First of all, the old way, which everyone is probably familiar with. One person creates a document. The document is then distributed among colleagues for review, creating multiple copies in the process (either by email, hard copy, etc.). The reviews are then done and sent back to the creator, who has to manually compile all of the recommendations and edits into a single document… which then has to be reviewed again. Rinse and repeat until finished.
The whole process is very rigid and structured and importantly, it takes a lot of time.
Now sweep away all of your preconceptions about collaborating and make way for the new way of doing things.
It starts the same, in that one person creates a document, but the rest is much more fluid. You see with cloud based software you don’t share copies of the original document, you share the actual document. Each collaborator can work on the document in real time and depending on the level of access you have given them, can make edits and leave comments. Taking Google Docs as an example, you can have up to fifty collaborators working on a single document at the same time.
Now in practice having fifty people editing a document at the same time is probably not going to be practical and likely will never happen, but the point is that it is possible. It also saves a lot of time and resources. For instance, sharing a cloud based document with fifty people is a piece of cake and uses up hardly any network capacity. The reverse of that is true if you are sending out fifty copies of a document in fifty emails to your fifty recipients. Lots of network traffic and disk space is used up doing things the old way.
Google isn’t the only company to offer collaborative cloud solutions. Microsoft Office Online and Quip are two more examples, but there are many more and it is not just limited to written documents either. Spreadsheets, presentations, virtual whiteboards and anything else are all fair game. Which one will you use?