The Most Effective Combination of Tools for Collaboration

As a direct result of my experience with this Virtual Team project, I would suggest that a combination of a discussion forum, wiki and one single form of synchronous communication (chat tool, skype etc) is the most effective for team collaboration, whatever the nature of the collaboration may be. I believe that the aspects of this combination fulfills almost all communicative and interactivity needs; (I won’t go into the obvious advantages of each in terms of general synchronous and asynchronous communication tools)

  • Discussion Forums
    Literally, if we had not used them to communicate, I dont think we would have communicated as effectively. The categorization of topical ‘threads’, the display of the postings in chronological order (within each topic), the archiving, and the general structure lends itself so well to team organisation in terms of efficiency. We have opened up so many topical threads, I shudder to think how effectively we would have received and identified relevant information/discussions, without this categorization and structure.
  • Wiki
    The characteristic of the Wiki as a tool in which everyone on the team can edit a document, is a unique and essential tool for any online team. Though we have not used the Wiki much, as there was no need to collaboratively edit a document, I did engage with it and cannot fault its potential in terms of group editing of a single unit of documentation.
  • Synchronous Tool eg: VOIP such as Skype
    While the other tools fulfill most of the (important) needs of the virtual team, in my opinion, they obviously lack the social and personal elements of team bonding and familiarity. Tools such as Skype or videoconferencing entirely changes the dynamic of team communication from textual to both verbal and visual which can enhance the teams general comfort and familiarity with each other by adding personal elements. It also has the obvious advantage on picking up non-verbal cues and factors such as tone, which is impossible in written form.

I came across a really interesting research study recently, to do with the building of ‘trust’ in virtual teams, specifically those geographically dispersed. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol3/issue4/jarvenpaa.html It found that there is a ‘swift’ trust at the beginning of a virtual team collaboration, this trust quickly diminishes as time goes on. The study experiments within this framework and identifies behaviours which can help to maintain the intitial trust within the team. From my experience, I trusted my team members from the get go, which really doesn’t make any sense. I think there is maybe an (even unconscious)assumption at the start of a project that everyone shares your expectancies? After time, individual differences come out and maybe results in a lessoning of trust within the team.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Conor Tuohy
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 14:56:55

    This is a very interesting article. The ‘Swift trust’ theory is new to me and is something I definetly think applies in virtual collaboration settings. In my blog post “Are groups that predictable?”, I commented on the lack of any opportunity to socially interact with our new team-mates at the beginning of the project. I agree that physical interaction is very important when establishing bonds with new people. In my opinion using IM for a 40 minute meeting just wasn’t sufficient and affected the development of the group as a whole. We were really thrown in at the deep end and had to create a pseudo-trust, or ‘Swift trust’ as it says in your article, with the other team members.
    Thanks for the link, it was very enlightening.

    Reply

  2. el6082katrina
    Mar 01, 2011 @ 14:01:32

    Hi Conor,
    Yeah, I think we all trusted each other, even those in Florida whom we had never even met, and it ended up one of the team members over there had a personal issue and was absent for most of the project but didn’t communicate this to us, so we were left wondering what was happening. We didn’t choose a team leader or anything at the beginning, I think if we did, these kind of issues would have been dealt with more efficiently as opposed to just ‘trusting’ that everyone was on the same page. Also as you said, most of our contact with them was via chat and discussion forum, so I think more interaction may have helped. Thanks for the comment!

    Reply

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