A Guide to Project Team Collaboration

Successful project management relies on team collaboration. Collaboration refers to two or more people working together to achieve a goal and typically ends in a deliverable or product.


As technology changes the way we work, collaboration within and between teams is becoming increasingly prevalent.

Unfortunately, the more teams collaborate, the more obstacles they face. Many teams don’t know what collaboration entails, how to collaborate, and what value collaboration can add to a project or an organization.

Combine this confusion with numerous collaboration tools and competing deadlines – it’s little surprise that poor collaboration can quickly derail a project.

In this guide, I’ll help you to improve project team collaboration. I’ll explain why collaboration is vital to your project and how to get your team planning, acting, and tracking progress together. I’ll also outline why SharePoint is an ideal tool for project teams.

This guide is supported by two free resources from BrightWork.

Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook provides practical advice on collaboration, leadership, and project management.

For teams using SharePoint, our free project management template is an ideal, no-code starting point.

Let’s get started.

Table of Contents

Click on any chapter to jump directly to it.

Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook

Help your team to work and grow together

Chapter 1.

What is Collaboration?

As explained above, collaboration refers to two or more people working together to solve a problem.


This may sound like teamwork, but there are notable differences between a team and collaboration.

Typically, a team is a group of people with similar skills who regularly work together with one person making key decisions. Teams take several forms including cross-functional teams, virtual teams, and self-managed teams.

Collaboration brings together people with different skills and experiences to solve a problem or work on a project.

Everyone involved is united behind a common goal and authority is shared.

Collaboration takes place in teams; however, simply putting a team together does not mean everyone will collaborate effectively. It’s a distinct way of working.

Collaboration is becoming more embedded in how we work. According to the 2017 WorkPlace Productivity and Communications Technology Report, over two-thirds of employees’ time, or 6 hours out of nine hours worked, was spent communicating with other people.

Similarly, a study conducted by Planview found that:

  • 38% of respondents worked on cross-functional teams.
  • 70% worked with people both inside and outside of their organization.
  • 28% worked with team members located in different countries.


Why is collaboration becoming so popular?

The fast-paced global economy means organizations must do more with less and respond quickly to customer demands. Organizations need cross-functional teams to innovate and improve processes to remain agile.

Remote working also continues to grow, with around 3.7 million employees (2.8% of the workforce) working from home at least half the time. As project manager, you may be managing team members who work remotely. You may also work remotely and have to manage the project from a different location to the rest of your team. Either way, remote teams require different management and collaboration tools. 

These needs are met by – and indeed, accelerated by – the sheer volume of collaboration apps and tools available in the market. Teams can now chat, share and co-edit documents, assign work, create reports, automate tasks using workflows and more at any time, from any location.

Collaboration is part of the digital revolution; these new tools make collaboration easier.

As we’ll see below, collaboration delivers numerous benefits to organizations, including increased productivity and higher levels of employee engagement.

Now we’ve discussed collaboration, you may be wondering what it means for your projects

Chapter 2.

Collaboration and Project Management

When applied to project management, collaboration means bringing together a team from different departments, offices, companies, and countries to complete a project.


Projects create the innovations needed by organizations to grow. Successful projects are delivered by collaborative, engaged teams.

As explained by Daniel Goleman in his 1998 work, Working with Emotional Intelligence, each of us only has part of the information and skills we need to do our jobs. We rely on the collective experiences, skills, and knowledge within the team to fill in the gaps.

Completing a project requires diverse skills and experiences, delivered by a cross-functional team who don’t typically work together day-to-day.

Collaboration is also important for new project managers, inexperienced team members, and “accidental project managers’” – individuals who manage projects but are not formally trained in the discipline.

These individuals lean on the skills and experiences of the wider team to contribute successfully. It also helps if tools, processes, and project templates are in place to support common ways of working.

Emphasis on project team collaboration reflects the changing structure of many companies, which are becoming less hierarchical with more interaction between departments.

In Collaborative Project Management: A Handbook, Éamonn McGuiness (BrightWork CEO) notes that:


‘Collaborative project management is transformed from the old command and control structure – ‘’You’ll do what I tell you’’ – into “Let’s work together to get this done’’.


If collaboration is the essence of modern project management, ineffective collaboration or the lack of collaboration can undermine your project.

In fact, the Chaos Manifesto 2014 found that 33% of projects failed due to a lack of involvement from the whole team. Similarly, a study from Salesforce reports that 86% of respondents noted a lack of collaboration as the root of failures in the workplace.

Poor collaboration impacts every stage of the project – from gathering requirements to visibility, communication, reporting, feedback, and stakeholder engagement.

We’ll take a closer look at some obstacles to collaboration in the next section.

Free SharePoint Project Management Template 

Help your team to plan, act, and track together using one tool 

Chapter 3.

Team Collaboration – Advantages and Challenges

Collaboration is key to organizational growth.


In a 2017 survey published by the Harvard Business Review:

  • 81% of respondents felt both internal and external collaboration was key to their current success.
  • 68% of those who were prioritizing collaboration were ahead of their competitors.
  • Organizations reporting 10% growth in the previous two years were also focused on collaboration.


Effective collaboration delivers several positive outcomes, including:

  • An improved customer experience
  • Engaged employees
  • Higher productivity
  • Faster decision-making
  • Continual learning
  • Better communication with remote teams
  • Streamlined project planning
  • Clear accountability for tasks and deliverables
  • Greater alignment within and between teams
  • Reduced administration on projects
  • Balanced skillsets within project teams.


Facilitating collaboration in a project team requires strong leadership and clear guidance from the project manager.

The team needs to understand the goals of the project; have defined roles and responsibilities, and agree on ways of working, for example, meetings and decision-making.

Collaboration calls for an extensive skill set. Team members with the following skills are likely to work easily with others:

  • Communication skills, especially active listening
  • Consistency
  • A willingness to compromise
  • Openness to new ideas
  • Time-management
  • The ability to learn from mistakes.


In addition to these skills, a project manager also needs to:

  • Create a positive team environment.
  • Know the strengths and weaknesses of their team.
  • Delegate tasks appropriately.
  • Set team goals.
  • Deal quickly with conflict.
  • Understand when to coach or mentor team members who need extra support.
  • Build consensus for ideas.
  • Celebrate successes.


Why does collaboration fail?

By now, it’s clear that collaboration can enhance team performance and improve projects, helping organizations to reach their strategic goals.

Unfortunately, we also know that collaboration can and does fail, or is not always practiced successfully within a team.

Collaboration is suited to flat organizations, with little hierarchy or bureaucracy to slow-down decisions. In traditional, hierarchal organizations, senior management can resist the move to collaboration, fearing a loss of control over daily operations.

Obstacles to team collaboration include:

  • No support or vision from senior management.
  • Silos within an organization.
  • Previous negative experiences with collaboration.
  • Personality clashes.
  • Competition for promotions or performance-related compensation.
  • Forcing collaboration from the top-down.
  • Too many tools and processes within teams and departments.


Collaboration can also fail if there is no clear route for decision-making.  A collaborative team will have many opinions and ideas. When faced with too many choices, reaching a decision collectively can be a slow process.

Commununication tools also play a role in collaboration.

Choosing the right tools for collaboration is critical. For many teams, email, spreadsheets, and phone-calls remain their primary communication tools.

In their study, Planview found that:

  • Respondents were using 4.5 different tools to collaborate on projects.
  • 33% reported that everyone was using different tools.
  • 40% failed to find information at the right time.
  • 39% struggled with poor visibility into tasks and workloads.


The result of poor collaboration and miscommunication? Teams reported losing up to 9 weeks per year due to collaboration issues.

From wasted time to duplication of tasks, late projects, and low-quality deliverables, poor collaboration leads to huge costs for teams and organizations.

Projects such as the Airbus 380 and the Mars Climate Orbiter failed due to poor collaboration. In both cases, the various teams working on the projects did not communicate with each other, leading to one-sided views of progress and data.

Now that you know why collaboration is important to your project, how can you overcome the outlined obstacles and get everyone working together?  You need an easy way to get the team planning, acting, and tracking progress with one tool.

Let’s take a look at each step in more detail below.

Chapter 4.

Collaboration Software

Collaboration cannot be achieved by software alone but the right software can help. Collaboration tools should help teams to access information and update tasks in one place.


Collaborative software is particularly important to remote teams, who need to work across different locations and time zones smoothly.

Choosing the right tools for collaboration is critical. For many teams, email, spreadsheets, and phone-calls remain their primary communication tools.

 In their 2015 study, Planview found that:

  • Respondents were using 4.5 different tools to collaborate on projects.
  • 33% reported that everyone was using different tools.
  • 40% failed to find information at the right time.
  • 39% struggled with poor visibility into tasks and workloads.


A collaboration tool helps teams to plan, act, and track together by brining key information and communication into one secure location.  

Collaboration tools are often either synchronous (real-time) or asynchronous (does not occur at the same time). Tools may be classified depending on their main functionality:

  • Communication, with chat, audio, video conferencing, discussion threads, and file sharing.
  • Task management, including timelines, workflows, calendars, task assignments, task prioritization, and planning and scheduling.
  • Document management, with co-editing, templates, permission, and version control.


Many collaborative tools combine these elements into a single offering, for example, Microsoft Teams.

Microsoft Teams is a Slack-like app within Office 365 that provides a chat-based workspace for teams to talk and collaborate.  

Teams is built on the Office 365 Groups (Groups) framework, bringing together various collaboration tools and options in on place.

Teams also supports:

  • Document management including uploading, editing, moving, and creating documents.
  • Collaborative editing
  • Scheduling and running meetings
  • Video calls.


Teams is made up of teams – a collection of people, conversations, files, and tools – and channels – a discussion within the team focused on a particular topic like a project.  

Each team has a dedicated SharePoint site collection with OneNote and related documents.


Picking Collaboration Software

When selecting collaboration software, you’ll need to consider how your team works now and what processes you may like to introduce in the future.

Start your collaboration software evaluation with your team. How do they currently work together? What issues prevent effective collaboration? Who is going to use the tool? What processes are your team ready for?

Document this feedback in a user requirements document for reference later on.

When comparing software options, consider the following criteria:

  • Ease of deployment
  • Configuration options
  • Training and support options.

Free SharePoint Project Management Template 

Help your team to plan, act, and track together using one tool 

Chapter 5.

Using SharePoint for collaboration

There is no shortage of collaboration and project management tools on the market today. At BrightWork, we recommend teams use Microsoft SharePoint.


Launched in 2001 as a web-based collaborative tool, Microsoft SharePoint is used by over 400,000 customers in 250,000 organizations worldwide.

SharePoint is designed for collaboration. Key capabilities include:

  • Team sites
  • Communication sites (Office 365)
  • Intranets
  • Document management
  • Task management
  • Robust permissions and security
  • Configurable templates
  • Workflows
  • No-code configurations
  • Forums, wikis, and discussions
  • Integration with Microsoft products such as Outlook and OneNote
  • Knowledge management.




Using SharePoint for project management aids collaboration in numerous ways.

  • A SharePoint site helps to centralize all project information and documents in one place, increasing visibility and tracking.
  • SharePoint includes four security levels – public or private sharing, protection for sensitive documents, and data encryption – and other security capabilities.
  • SharePoint lists simplify project planning and task tracking.
  • Visual features such as a Kanban-style board and Gantt charts improve task management and communication.
  • With permissions, the project manager can control who has access to project information.
  • The document library is a powerful feature, with co-editing, versioning, and search.
  • Workflows save time and boost productivity by moving work forward without increased administration.
  • Personalized dashboards and ‘My Work’ reports help team members to find, do, and update work quickly.


Using Microsoft Teams for chat? You can easily add a link to your SharePoint site to the relevant Team to bring chat, @mentions, video calls, and project information into one place.


Collaboration with Microsoft Teams and SharePoint



If you want to try some of these tips, our free SharePoint project management template is a fast starting point!

Key collaborative features of the free template include:

  • Project Homepage with metric tiles, RAG status icons, and ‘tasks by status’ chart
  • Tasks List
  • Project timeline and Gantt charts
  • My Work and Work Reports
  • Document repository.


The template is free, forever, and can be used to manage as many projects as you need. The Free SharePoint Project Management Template from BrightWork runs on SharePoint 2019/2016/2013/2010.

Chapter 6.

How to Improve Project Team Collaboration

Project team collaboration requires engaged team members who understand the goals of the project and their role in reaching this objective.


Below is a three-step process to help your project team collaborate effectively. 

Note – the following section assumes the project team is already in place. For tips and suggestions on picking the right project team, please see the Resources section at the end of this guide.


1. Plan Together

Involving the project team in planning will create a high-quality, robust plan with more buy-in from everyone.

There are three ways to plan a project collaboratively:

  • Run a planning session with the team.
  • Develop a draft plan and review with the team in a workshop.
  • Use a combination of these approaches; begin the plan and work with the team to finish the planning.


The first option can take longer, but will often yield better results. By drawing on the various views and skills of the project team early on, it’s easier to spot risks and solve problems before work begins.

Agreeing on key elements such as the project methodology, the project statement, requirements, and responsibilities from the outset will avoid confusion during project execution!

As we’ll see, this information should be maintained and updated in your collaborative project site for clear communication and transparency.


2. Act Together

Collaboration is impossible if everyone is working in their own way in a silo. Team members are often working on multiple projects at once, which have to be balanced against non-project work. The bigger picture gets lost among competing deadline and different project management tools.

It may take some time, but you need the team to act together as a cohesive unit.

Firstly, your team needs to navigate the five-stages of team formation in a short period of time.

The five stages of team formation are:

  • Forming: The team are getting to know each other and are looking forward to the upcoming project.
  • Storming: Conflicts and disagreements arise as the team becomes more comfortable with each other and the project plan. Many teams get stuck in this phase!
  • Norming: Increasingly focused on the goal, the team starts to work together, building on each other’s strengths and skills.
  • Performing: The team is fully engaged and highly motivated. At this stage, the real work of the project takes place.
  • Adjourning: The team disbands as the project ends.


The objective is to move to the norming and performing phases, where collaboration and high-quality work takes place, quickly and smoothly.

Start by establishing agreed ways of working such as meetings, decision-making, and dealing with external vendors.

Next, you’ll need a clear communication plan, a blueprint for communication during your project. The communication plan should help provide the right information to the right person at the right time in a format that works for them.

The plan should also detail your stakeholder engagement plan and how to communicate with remote team members.

Although you shouldn’t overly rely on meetings for communication, meetings can play a positive role in driving collaboration. You just need to take a considered approach to running team meetings.

Try this sample agenda for your next session:

  • Review and agree on the agenda.
  • Review, discuss and resolve open issues.
  • Look at upcoming tasks in your project site.
  • Discuss tasks and milestones completed in the previous work.
  • Any other business.


Be sure to conclude meetings with clear actions and task owners.

Bringing these elements together – successful team formation, ways of working, and communication – to facilitate team collaboration requires a positive working environment and leadership.

Let’s start with the team environment.

At BrightWork, we describe our ideal team dynamics using the 4 Cs:

  • Companions (friendly and enjoyable)
  • Collaborative (working together towards the same goals)
  • Challenging (be comfortable asking and answering uncomfortable questions)
  • Can-do attitude.


Feel free to use the 4Cs as a starting point for your team. You may like to add other habits that are in keeping with the project.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Take responsibility for your own deliverables.
  • Be open and expect new tasks outside of your deliverables.
  • Learn from mistakes.
  • Deal with issues quickly.


As you’ve probably guessed by now, team collaboration needs leadership. As the project manager, it’s important that you set goals and demonstrate the qualities you wish to see in your team – clear communication, commitment, a willingness to learn from mistakes and so on.

A research team at Google identified psychological safety, ‘’a shared belief held by members of a team that the team is safe for interpersonal risk-taking’’ as a defining habit of high-performance teams.

Psychological safety makes it easier for individuals to be themselves at work, and engage with others with empathy, honesty, and understanding.

Consider elements such as:

  • Regular progress check-ins, for example, a daily huddle.
  • Providing constructive feedback when needed.
  • Ensuring everyone has an opportunity to speak at meetings and workshops.
  • Processes for dealing with conflict quickly and fairly.


Remember to store all files and documents in your project site so everyone can easily find the information  You can also use collaborative features like forums, chat, and surveys to get feedback on your proposed ways of working.


3. Track Together

Once the project is planned and the team is collaborating effectively, it’s time to track progress.

This ensures everyone involved in the project – the project manager, team members, and senior executives – can easily find out how working is progressing and contribute to the project outcome.

Depending on your project tool, you’ll want to track items such as:

  • Tasks (In progress, late, upcoming, and unassigned)
  • Project health (time and cost)
  • Documents
  • Issues and risks
  • Resource allocation.


For at-a-glance visual updates, use metric tiles, scorecards, charts, and Kanban boards.

Where possible, use automated email reminders to keep the team on track, for example, schedule a weekly tasks update every Monday morning.

Free SharePoint Project Management Template

Get your project team on the same page with one collaborative tool


Plan, Act, and Track Together Using SharePoint

Forming a Project Team


Team Collaboration


Collaboration Software 


Plan Together


Act Together

Ways of Working


Project Communication


Team Dynamics


Project Leadership


Track Together


Leverage SharePoint for Collaboration

Collaboration and Project Management


Document Management


Permissions and Security



Free SharePoint Project Management Template

Start collaborating quickly with an out-of-the-box project site 

Created By

GW Pillar page

Grace Windsor

Read more SharePoint and project management articles from Grace!

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Templates Overview

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Project Templates

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Portfolio Templates

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Template Management

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Insights and articles from our team and guests

 CPM Handbook
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Live and On-Demand webinars to help your SharePoint project management journey

 Guides and Ebooks
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