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With more and more of us working remotely, business collaboration is a powerful tool that can grow your business and generate exciting new ideas. Many businesses have already begun using internal collaboration tools, such as video calling and instant messaging – allowing their teams to collaborate quickly and easily no matter where in the world they are.
But with 80% of small and medium-sized businesses in the UK seeing a negative impact on their revenue due to the pandemic, effective business collaboration is critical.
What does effective business collaboration look like? And what tools do you need to achieve it? We’ll cover the advantages of business collaboration, the different forms it comes in, and offer some collaboration ideas for your business.
What is business collaboration?
Business collaboration is leveraging internal and external connections to generate ideas, find solutions, and achieve common goals for your business. A truly successful collaboration will benefit both collaborators and is fostered through open, honest, and productive communication.
Since the pandemic hit and real-life face-to-face communication came to a halt, many businesses have seen the advantages of remote team collaboration. Companies have cited improved wellbeing, reduced overheads, and increased productivity as reasons to continue remote working.
The online tools that have benefited remote working have reminded businesses that collaboration, be it within one small team or an entire enterprise, can happen anywhere. Distance is no longer an obstacle to effective collaboration between team members.
Business collaboration can also exist externally. Many businesses are working together to meet shared goals, inspire new ideas, and cultivate innovation. So when you’re thinking about business collaboration, you should look for opportunities to work with companies, clients, and individuals outside of your own employees.
Advantages of business collaboration
- Shared resources: When businesses collaborate internally or externally, resources that individuals may not know about or have access to become available.
- Time-saving: Collaborative working ultimately saves time and streamlines your team’s workflow.
- Learning opportunities: By working more closely with other businesses, many employees could benefit from the knowledge and skillsets gained throughout the process and apply that knowledge in future.
- Innovation: Dr Jabe Wilson, a consulting director for Elsevier, says, “The fresh perspectives that outside organisations can bring are invaluable to innovation”. New perspectives offer a chance for businesses to generate new and creative ideas and keep stakeholders happy!
Types of business collaboration
Internal collaboration is when individuals, teams, and leaders across a business collaborate on both day-to-day tasks and long-term projects – so it’s essentially another word for teamwork. But many businesses are already seeing the benefits of remote collaboration within their company, including time saved and increased productivity. New technologies that remote workers are already collaborating with include:
- Instant messaging – quick online communication for day-to-day business.
- Video conferencing – replicating face-to-face contact without the need to travel into the office
- Online workspaces – communicating, collaborating, and sharing ideas in one online space.
- Cloud sharing – cloud tools offer functionalities for collaborating on files, tasks, projects, and calendars in real-time in one accessible, shared online space.
External business collaborations take multiple forms. Deciding which type of collaboration is right for your business depends on what you want to get out of it and how long you want it to last.
An alliance is the traditional type of business collaboration. Alliances usually involve two or three companies temporarily working together by combining knowledge and resources to meet a common goal. This is great for businesses with a gap in their knowledge or resources that a temporary alliance with another company could fill.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review suggests that ‘co-opetition’ is the way forward for businesses in 2021. Essentially, co-opetition is a collaboration with competitors. Co-opetition can cut many corners for businesses as it allows them to share resources, avoid duplicating work, and generate new customers for all parties.
A portfolio collaboration is when one large business manages a broad collaboration with multiple smaller external partners. The central managing business sets the rules for the collaboration and maintains it. This offers many of the benefits of an alliance, but it is long-term and generates more connections between businesses.
Community collaboration involves businesses working with individuals or other businesses within their community. A community can mean both your business’s local community and your customer community – so community collaboration can range from joining local business partnerships to collaborating with social media influencers who love your products.
Network collaboration is when a group of businesses with shared goals and values works together as a network. These businesses may or may not be competitors, but their shared interests mean that they can collaborate on mutually beneficial projects and gain access to each other’s resources and customer base.
An ecosystem is made up of long-term, inter-dependent collaborations between a group of businesses. The connections aren’t as secure as in networks, portfolios, or alliances, but businesses within an ecosystem co-operate by sharing skills, technologies, and innovation.
Business collaboration ideas
This is a shared online space where users can add information, pages, and know-how guides that others can view within and outside of an organisation. Creating a wiki within your business is a fantastic way to share knowledge, improve training, and contribute towards a strong company culture.
Cross-promoting is when businesses promote each other on various platforms. This could be on social media – from something as simple as sharing each other’s pages to running a partnered promotion for customers. Cross-promoting can also include writing guest posts for each other’s websites or starting a podcast series together.
Attending networking events is a great way to find collaborators. But if you and your collaborator run an event, you put yourself in a great position to find new clients and future collaborators. Of course, in-person networking events may be off the table for some time. But online networking events are a great way to collaborate and streamline networking opportunities – such as offering breakout rooms or instant messaging options.
If you’re setting up a small business from home, a community event that connects you with potential customers and collaborators is a great way to start. Running a community event with another local business is an effective way to put yourself on the map and foster connections that’ll lead to long-term partnerships.
How RingCentral can help your business collaboration
Businesses are investing increasingly in software to improve their collaborative capabilities. As a unified cloud communications solution, RingCentral uses an all-in-one approach to business communication. We offer easy-to-use, fully integrated software with competitive pricing.
Whether you want to improve your internal collaboration or explore ways to use online communication to strengthen your external collaborations, RingCentral has smart solutions, including video calling, instant messaging, project management, and file sharing. Whatever type of business you own or work for, we offer a variety of collaboration tools, such as:
- A virtual workspace hub for developers needing to share briefs, collaborate on software, and code from anywhere
- Collaboration solutions, including team messaging and video conferencing for those in marketing who wish to streamline their communications across the business and with clients
- Digital messaging for sales teams to share agendas, tasks, and queries
- File and screen sharing features that help designers create, exchange, and store designs remotely
- An integrated online communication solution for human resources teams to ensure all teams are on the same page even when working remotely. This allows staff to create, manage and assign tasks to teammates to keep all colleagues aligned
- Cost-effective tools for startups looking for a scalable solution that also enhances their team’s collaboration skills
- An integrated communication platform for recruitment agencies
- Collaborative software for IT teams that integrates with existing software to boost productivity
- Omnichannel communications for customer service teams so that customer data is more visible and customers can reach them in more ways (from live chat to video calls), along with in-depth analytics to support such data
- Streamlined communication software for financial service providers with multiple departments that provides personalised experiences for VIPs through automated routing as well as seamless CRM integrations
The rapidly changing business world means that businesses that don’t prioritise collaboration – both internally and externally – are likely to fall behind. Making the most of collaboration solutions, such as those that RingCentral offers, allows collaborations to be streamlined, which is beneficial to all involved.
Originally published Jul 20, 2021, updated Jul 27, 2022
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