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What is Contextual Collaboration?

In organizations, when groups of people are working on a project, how they effectively collaborate and support each other is very critical to the success of the project.

Let us consider an example of how collaboration might occur in an organization. A team of 4  people are working on a report which includes one writer who sits in India and 3 Subject Matter Experts (SME) who sit in the US. Now the writer has to effectively collaborate with the Subject Matter Experts to write a high quality report. How would the writer go about it?

He would start writing the draft version of the report in a Word document. To get inputs and clarify his doubts with the SMEs the writer would use any or all of the following:

  • Email
  • Instant Messaging tool such as MSN messenger
  • Web Conferencing tool such as Skype

While working on the Word document, he needs to get out of the application and log into MSN or Skype to clarify his doubts. Basically he will be switching between applications to do his work. Above all the writer will keep mailing versions of the report for review to the SMEs.

What if this is possible?

The writer keeps writing the draft version of the report in an application. This  has a word processing software, document sharing facility, instant messaging and VOIP all integrated within the application.

Let’s say the writer needs a quick input on a particular section and what he does is he checks if the SME is available online. He then invites the SME to join him using instant messaging from  and requests the SME to review portion of the text he has written. The SME views the draft version of the report real time and suggests quick changes. The writer quickly makes the changes to the actual report. He  then has some more questions and thinks he must have a quick conversation with the SME to sort it out. He enables the VOIP and has a quick talk with the SME. The writer does all this within the application and never ever once moves out of the application.

This is what Contextual Collaboration is about. Contextual collaboration is a new approach to collaborative software that involves embedding all the relevant applications, such as word processors, enterprise instant messaging (EIM), shared calendars, andgroupware, into a unified user interface that uses presence technology to enhance collaboration. This means that from within any of the applications people could communicate and instantly share any resources at their disposal. The goal of contextual collaboration is to make online collaboration as simple and intuitive as it is to work with people in the same room, while enabling that capacity between people anywhere in the world.

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