A Small Business Guide to ECollaboration

eCollaboration is not a common term, it’s part of a family of terms under ebusiness which is using information and communication technology to utilise the internet to save money and grow your business. eCollaboration is the part that deals with the communications and working together in business. This can be either through working with customers/suppliers or working with team members.

It’s enormously important for several reasons, the first is cost, and using these technologies effectively can help you save money. Secondly, it can improve your image; these technologies allow you to do many of the things which larger companies do and take for granted every day. It also helps you grow your business because it can help you work effectively with other companies and other groups of people to win business and deliver that business once you’ve won it.

There is a wide range of technology which falls into this category, there’s communication technology i.e. voice over IP, instant messaging and conferencing. There are sharing tools like email which we all use every day. There are also other forms of sharing tools, things that help you synchronise one PC to another which enables us to all have access to the same files and there are other tools which help us share calendars etc. Then there is real time collaborations which enable people to work together when not in the same location i.e. web conferencing and video conferencing.

If you only have a small business you may be worried about the cost and time factor, because a lot of the solutions are now web service based, you’re effectively renting these powerful applications through the internet. Being web based means that you don’t need to buy the software and the hardware and have it physically sat in the corner of the office. Because it’s all on demand now, you have access just as and when you need it, starting it at the beginning of a project and stopping it at the end of it. This can be especially beneficial to a small business because of the flexibility it offers as many smaller businesses may not be sure what direction they’ll be going in over the next few years. A lot of eCollaboration technology will be free.

We’ve all heard the phrase you don’t get something for nothing, so you’re probably a little hesitant about all these ‘free’ services you can find online. Don’t worry though, In general most of them will be safe, but most of them will be teasers so only available at a limited functionality or for a limited amount of people or a limited amount of time. The idea of these is to get you to sign up to the full package. It is for this reason they are unlikely to be malicious. If you’re unsure about a product, or about its name, its best to check it out first. There are a few ways to go about this, there are several expert organisation which specialise in helping in these situations or you could see if it has an online review, a simple search of the product name should be sufficient and, if nothing else, provide you with a forum where someone else is already talking about the product. If any have a questionable reputation it is likely someone would have posted something online.

At the end of the day it’s your call, a lot of this may seem scary and new. We fear what we don’t understand but taking the time to understand eCollaboration can help your business. Remember you’re not alone, whatever questions or concerns you have, and the chances are many other people will have them too. The internet is a wonderful tool, try typing in some of your questions into a search engine and you’ll find dozens of articles, forums and chat rooms with people that can help you. Alternatively, there are several organisations out there which are designed to help small businesses; the most obvious would be Business Link which set up by the Government with the sole purpose of helping small businesses. Alternatively try the National B2B centre which is another free service, they are publicly funded so all their advice is completely free and impartial. This technology is designed to help and grow your businesses and if used correctly it can save you time and money.