As much as modern business practices have evolved, many of the oldest truths of business still hold true. And in some cases, they are truer than ever. This is especially the case when it comes to the value of staff.

Employers have always known that the differences between themselves and their competitors are shallower than they would like to admit. Products and services are often functionally identical. Most business rely on the same tools and depend on similar assets. And the strategic thinking propelling one business is often quite like the strategy being followed by another.

In a very real sense it is the staff of one business that most distinguishes it from another. And the success or failure of that business is often determined by the ability of managers and executives to leverage the full value of their teams.

That means collaboration is more than just a sentimental but inconsequential agenda. Rather, it is a core asset with tremendous strategic potential. The hard part is putting tools in place that allow team members to collaborate more effectively rather than merely more complexly. Follow these proven strategies to boost collaboration in organizations large or small:

1) Create a Shared Understanding of Facts

The single biggest obstacle to collaboration is not having enough access to the same information. When team members work in different departments or deal with different data sets, simply swapping files back and forth becomes a time and labor-intensive process, to say nothing of the trouble that comes when different teams are getting different answers to the same question. Relying on dashboard business intelligence that makes the same data visible and accessible to everyone creates a shared platform for understanding. Everyone operates according to the same assumptions, which is a precondition of coordinating efforts.

2) Enable the Real-Time Exchange of Information

Information that is old and outdated has little if any utility. Unfortunately, keeping information perfectly current is very difficult to do when that information is siloed and scattered throughout multiple locations. Making it possible for every collaborator to see updates and additions as soon as they appear keeps everyone on the same page.

3) Eliminate Instances of Errors and Omissions

Incorrect information makes effective collaboration impossible. But when data is managed manually it is almost impossible to eliminate instances of errors or identify when and where they exist. Collaboration tools that automate more of the process ensure that no single collaborator can compromise the efforts of the entire team.

4) Embrace Data Visualization

Collaboration is not about a bunch of professionals performing a bunch of routine tasks. It is about each member of a team using their unique skills and individual experiences to contribute something distinctly valuable. Data visualization is a great tool for this because it lets different people interact and extract insights from data in whatever way works best for them. Instead of limiting insights to those of the data team, data visualization let’s teams tap into the unique perspectives of every member to arrive at the best possible decision. Teams can skip through more of the preliminary steps and spend their time together focused on meaty decision making.

5) Prioritize Mobile Participation

Teams must be able to collaborate just as effectively when spread throughout the world as they can when seated in the same conference room. Any tool introduced to boost collaboration must make data and applications available from multiple locations from any device. Not only does this help to eliminate common points of friction. It ensures that whenever a bright idea appears in any form, collaborators have the resources they need to nurture it further.

As you consider how to upgrade the tech tools you rely on, focus on more than just the individual user experience. Think about how tools will be used collectively and whether they help or hurt the character of your teams. The best ones empower teams to become a sum that is greater than its parts.