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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 use 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.

The following are a few things to note about this example:

  • 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 to track operational information.

The following are a few things to note about this example:

  • 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.

The following are a few things to note about this example:

  • 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.

Scenario: Collaboration between an ArcGIS Enterprise and an ArcGIS Online organization with mobile workers performing disconnected data collection

An independent oil and natural gas exploration and production company establishes an ArcGIS Enterprise organization to manage authoritative data for site suitability projects. The company has mobile workers using the ArcGIS Field Maps mobile application in ArcGIS Online to identity suitable site locations. The company is interested in sharing the latest authoritative site suitability data with its mobile workers in ArcGIS Online and sharing the data collected in the field back to ArcGIS Enterprise.

The following are a few things to note about this example:

  • The company is using an ArcGIS Enterprise version of 10.9 or later to enable two-way editing.
  • Mobile workers are authenticating with ArcGIS Online to use ArcGIS Field Maps.
  • ArcGIS Online is the host of the collaboration.
  • ArcGIS Enterprise is a guest in the collaboration. The host (ArcGIS Online) has granted the guest (ArcGIS Enterprise) with Send and Receive access to the collaboration workspace.
  • Authoritative feature layers are shared from ArcGIS Enterprise as copies to ArcGIS Online. The layers have been configured to support sharing two-way edits.
  • Mobile workers download the shared feature layer and take it, offline, into the field using the ArcGIS Field Maps mobile application. In the field, they perform data collection and inspect existing sites. Once they finish collecting data, the updates are synchronized to the feature layer in ArcGIS Online.
  • At the next scheduled collaboration workspace synchronization, the updates collected by the mobile workers will be shared back to ArcGIS Enterprise.

The example described above is just one way in which two-way edits can be used in a collaboration. Two-way edits may be shared in an ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Enterprise collaboration, in a collaboration with multiple participants, and do not require the use of the ArcGIS Field Maps application or another mobile application to edit shared data.

To learn more about ArcGIS Enterprise-to-ArcGIS Online collaborations, see Set up an ArcGIS Enterprise and ArcGIS Online collaboration. To learn more about sharing feature service edits two-way, see Share content with collaboration groups.

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.