What Are Collaboration Tools? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:02 What Are Collaboration Tools?
  • 1:02 History & Evolution
  • 1:39 How Do Collaboration…
  • 2:17 Common Collaboration Tools
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Whitsett

David has taught computer applications, computer fundamentals, computer networking, and marketing at the college level. He has a MBA in marketing.

This lesson will discuss collaboration tools, a broad term used for multiple types of software or services allowing people to work together online. Learn about how these technologies work and review examples of everyday usage.

What are Collaboration Tools?

If you've ever had a project in which you've had to work with multiple people to accomplish a goal, you probably have a sense for how collaboration tools work. Collaboration is commonly defined as working with another individual or group in order to achieve something. With that, we can define a collaboration tool: a technology tool that can be used to help people work together to achieve a common goal or objective.

A collaboration tool can be something as simple as a whiteboard in a conference room that people gather around and use to brainstorm and solve problems. Another collaboration tool is a conference call, during which multiple people get together over the phone to hash out an issue. But for the purposes of this lesson, we are going to discuss online tools that allow people to work together to get a job done: email, workflow software, online workspaces, and so forth. These types of tools are also sometimes referred to as groupware.

History and Evolution

Collaborative software for the workplace has been around since the late 1980s and the advent of personal computer networking. Programs like Lotus Notes and Novell's GroupWise (originally WordPerfect Office) combined electronic mail with document management and calendaring as well as scheduling for groups. Workflow software enabled knowledge workers (workers whose output is some form of information) in remote locations, allowing them to collaborate on a project and to move the project through a defined series of steps to completion.

How Do Collaboration Tools Work?

Collaboration tools can route work through a process, distribute pieces and tasks to involved parties, and help to coordinate activities. Consider this example: A business wants to draft a contract to sell a product to a customer. Sales and marketing provide documentation about quantities, types and maybe the specifications. The accounting department specifies the terms for purchase, and the legal department inserts language in the contract to protect both parties in the transaction. Everyone uses a collaborative software platform to work together to get the job done, regardless of where they're located.

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