Many international organisations have a large part of their workforce working in alternative workplaces. A virtual team (also known as a geographically dispersed team or distributed team) is a group of individuals who work across time, space and organizational boundaries with links strengthened by webs of communication technology.
Producing documents in a virtual team environment comes with many challenges. This includes communicating effectively, tracking people, building a team and working towards common goals. In addition you have other challenges such as language differences in understanding and writing, cultural differences, feelings of disconnectedness, and technology barriers. In order for virtual teams to be successful, one must focus on three key items: 1. understanding the difference between co-located and virtual teams, 2. effective communication, and 3. having the right tools.
Document management systems are essentially sharing and collation software
Document management systems (DMS) often claim that their software is a collaborative application. In reality, they are sharing and collation software. Document management systems cannot change the fact that information is stored in files. They simply add an extra layer of information (metadata) and provide a control mechanism for accessing these files.
With DMS as with Word, organizations need to break the document into sub-documents, assigning responsibilities to each part. This leads to a fragmented and serial production process. This is exactly the point where the project managers lose control. Then, towards the end of the process, the person responsible for compiling the document needs to collate a variety of files, generate the document, and ensure that the formatting and layout is consistent.
The solution: Document Collaboration Solutions
Document collaboration solutions allow documents to be edited simultaneously by multiple contributors. True collaborative solutions are built on databases, and allow for different sub-sections of a document to be edited in parallel. Basically, everyone can work on the same document at the same time, while management has complete control of the process. Automatic formatting, layout and numbering ensure writers focus solely on content. Web native solutions enable contributions from multiple locations and organizations. And managers have complete control of the production process from day one. This combined helps organizations increase the quality of their content.
Document collaboration solutions also often come with the added benefit of features such master content (data) management and composite document management. This means that end users easily can keep their data in a single-source repository, ensure consistency and update all live documents at the same time, while using the content dynamically for various types of documents.
Single source publishing allows the same content to be used in different documents or in various formats. The labor-intensive and expensive work of editing need only be carried out once, on one document. Further transformations are carried out mechanistically, by automated tools.
Composite Content Applications
Interest in Composite Content Applications has been climbing higher over the recent years due to the rising need around enabling business process improvements and addressing challenges around business process agility. Such applications can deliver substantial value by leveraging both content and process services for the better orchestration of people and processes and empower organizations to automate routine tasks and aggregate information from multiple sources in a collaborative work environment that enables rapid decision making.
Master data management (MDM) is a comprehensive method of enabling an enterprise to link all of its critical data to one file, called a master file, that provides a common point of reference. When properly done, MDM streamlines data sharing among personnel and departments.
Combining single-source authoring with composite content management and master content/data management, can provide a very powerful solution for organisations. Organisations that master this can ensure that global virtual teams work with consistent content across all documents throughout the organisations, while their output is used in a wide variety of documents. The result is increased control on content provided by virtual teams, while reducing costs to make it happen.
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By Kris Sæther, CCO, Xait
Kris Sæther is father of two, Sales Director for Xait, and is part of Xait’s Executive Management team. Kris has 15+ years’ experience in working with corporations coming to terms with their document collaboration and team productivity challenges.
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 Internet documents, Wikipedia 2013
 Internet documents, Wikipedia 2013
 Menon, L., 2012. Composite content management-case management and enterprise content management. Am. J. Eng. Applied Sci., 5: 219-229.
 Internet Documents, Search Data Management