Definition

collaborative computing

Collaborative computing is a diverse collection of information technologies designed to support work between individuals. Organizations implementing collaborative computing technologies do so as a way to improve workforce productivity and creativity by enabling individual workers to more readily access each other and the information they need when they need it.

Collaborative computing arose from early generations of single stand-alone applications, such as instant messaging and video conferencing, that were intended to bridge geographic distances between individuals who working together. The technologies initially were seen as a way to mimic or replace face-to-face interactions while delivering the value that came with having individuals physically together to collaborate.

Today, collaborative computing not only bridges geographical distances to enable remote individuals to work together, it adds capabilities that enhance the working experience. Collaborative computing can connect individuals to software applications in real time, so they all can access and simultaneously work on text-based documents, graphics, computer-aided design files and other work products.

Collaborative computing includes enterprise collaboration software and social media tools that enable instant messaging and discussion groups. It also includes enterprise workflow applications that automate work processes and help drive decision-making with business intelligence and analytics tools. These kinds of technologies retrieve and share data with the individuals working together, who can then update or annotate it as needed.

Collaborative computing technologies can work across various operating systems and devices, allowing individual workers to participate in work sessions from various locations with different equipment. For example, two workers can collaborate if one is using video conferencing equipment in an office and the other is using a laptop with webcam.

Collaborative computing relies on robust underlying IT infrastructure, such as a strong networking capacity that can distribute, update and store real-time video, voice and data traffic coming from numerous locations. The benefits of collaborative computing can be increased by organizations that adjust its culture and work processes to maximize its use.

This was last updated in December 2016

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