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What is Real-Time Collaboration?


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Today’s organizations use all sorts of technology to keep up with the constant flow of information, However, more technology isn’t always a good thing. Keeping up with constant digital communication means that employees’ inboxes are flooded with newsletters, spam, and ads before they even have the chance to see messages from team members or about new assignments. 

Organizations that use email to ask questions or assign projects are falling behind, because these messages become so buried that employees might not even see them or bother to reply. When it comes to this side of digital transformation, legacy technology is slowing organizations down.

Enter real-time collaboration, a solution to ensure organizations can communicate as effectively using technology as they can in person. Real-time collaboration is a term used to describe technologies that allow for working together simultaneously. These collaboration tools ensure that files are accessible from different locations, users can collaborate on projects, and employees know if their colleagues are available.

Without real-time collaboration, someone may have to wait hours, or even days, to get a reply to an email. Instead, using modern digital means of communication, users get faster responses and foster more efficient work environments.

What does real-time collaboration look like?

Real-time collaboration relies on presence technology to help users understand when is the best time to collaborate. Presence refers to the status of a colleague as indicated by an icon next to their name on a team messaging app. It shows whether they’re online, in a meeting, marked as do-not-disturb, or even invisible. 

Presence technology is used in the following collaboration tools to help users make smarter decisions about collaboration. 

  • Team messaging – A chatting tool that allows users to send instant messages to their colleagues, share files, and talk in real time. 
  • Video conferencing – Connect over video to communicate in real time and get face-to-face interaction
  • Cloud phone – Make calls using the internet instead of traditional phone lines. Users can forward calls from their desk phones to their mobile phones, receive voicemails in their email inboxes, and more. 

Different types of real-time collaboration

Real-time collaboration tools can take multiple forms in an enterprise. First, organizations can use the “best-in-breed” approach, where they adopt a separate solution for team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone. While this approach ensures that each application meets an organization’s exact expectations, it also means that users have to open new applications frequently, save separate logins, and search for colleagues on every app.

Alternatively, organizations can adopt unified communications, which includes team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone in a single application. Unified communications provide several advantages to best-in-breed solutions:

Why is real-time collaboration important now more than ever?

Real-time collaboration is a requirement for modern organizations to maintain effective communication while adhering to new workforce norms. The modern workforce has graduated beyond the need for employees to tether to their desks for productivity. Instead, teams are distributed, more organizations offer the opportunity for flexible or remote work, and people are communicating with a handful of different digital tools. Employees are less likely to collaborate in person because they’re less likely to work in the same location, at the same, time, on the same devices.

Even when employees are working in the same space, it’s often more convenient to communicate digitally than in person, because communicating in person requires employees to break focus on the task at hand. Business moves so quickly that even the smallest glitch in productivity can offset the entire day. The need for real-time collaboration tools has never been greater for organizations to communicate internally and deliver a seamless experience to clients. 

The collaboration of today and the future

Organizations that continue relying on outdated forms of collaboration will lag behind as those that incorporate real-time collaboration accelerate. Moreover, organizations that rely on a unified communications solution for real-time collaboration reduce maintenance responsibilities and make employees more productive.

Unified communications technology goes beyond simple communication capabilities too. Unified communications solutions like the RingCentral app are designed to address the fast-paced, collaborative needs of modern organizations. These tools use the cloud so employees can access their communication and collaboration tools from anywhere and on any device. They rely on presence technology to help users understand their colleagues’ statuses in order to make smarter decisions about when to collaborate. 

With the right real-time collaboration technology, employees can achieve deeper levels of teamwork that drive productivity to new heights. It’s time businesses with outdated modes of communication consider the benefits of real-time collaboration and meet the needs of today’s workplace.

Originally published Jul 23, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023

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