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How to collaborate rather than share over the Internet

The internet has revolutionised how we do business, it’s as simple as that. Gone are the days when sending documents overseas took days and involved a ship or an aircraft. Now we can press a button and share documents and images instantly with people all over the world. We can give several people access to the same document at the same time. We can even run webinars online and talk dozens of people through the same document simultaneously.

However, being able to share documents with other people isn’t the same as collaborating. Collaboration – defined as “the action of working with someone to produce or create something” means working together at the same time, in real time. It means everyone can not only see a document but also make changes and additions to it – at the same time. Before the internet collaboration meant everyone had to be in the same room. The internet has changed that – because technology such as interactive white boards and video conferencing means people can collaborate wherever they are located.

So what options are there for collaborating over the internet, and how do they differ from tools that let you share content? Let’s take a look at the sharing idea first. Sites like YouTube and Slideshare let you share videos and presentations with other people, but it’s a one way action. Sure, they can add comments but essentially you produce something for other people to watch; it’s a passive action. Tools like GoToWebinar extend the sharing feature by letting you show material and talk to dozens of people at once – and those people can talk back to you and with each other. However, it’s still very much a one-way operation. You are the one running the presentation, you control what is on screen and while other people can participate, they can’t actually affect the display at all. And then there are platforms like GoogleDocs, where multiple people can have access to the same spreadsheets and documents and work on them – but you do so in isolation so there’s no true  collaboration going on.

So how do you collaborate on the internet? The answer is through using interactive whiteboards, such as SMART Boards. These tools allow people in different locations not only to see a presentation but also to write on the content, highlight and annotate text, manipulate objects and create material together. When you combine that with video conferencing you can also see the other participants and talk with them in real time. Imagine running a company with several offices and trying to put together a budget in “the old days”. One person would generate the figures and then post, or perhaps email them, to the other heads of department. Each would make their own changes and send them back, then someone would need to rewrite the budget by incorporating everyone’s information. Then it would be sent back for approval, changes would be made and the whole process begins again.

Using interactive whiteboards every office can see the original budget information at the same time and add in their own details in real time – and everyone else’s board would automatically update with the new info. Using a conferencing system a discussion can take place to decide where priorities lie. Once the budget has been agreed, the display can be saved and shared with other people. The whole process of collaboration takes place quickly and without fuss – saving you time and money.

If you are intrigued by the idea of collaborating rather than sharing, give us a call at Smarter Interactive on 0118 336 0010. We can talk you through the options available and even give you a demonstration. You’ve got nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

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