How do you collaborate and work on documents together in your organizations?

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At AIIM, most of the work I collaborate with my coworkers on is done through traditional file shares. This definitely comes with its limitations. So, I was wondering if anyone has been collaborating in any other ways and having more success with it? One alternative I was reading about was co-authoring through a database-driven approach:

“Unlike file sharing, database-driven co-authoring employs a single source repository where all your content is managed. The database contains all of the objects and information like tables, macros, and forms that your documents will need; all stored and are accessible to those who will work on the various stages of document creation.” – https://info.aiim.org/how-multiple-contributors-can-produce-a-clean-final-document

Does anyone have experience with that?

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Sean McGauley
Digital Marketing Manager
AIIM
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Hey Sean,

1st, finding out that AIIM still mostly uses file shares is, to be honest, both surprising and disheartening!

2ndas far as I know, in terms of true, simultaneous co-authoring across the common MS Office type files can only be accomplished through Office 365.  While other platforms such as OpenText and Box advertise co-authoring, they can only deliver it through interoperability with Office 365 using the ‘online’ versions of the Office applications.  Now, if one is looking for multi-party authoring/editing in other file types, such as those from Adobe for example, I don’t believe they offer any sort of real-time co-author capability.  Sharing, yes, of course.  But not co-authoring.

 

Aria

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Hey Sean,

I second the comments from Lorne. File shares… yikes!

When it comes to true synchronous editing an MS Office file, there are 2 choices that work: Office 365 or SharePoint (+ optionally Office Online Server) in an on premise scenario. For AIIM I would be surprised if you wouldn’t use Office 365… bet hey, your using file shares… so who knows… 😉
Be aware that several vendors claim to do co-authoring but only do so in an asynchronous way: multiple people edit the document and the changes are reconciled by the document controller.

In practice though, synchronous editing has its challenges (e.g. no file locking through check-in check-out so still anyone with access can edit, save and distribute without you knowing it) and you need a chat-client active as well (until Microsoft has this working in Word…) because you are going to have several people wanting to edit that same sentence over and over again. Another pitfall is that co-authoring isn’t reviewing even if you have the reviewers editing. Have a top-to-bottom review is something different that micro-editing a paragraph out of 20 pages. I learned this from using the Office 365 features but that basically is just another technical implementation of the database-driven approach you mention.

Outside of the Office 365 case, others would be point solutions. Adobe has InDesign that works with InCopy to do the same.

But, there is more to discuss depending on needs. To me, collaboration and co-authoring are not the same thing. I collaborate with the teams and projects I participate in, with Office 365 Teams. That includes conversations (chat), shared OneNote, Planner, a wiki and SharePoint libraries. Works great for us. Before we used SharePoint On-line for that. Wasn’t that great as Teams now is.

We’re not that large. Nor is AIIM so that should work for you as well.
There are challenges with collaboration in larger organisations beyond authoring. Governance can be a thing on its own.

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Ed Steenhoek CIP
Solution Principal | Product Manager

Informed Group
– Informed Consulting
– Informed Products
– Informed Academy
The Netherlands
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Hi Lorne and Ed,

Thanks for getting back to me! So, I should clarify – I think I used the incorrect term to describe the way I collaborate. I was referring to cloud-based file sync and share/ECM system using folder structures. Actually, we use a lot of the systems you mention here, and a number of others – I guess I just haven’t fully realized the collaboration potential with them.

Would it be fair to say it’s important to first figure out what it is you’re trying to accomplish through collaboration and then work backward to determine which approach would work best? I say this because it sounds like there are pros and cons to each option.

Thanks again for the reply. This is helpful.

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Sean McGauley
Digital Marketing Manager
AIIM
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Sean,

Thanks for the clarification!  Definitely less disappointing!��

Although “…we use a lot of the systems you mention here, and a number of others” still points to some potential opportunity for improvement.

Based on 20+ years doing IT across ECM, Sharepoint/O365, ERP, CRM, and lots of others (25+ technologies!), working with organizations from 20 staff to 200,000 across 15 industry verticals and 3 countries, I feel some level of confidence saying that it is ALWAYS more important to “first figure out what it is you’re trying to accomplish through _______ and then work backward to determine which approach (and technologies) would work best” (edits, mine).

 

Aria

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Couldn’t agree more with Lorne.Or do you normally walk into a Toyota dealer to buy a Supra and once delivered start wondering how it can support the towing of your boat trailer…

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Ed Steenhoek CIP
Solution Principal | Product Manager

Informed Group
– Informed Consulting
– Informed Products
– Informed Academy
The Netherlands
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And your 5th wheel!  LOL!��

Aria

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So, in my shop we use Google Drive for collaboration, mainly through Google Docs, Sheets, Sites and Forms.
The beauty of Google Drive is that it now allows you to open, edit and collaborate on several Microsoft applications, mainly Word, Excel and PowerPoint, in their native formats. This feature just became available in May.
I enjoy the Google platform for collaboration for a few reasons:
1) You can have multiple users working in the same application without any technical conflicts.
2) You can easily share your work through links that can be placed in emails, chat boxes, websites and text messages.
There are limitations as well, namely anything on the cloud could go down and be unavailable to everyone (as is what happened with Google calendar worldwide last month).
Also, as anyone who uses Google knows, they regularly do application updates, which sometimes make applications harder to use and/or navigate. They have often introduced updates via a “soft sell” approach, giving you the option to revert to a previous version, only to tell you a few weeks later that the application will be updated they way they see fit whether you like it or not.
Hope this is helpful.
Angela Forest
Knowledge Management Specialist
U.S. government contractor
Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, expecting more than others think is possible“- Author Unknown

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Lol but Ed, don’t you want to go fast on the way to the lake with your boat to go faster! jk

Your advice makes sense about working backward from your end goal.

Angela, I appreciate your thoughts too. I will have to check out these new features of Google Drive.

Thanks for the help!

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Sean McGauley
Digital Marketing Manager
AIIM
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