Technology plays a crucial role in collaborative efforts and has proven to increase productivity. In a team, tasks will often need to be accomplished through the joint efforts of several individuals. In order to work efficiently, there is a need of using collaborative tools or technologies to exchange information. Collaboration may be supported by a number of different technologies such as telephone/mobile, chat/instant messaging, e-mail, file transfer, program sharing, and groupware.

The types of collaboration can be affected by certain characteristics of technologies. These characteristics include:

Recordable/traceable - Some tools provide traceability of the collaboration that can be drawn upon for creating an audit trail or for bringing missing team members up-to-date.

Identifiable – Tools can vary in terms of the degree to which they allow for the individuals using them to be reliably identified by others involved in the collaboration.

Structured – Tools vary in terms of the degree to which they allow for structured communications (of a very specific predetermined nature) or unstructured communications (allowing a wide variety of information types to be exchanged).

The below tables were developed as a method for determining which tools/technologies best support the needs of the individual collaborative environment for different teams. As shown in Table 1, while face-to-face communications are seen as a good way of communication, they do not generally provide traceability. In comparison to file transfer, e-mail, groupware and bulletin boards, these technologies incorporate built-in traceability. Identifiability is generally good with instant messaging, white boards and telephones. The second table shows the degree to which various collaborative tools support the transmission of different types of information. Table 3 shows a different degree to which the different tool types support these different types of collaborative process. Each team project requires different types of collaboration and communication. Therefore, it is necessary to carefully analyze the types of tools and processes of collaboration needed in each environment.

Table 1 - Tool Characteristic

Table 2 - Information Types

Table 3 - Processes


Bolstad, C. A. & Endsley, M. R. 2003, Tools for Supporting Team Collaboration, accessed on 24 March 2009,