What Is Real-Time Collaboration and Why Do You Need It

Real-time collaboration is a technology-based solution that ensures businesses can communicate virtually as efficiently as they do in person. It is possible with tech solutions that allow multiple people to collaborate on the same project at the same time. These are cloud-based solutions that make files accessible regardless of location, allow users to collaborate on projects, let employees know when their coworkers are available, and more.

Defining real-time collaboration

The name says it all. Real time collaboration entails people working together at the same time regardless of their location. It’s particularly applicable to remote and hybrid teams that have employees working from office or home while being miles away. 

The implications of real-time collaboration in each company are diverse. You can have two sales reps develop a proposal together; or the marketing team to do wireframing of a website with the design team based elsewhere. 

Real-time collaboration opens many opportunities!


Traditional vs. real-time collaboration

So, how is real-time collaboration different from the traditional online collaboration that most of us adopted during the pandemic? The most visible distinction between the two types of collaboration is the order in which the tasks are carried out. Traditional online collaboration can only take place in a linear fashion — one person at a time. One employee crafts and sends an email, and it takes time for the other to receive and respond to it. One of them puts together a proposal and sends it to their colleague for feedback and waits to receive comments. 

On the other hand, real-time collaboration occurs between multiple people at the same time. It allows an entire team to work on the same project simultaneously.

It’s important to distinguish between these two concepts. There is a false assumption that all online collaborations are real-time. Traditional online collaboration is asynchronous. That is not to say that one is better than the other – each of these work modes have their own pros and cons. Employees in different time zones may have a hard time collaborating in real-time. But when the time zone is not an issue, real-time collaboration helps get the job done faster, saving time and resources. 

How does it work?

The driving force between real-time collaboration is a myriad of technological solutions. We’re not talking about high-tech Iron Man kind of nanotechnology. Rather, very simple features that have been around for a long time. For example, video conferencing and within this, screen sharing, instant messaging apps, document sharing and co-editing, etc. You could either use different software, tools or apps to take advantage of these functionalities or you can use a unified collaboration platform like Microsoft Teams that offers all of these and more. 

Choosing a real-time collaboration tool

When it comes to collaboration tools, there are a few key features to look for:

  • Integration with other productivity apps, including spreadsheets, documents, and presentations.
  • Accessibility and visibility of files, calendars, meeting notes, and communication threads.
  • Collaboration capabilities on any device, whether it is a desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device – anytime, anywhere.
  • Built-in security and compliance features.
  • Adaptability for businesses, organizations, and groups.

Microsoft Teams checks all these boxes, and since this is the tool we primary focus on, let’s take a closer look at its features and understand how they make real-time collaboration possible:


You can have very diverse and interactive meetings with Teams. Its developers are constantly working on making sure your video meetings are as productive or even more so than face-to-face ones.

During Teams meetings, you can share your screen with others, so all parties involved see the same thing, allowing everyone to contribute in the same context at the same time. With the videoconferencing tool, you can also create public or private chats or group chats, share files right during a meeting, brainstorm while taking notes in Whiteboard, see live captions, record, and transcribe the meeting and more.

Real-time collaboration in a Microsoft Teams meeting

Document sharing and editing

Microsoft Teams has a dedicated Files section where you can upload, store, share and simultaneously edit documents. So, several users can access the same document, spreadsheet, or presentation, as well as  contribute, edit, or comment on a single file. All changes will be automatically saved. And you can see all the document versions and reverse any changes if needed so no information is lost!

Learn more about how to collaborate on documents in Microsoft Teams.

document sharing in Microsoft Teams

Real-time messaging

Chatting is another alternative to constant emails, phone calls and in some cases even video conferences. The chat feature on Microsoft Teams is incredibly user-friendly. You can tag users bringing their attention to the message, flag it if it’s a priority, search the chat and the newest creation of Teams called Loop Components even allows real-time collaboration on a chat message. You can send a component (e.g., a table, task list, or paragraph) and everyone in the chat can edit it together and see all the changes.

Learn more about the Loop contents here.

Loop components in Microsoft Teams for real-time collaboration

Using a real-time collaboration tool, spares you the hassle of using multiple tools. You can plan projects, manage tasks, share files, communicate with each other, track time, and organize the entire process within a single platform.

Benefits of real-time collaboration

Now that you know how to do it, let’s see why you should give it a try:

  • Collaborating as a team, as if you were in the same room, ensures engagement, improves participation and exchange of knowledge and ideas.
  • Real-time collaboration significantly cuts the time and energy spent on back-and-forth communication and eliminates the risk of misunderstanding and loss of information along the way. 
  • Real-time collaboration breaks and prevents the creation of silos and leads to reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation among employees.
  • Meetings, conversations, and file sharing all happen simultaneously in a streamlined workflow.
  • Compared with traditional methods of collaboration that require office space, equipment, and travel, real-time collaboration has greater cost-effectiveness. For companies that have asynchronous teams, we recommend finding a mutually appropriate time and schedule real-time collaboration during those hours.

How to start collaborating real-time?

Real-time collaboration is not rocket science. It’s a fairly straightforward concept that requires two main steps:

  1. Introduce a good collaboration solution that should ideally offer all the features you need plus possibility of integrations that you might need. Microsoft Teams is a great place to start.  
  2. Explain to your employees what real-time collaboration means and what benefits it offers. In the beginning, you need to guide them and serve as an example. We recommend working closely with team leads or department heads (whichever applies to your company structure) to facilitate real-time collaboration until the employees grasp it and make use of it on their own. 

Speaking of facilitation, you could also use a template solution like nBold to provide your team with a pre-built workspaces that has everything in place for real-time collaboration. You can include your everyday apps and tools or files at the template level so that your team has everything needed in one place for effective collaboration. 

Learn more about nBold solutions

Organizations that continue to rely on outdated means of cooperation will lag behind those that use real-time collaboration gain traction. Furthermore, businesses that use a real-time communication solution minimize maintenance costs and increase employee productivity.

Unified communications technology encompasses more than just communication. These solutions are designed to meet the fast-paced, collaborative needs of today’s businesses. Employees can access their communication and collaboration tools from anywhere and on any device because these solutions are cloud-based. 

Employees may attain deeper levels of teamwork and productivity by using the correct real-time collaboration technologies. It’s about time for companies with old communication methods to explore the advantages of real-time collaboration and adapt to the demands of today’s workplace.

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