Dennis D. McDonald (ddmcd@outlook.com) is an independent consultant located in Alexandria Virginia. His services and capabilities are described here. Application areas include project, program, and data management; market assessment, digital strategy, and program planning; change and content management; social media; and, technology adoption. Follow him on Google+. He also publishes on CTOvision.com and aNewDomain.

Are Smartphones Bad for Collaboration?

By Dennis D. McDonald

Are smartphones bad for collaboration? Sometimes I think so. Here’s why:

  1. Some collaboration requires developing and reviewing a document or file of some sort (word processing document, spreadsheet, image file, etc.)
  2. Members of the collaborating group participate via a mix of devices (phone conferencing, desktop computers with fast connections, smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.)
  3. People using smartphones are hobbled in terms of file viewing and file manipulation due to device screensize or performance limitations.
  4. Whoever is running the group must accommodate smartphone users by providing more support and time consuming explanations after the fact. 

It’s #4 that I think is the most serious issue. Accommodating less-than-ideal access to a file under development can add an inefficient layer of “overhead” to group interaction in terms of added time, cost, delay, and potential for mistakes and confusion.

Can the increased mobility and flexibility provided by smartphones through reduced reliance on desktop and laptop machines outweigh such potential problems? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I don’t have any data to test this. But the number and variety of platforms is increasing that can be used to collaborate and communicate.

I expect such issues will increase and require management attention and training so that increasingly abundant “productivity tools” don’t instead end up reducing productivity.

What do you think? If you’d like, use the comment field below to contribute to the discussion.

Copyright (c) 2011 by Dennis D. McDonald

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