In my experience collaboration across an organization is often a difficult proposition especially in these days where teams can be divided across buildings, cities or even as far as in different countries.
One barrier to collaboration is physical location. In most cases it is easiest to work together when a group of people can get together in person to discuss the project, steps to take and how to track their progress. There can be some scheduling conflicts in trying to get a larger number of people free at one time but for the most part in person collaborations has the least amount of practical barriers.
Once collaboration involves people in multiple locations such as in different states and time zones it can be more problematic. Conference calls are possible but some cues are lost by not being able to see people’s expressions, possibly not having the clearest of connections and even being distracted by other things going on around you during the call. Video conferencing helps in that you are able to see each others faces and this can help everyone focus on each other rather than on their environment.
Another barrier to collaboration is simply the personalities and work habits of those making up the group. A few of the articles we read talk about whether or not “culture” is a barrier to adopting new technologies. While I think culture can affect the adoption rate of new technologies it really comes down more to the individuals. A company may push a chat forum or using a wiki to collaborate but if a person is not used to those technologies or simply doesn’t like using them it can make them less likely to participate which can harm collaboration.
I believe the most common barrier to collaborations can be getting through the “storming” phase where team members get to know each other, how they work and the best way to communicate. Until a group works through this phase it can limit the productivity of the group.
I do not believe any of these barriers doom a team’s collaboration but the group needs to understand there can be obstacles to collaborating and it takes work to overcome them.