The difference between collaboration and co-authoring may seem trivial to some. Before we get into “defining” what they mean to us, lets talk about the plain vanilla definitions.
Collaboration is defined as, “to work with another person or group in order to achieve or do something”
Co-authoring is defined as, “be a joint author of (a book, paper, or report)”
So nothing too outrageous or mind-blowing with these definitions and hypothetically, both of these tasks can be done with a piece of paper and a pencil:
You write a paragraph, pass the paper and pencil to me, I write a paragraph, and voilà, we are collaborating and co-authoring.
Now obviously this example is a bit facetious and doesn’t work well outside of elementary school, let alone in the business world. So lets take it one step further:
You write a paragraph in Word, email the file to me, I write a paragraph in word, and voilà, we are collaborating and co-authoring.
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Now some of you might say, “Well we use SharePoint.” Fair point, substitute “email the file” for “check out the file” and we are still one step past paper and pencil. So why is this form of collaboration and co-authoring, which is one step past paper and pencil, still acceptable to so many businesses? If you ask us, its not, plain and simple, that is not good enough. If you want to see a visual representation of this, check out our video
Now that we have established paper and pencil is not the best way to collaborate and co-author, lets discuss what these terms mean to us and more importantly what they should mean to you.
Co-Authoring – The Little Brother
To be honest, co-authoring is the little brother to collaboration. The ability to co-author is implied when we talk about collaboration and quite frankly almost every document a company produces is going to have some form of co-authoring. It may not be an obvious 50-50 split as we might imagine but if you write a document and send it to IT to double check your technical jargon, you are now co-authoring. Now most of us have seen the cute Google Docs commercial where Hall & Oates are working on the lyrics for “Maneater“. You can watch it here if you haven’t.
Quite honestly its a great commercial and really hits home the perceived idea of “co-authoring”. On the other hand, try creating a readable document when you have 20 people working on a 500-page document. We doubt you will have same warm, fuzzy feeling as you do while watching the commercial. Co-authoring cannot be the wild west of writing. Content, sections, and writers all have to be tracked and actions accurately logged to ensure a quality end result.
We here at Xait, prefer to use the term true collaboration instead of just collaboration First of all, collaboration, as we have just seen does not automatically imply an improvement of your process or a reduction in time to get a task done. True collaboration both improves your process and reduces the time it takes to complete a task, project, document etc. For example, working in real time with your team anywhere in the world while having complete visibility and control over what changes are being made. You also need the ability to assign tasks to team members and create workflows. You might also want to implement security measures to ensure only the right team members have access to certain content. That is true collaboration and that is what we think, and you should think, is required to effectively collaborate with your team members.
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