Considering Collaboration

I have found that one of the more pervasive obstacles in my technical writing group is our ability to collaborate. While we are all open and willing to communicate with each other, sometimes a document is edited by two different people two different times—unnecessarily. How can we work to prevent this from happening? What are we doing wrong?

There are a few issues that contribute to this problem. We all have different schedules—some of us full-time, some of us part-time, some of us coming into work on opposite days. Additionally, some of us work remotely during the school year and don’t come in regularly until the summer. We try to connect with each other with weekly phone conferences, but it can be impossible to find a time that works for everyone or fit in everything we need to talk about in a 30-minute conversation.

To tackle this problem, we’ve been trying out SharePoint, which describes itself as a collaboration environment that organizations of all sizes can use to increase the efficiency of business processes. Getting SharePoint up and running has been quite the process itself, but my coworkers have put a lot of time into creating the SharePoint site for our group. With our site, we can keep all of our documents in one place, co-author different projects, keep track of schedules, and post comments to each other. I think that SharePoint has a lot of potential, and I’m eager to see how it goes.

I am considering, however, the tendency of SharePoint to be a little formal. I’ve read descriptions of it to be very structured and have a more published feel, which can discourage a more seamless collaboration. In one of my classes, we’ve been using wikis to communicate and interact with each other. I have found this to be very effective and am considering suggesting it as a sort of draft phase before the final SharePoint publications. We could work on a wiki to collaborate on documents, then move them to SharePoint to be open and accessible to the rest of the company.

Most importantly, I think it’s crucial that we are working on this issue together, which is proof itself of our desire to improve our collaboration skills.

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