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How do you collaborate at arm’s length?

At Every Turn TakeTurns Blog
|  by
Christophe Barriolade
Christophe Barriolade
Co-founder & CEO
How do you collaborate at arm’s length?

Effective collaboration is essential to many people’s jobs. But not all collaborations are the same, in fact, we see two basic types:

  • Arm-in-arm - We’re all on the same team and we’re all working together towards the same shared objective.  A new product launch is a classic example of arm-in-am collaboration.
  • Arm’s length - In this form, we pursue shared objectives while protecting our interests.  Arm’s length [1] collaborations are used when working with external parties (clients, partners, investors, …) or with independent internal groups (e.g., audit, compliance, human resources, …).  Negotiating a sales contract with a new customer is a classic arm’s length collaboration.

The four main kinds of collaborations: Internal v External, Arm-in-arm vs Arm's Length
Various types of collaborations

Today, many of our collaboration tools–Slack, Google Docs, Asana, Microsoft Teams, etc.–assume we’ll be working arm-in-arm.  Sharing absolutely everything with everyone all at once and in real-time is prioritized. The hope is that it’ll keep everyone on the same page.  While that can be effective when we’re arm-in-arm, it’s ineffective when working at arm’s length. Here are a couple of reasons why:

  • Independence - In arm’s length collaborations, the parties are independent. Each party defends its  own interests while pursuing the collaboration’s shared objective .  This is why each party works in its own environment and exchanges documents or files only when they’re ready.  For example, when negotiating a customer contract, you only exchange the approved revisions, never your internal notes and comments.
  • Structured - The independence of each party imposes a defacto turn-by-turn structure onto arm’s-length collaborations. For example, if we’re working on a change order with our vendor, every change we propose requires the other party’s sign-off.  This isn’t like those collaborative authoring sessions in arm-in-arm solutions like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 365, where anyone on the team can unilaterally make updates whenever they want.  
  • Secure - Arm’s length collaborations frequently feature sensitive documents and files. Both parties must compartmentalize the collaboration to protect confidentiality. Imagine a complaint to HR. The confidentiality of the documents and files is paramount. And upon resolution, the content needs to be archived and removed from circulation. This type of information shouldn’t be in typical collaboration hotspots such as shared folders in Google Drive, Microsoft Teams, Slack, or even peoples’ inboxes.
  • Compliant - In certain industries, regulators are concerned with how organizations document and monitor their arm’s length collaborations with internal and external parties. Examples include medical, legal, and regulatory affairs (MLR) review in healthcare and the sale and marketing of insurance products and advice in financial services.

This mismatch between the features of arm-in-arm collaboration tools and the requirements of arm’s length collaborations is why most of us fall back to email when working at arm’s length.  (Despite its issues with security & privacy, productivity, and even the environment.)

Enter TakeTurns 

TakeTurns is an application designed to facilitate arm’s length collaborations. In TakeTurns, both parties collaborate in a secure, shared workspace. Unlike arm-in-arm collaboration tools,

  • Each party maintains its independence and continues to use its existing tools only using TakeTurns to share, review, revise or request files and documents 
  • The turn-by-turn structure enforces a clear separation of duties so everyone always knows whose turn it is to work.
  • TakeTurns raises the bar when it comes to security and privacy.  Both parties control who participates and what their roles are (avoiding misdirected email issues). And when a collaboration is finished , TakeTurns removes the content after a grace period to avoid creating (or adding to) an organization's “Data graveyard.”
  • And to support good record-keeping practices, TakeTurns maintains the history of the entire collaboration, all files (and versions), and messages exchanged. This content is available as an archive when you wrap up the collaboration.

Get started today

TakeTurns brings structure, security, and transparency to your collaborations. With TakeTurns, you and your parties will know whose turn it is to work, track the full history, and maintain confidentiality. Learn more in our Help Center or follow us on LinkedIn and YouTube. And when you’re ready for chaos-free collaboration: Try TakeTurns for free.

[1] By arm’s length we’re alluding to the definition found in fields such as the law. The Legal Information Institute @ Cornell Law School has this terrific definition. They describe an arm’s length transaction as one in which:  
“... unrelated and unaffiliated parties agree to do business, acting independently and in their self-interest.“ In arm’s length transactions, the participating parties have equal bargaining power, symmetric information, and are participating voluntarily.  

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