There has been an argument we’ve been trying to answer at Groupmates for a while now. The argument in question is what does a communication online tool offer and what does a collaboration online tool offer?
When someone simply asks what is communication or what is collaboration, the answer is very simple. The two definitions:
Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.
Collaboration is the action of working with someone to produce something.
But after defining a concept, we need to actually create the tools necessary for people to use based on the concept.
Groupmates VS others
In order to understand our differences with our competition, we had to first understand what is the aim (or the aims) of our competitors’ technologies. It turns out that most of them [competitors] are developing tools, amazing technologies which allow their users to communicate in different forms. It could be through instant messages, video or voice communication, through exchanging documents or more. No matter where we looked, the main element was communication.
At Groupmates it has been clear since we started in July 2014 that our main objective is collaboration and that should remain in our technology’s core. But knowing what you want to achieve is the first element. Then you need to figure out how to achieve it, and finally making sure that people or specific segments of people need it.
What do we know?
Today we are certain that students in higher education need proper collaboration environments. How do we know? Simple, we asked them.
We also started asking several business owners and employees from different business types and sizes, about their challenges when it comes to collaboration. They all say that there are many ways for their teams to communicate, but there are messages that are forgotten, or tasks that remain unfinished, and lots of mistakes that cost to their businesses money; money they could save if they could avoid basic misunderstandings.
We are not the first to figure that out though, some lovely people at Cognisco, a company that specializes in different areas of human resources, undertook a research about 7 years ago, with the aim to figure out the real costs behind employees misunderstanding. A screenshot of the research findings is going to give you the message.
The saddest thing is that most businesses don’t even realize that the problem exists before we actually ask them a couple of questions which lead them to the realization of the problem.
How do we make sure that you collaborate on Groupmates?
In order to make sure that Groupmates is developed and designed with collaboration in its core we had to go back to the basics and give a more complete definition to collaboration; a definition that we could then take and make it into a feasible product.
With communication being an essential element of collaboration, we make clear that for collaboration to take place, a team/group of people needs to have a clear common goal in mind. Each group member, also needs to have access to the right information at any time they may need it. The right information will help the groupmates to start conversations with the right people, take decisions with confidence and more.
To make sure that we make this happen, we need to ask the right questions and also make it super easy for the users. Easy to use is essential, as for collaboration to happen online, every member of the group should be using the same tool, otherwise is useless.
Asking the right questions could be tricky. For this reason we are currently working with a scientist who helps us understand how groups of people work together more effectively in theory. Then we take this theory and we try to understand it in a more practical manner. After we really understand the theory, we design a function. When the function is designed, is necessary that we ask current and potential users of what they think about it. Then we try to develop it.
There is no part of our development process that is easy to do. In order to do it right, we need a lot of work. From now on, I will try to post some of my understandings on how groups work according to cognitive science, biology, philosophy of mind, psychology and more sciences. I will also try to include findings from my conversations with different institutions and explain to the few readers of this blog how we may make use of these understandings and findings. I won’t share any information about new tools that our team at Groupmates or what it may be disclosed information for safety reasons.