People want to be recognised, motivated and connected. These are usually the missing elements to successfully collaborating online.
Most online collaborations don’t fail through lack of skill, they fail for lack of team spirit.
They fail when people don’t make the time to work on the project, nor attach the success of the project to their own ego and self-verification. They fail when people haven’t connect, nor care if they’re disliked by other members of the group. They fail when people put in what’s required rather than what’s needed.
37 Signals, Google Docs, DropBox are brilliant tools for collaborating online, but you need something more. You need a local newspaper. You need to start an internal blog, newsletter or a daily forum to recognise, motivate and connect people.
This is where you interview the high-achievers each week. This is where you highlight the difficult milestones ahead and celebrate those you’ve achieved. This is where you foster connections between people (be sure to allow comments) and invite columnists to contribute. You can even have an events section of the week ahead (drinks Tuesday? sure!).
Recognize the work your team is doing, motivate them to notice the internal/external rewards for such work and really connect your team to each other.