location as each other. A non-collocated approach, on the other hand, is the obvious opposite, and includes collaboration between people working remotely, either off-site or in home offices.

Collocation leads to more face-to-face interaction and meetings, which can be helpful when deciding on the exact requirements and definitions of a project. However, some companies see too many meetings as an unnecessary distraction and prefer to operate with a non-collocated approach to collaborative working. Again, it often depends on the size and scope of a project as to which type your pick, and how closely colleagues will need to interact with each other on each piece of work.

The benefits of business collaboration

It's up to you to decide which method of collaboration suits your business best. But besides improving employee collaboration and interacting with other businesses for large-scale projects, there are two other key benefits to be had from implementing collaboration in business.

Financial benefits

On the whole, business collaboration can save your business money due to the decrease in the human and physical factors require on a project. For example, collaborating with another business on a project will save you money if you agree to split some of the expenses. This means that you'll get more output from the budget that you put in. You'll also be using less human resources if, say, collaborating means you only need two of your employees on a project instead of four.

Using remote working in a non-collocated approach can also save greatly on expenses required for office space and staff amenities. By allowing staff to work from home on a project, business expenses such as utilities and parking fees are reduced dramatically.

Educational benefits

Having employees work closely together with other parts of the business (or even other businesses) will give them an opportunity to learn from each other. Collaborating with people outside of an employee's usual network will help lead to a more skilled and informed workforce.

A business in your collaborative network may also have research that would be beneficial to your company, and vice versa. Sharing information that you have with them in exchange for their research helps both businesses and saves costs.

Collaboration tools for business

Productive collaborative working is all about communication and coordination. Whether it's face-to-face or distanced, communication needs to be efficient. And if tasks happen simultaneously or consecutively it's important that everything is coordinated. Fortunately, there are a variety of tools out there designed to help with collaborative working.

Microsoft Exchange email and Outlook

Perhaps one of the most obvious business collaboration tools is email. Free email solutions like Gmail and Hotmail might work well initially, but the coordination tools included with email solutions like Microsoft Exchange make it really worthwhile for increasing collaboration efficiency and productivity. Exchange integrates perfectly with Microsoft Outlook and it's easy to set up each employee with their own email account. From there, you can make use of shared contacts, calendars and tasks to coordinate meetings, actions and responsibilities.

Skype for Business

Skype for Business is also one of the ore popular business collaboration tools, especially for internal communication. If you need a quick answer to a question from a co-worker, it's much easier to send an instant message than an email. Skype also has status alerts, which allow you to see which colleagues are 'available', 'busy', 'away', 'off work', etc. This helps with coordination and communication and is vital for effective business collaboration.

Skype also comes with conferencing tools, such as audio and video chat, as well as screen sharing functionality. If you've organised a face-to-face meeting, it's easy to have other attendees dial in over Skype audio or video chat and get their input. This is an ideal function for a non-collocated collaboration environment, as it ensures that everybody on the team stays informed, even if they can't make the meeting in person.

Microsoft Office – online and offline

Everyone in business knows about the Microsoft Office suite, and that's because it includes a software package for most day-to-day business needs: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, accounting, etc. Where these tools are made even better for collaborative working is that they're now available in online versions. This makes document sharing between teams much easier, and integration with Outlook/Exchange calendars makes tracking document version numbers and suggested changes a lot more efficient.

All of these important business collaboration tools and more are included in the Office 365 package available right here from Fasthosts. Visit the Fasthosts website for more information on getting a complete email and office package that maximises your business collaboration potential.

Here at Fasthosts, we also offer a range of cloud and domain services, so if you're looking to expand the online scope of your business, we might have just the tools you're looking for.

If you want more tips and tricks on improving your online productivity, we also have a huge range of guides and articles over on the Fasthosts blog.