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About distributed collaboration

With distributed collaboration, you can extend the reach of your GIS content by seamlessly sharing maps, apps, layers, and more with other organizations. Distributed collaboration (or simply collaboration) is based on a foundation of trust between participating organizations and is motivated by common goals and initiatives that support data access and sharing. Collaborations can be useful for many workflows, including exposing ArcGIS Enterprise content to the public through ArcGIS Online, making data visible across different departments within an organization, or managing field data collections. There is no single pattern for collaboration, so you can implement it in the way that best suits your needs.

Example patterns

There are many different patterns within distributed collaboration involving ArcGIS Enterprise, ArcGIS Online, or a combination of the two. When considering how to leverage distributed collaboration for your organizational needs, consider two common patterns:

  • Collaboration between two portals.
  • Collaboration between multiple portals with one central portal.

Example use cases

Keep in mind that each of the following scenarios can be implemented using an ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Enterprise collaboration or an ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Online collaboration, depending on the configuration most applicable to your organizational needs. Note that in the case of an ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online collaboration, ArcGIS Online must be the host.

Scenario: Collaboration between two portals

A collaboration can be created for as few as two portals. For the purposes of this example, let’s consider a collaboration between a planning department and community development department. Two departments could be working closely and sharing their content on a mixed-use development.

A few things to note about this example are:

  • Both departments in this collaboration are using their own deployment of ArcGIS Enterprise.
  • The collaboration could be initiated by either department, in which the initiator would be the host.
  • In this scenario, both departments are sharing referenced layers across their ArcGIS Enterprise portals.

Scenario: Collaboration between multiple Enterprise portals with a central portal

Consider another scenario in which a medium-sized city establishes an ArcGIS Enterprise portal to manage authoritative data for several projects that involve its local police, fire, recreation, and transportation departments. The city is interested in receiving data from each department in order to track operational information.

A few things to note about this example are:

  • The city and each of the participating departments are using their own deployment of ArcGIS Enterprise.
  • Since the city initiated the collaboration, the city is the host. Therefore, the departments who joined the collaboration are guests.
  • Both parties (the city and the participating departments) have agreed upon a scheduled synchronization interval to send and receive feature layer data as copies. Based on the established interval, each party will be able to anticipate when data will be updated and available.

To learn more about ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Enterprise collaborations, see Set up an ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Enterprise collaboration.

Scenario: Collaboration between multiple Enterprise portals with a central ArcGIS Online organization

A medium-sized city's Public Works Department is collaborating with its Department of Public Safety and local residents to report and monitor graffiti, crimes, and utility concerns, such as water leaks. In this initiative, each group is working together to identify and report incidents as they occur, determine whether patterns exist in the data, and increase resources appropriately when needed.

A few things to note about this example are:

  • In this pattern, residents are participating in the distributed collaboration through a single ArcGIS Online organization, and the city departments are participating through ArcGIS Enterprise portals.
  • The ArcGIS Online organization, owned by the Public Works Department, initiated the collaboration and is therefore the host. The Department of Public Safety is a collaboration participant.
  • Residents will be sending and receiving shared content to both the Public Works Department and the Department of Public Safety in real time.
  • The Public Works Department has provided residents with a mobile app to enter incidents and is tracking and addressing activity in the office using a dashboard app.
  • The Department of Public Safety is receiving updates as activities are reported.

To learn more about ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Online collaborations, see Set up an ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online collaboration.

Set up a collaboration

The following are high-level steps for configuring distributed collaboration. For detailed steps specific to collaboration hosts (those who initiate the collaboration) and guests (participants in the collaboration), see Create a collaboration as a host and Join a collaboration as a guest. Keep in mind, the administrators for both hosts and guests must facilitate the collaboration.

  1. Create a collaboration and collaboration workspace
  2. Associate a group to the workspace
  3. Invite guests to the collaboration
  1. Accept an invitation to collaborate
  2. Join a group to the workspace
  3. Configure sync settings for the collaboration workspace
  4. Once you've created a collaboration, you can manage it through your portal. See Manage collaborations as a host or Manage collaborations as a guest for details. To learn more about sharing, visit Share content with collaboration groups.

Use a collaboration

You can share content with other collaborators by sharing it to the group associated with your collaboration workspace. When items are received from another organization, the items will display a blue Collaboration badge that indicates the item was received from another portal through distributed collaboration. If your organization is participating in a distributed collaboration, and if you have the appropriate privileges, you can use the Collaboration filter option in the Map Viewer, Scene Viewer, and Groups and Content pages, filtering results either by collaboration participants or by the collaboration itself. For more information on sharing content with a collaboration, seeShare content with collaboration groups.


The collaboration badge will not be visible on items in the portal from which they originate.