Collaboration is more important than ever as more people are working from home and teams are distributed across the globe. Getting people to work together in a room is hard enough, but when they’re miles or even a time zone away it can feel close to impossible.
Collaboration software is the grease that turns the collaboration wheel. It helps teams work better together. Team-building exercises have their place, but collaboration software gives those teams the tools they need to work more productively after they’ve bonded.
Before we give you the list of the best collaboration software available, let’s take a look at this category of software and discuss exactly how it helps teams.
What Is Collaboration Software?
Simply put, collaboration software is a tool to help teams work together more effectively. What collaborative software does is connect existing technologies to facilitate communications and sharing. It makes it easier to coordinate, cooperate and solve problems when more than one person is working on a task.
Any data that is pertinent to the project can be shared and files accessed at any time and anywhere. That means that teams on different shifts, such as those that work from home or in different time zones, can be in touch and stay on the same page in terms of their progress. This boosts productivity for team members and the whole project.
A Virtual Office Space
With collaboration software a virtual office space is created and team members are invited to join. Now they have access to a shared project that contains work to be done by team members. All changes are synced with others who are also using the collaboration software, so everyone knows what everyone else is doing, which prevents multiple versions of work floating around.
The benefits of using collaborative software are many. For one, it saves time, which is one of the three constraints in a project. That helps an organization’s bottom line as teams are working more efficiently and therefore productively. This makes collaborative software so useful for project management. It monitors and tracks progress while getting the best results out of teams.
But it’s not just about squeezing the most work out of your team. Collaboration software can build bonds and boost team relationships. By working together they get to know one another better and this makes them more comfortable with each other. Not only teams but managers benefit from the improved organization. Workflow is transparent, so managing the stages of a project is easier.
Typical Collaboration Tools
There are many types of tools that make up collaboration software. This suite of features helps to make it easier for people to work collaboratively, whether in the same physical space or a virtual one. The following are some of the aspects of collaborative tools that you’ll want in your software.
The most important part of any collaboration software is that it communicates in real time. You must have software that updates immediately or you’re forever playing catch-up. It’s like watching a foreign movie that is dubbed but the sound is not in sync with the mouths talking. You’ll probably not keep watching. The same is true with collaboration software.
Related: Communication Management Techniques
The whole point of collaborating is to work as a group at completing tasks. Therefore, a task management tool is essential. For one, tasks need to get assigned in order for them to be executed. Managers will need to track the progress on the tasks, while teams will need tools to help them work on the task together.
Because real-time communication is key, teams need a platform that supports dialogue. People who are in the same office can hunker down in a conference room, but if part of the entire team is working remotely, then a virtual conference room must be available. Teams will want features that allow them to seamlessly talk to one another.
Along the lines of facilitating communications, teams must be able to share documents and images. Managers will want to send directives from stakeholders, too. Therefore, a file-sharing tool is essential.
It might sound counterintuitive to want a place where others are excluded. This is, after all, collaboration. But every manager and team member needs to have space in the software in which they can see their private work. There they can collect their tasks and whatever personal work they have as well. Now each person has the tools to track their own progress and keep tags on their own productivity.
2020 Best Collaboration Software Rankings
There are many collaboration software solutions out there. Some do everything and offer a one-stop-shop, while others focus solely on one aspect of collaboration, but do it very well. Here are the 10 best collaboration tools of 2020:
ProjectManager.com is an award-winning software that organizes teams and helps managers control projects. It’s more than merely a collaboration tool. With ProjectManager.com you can manage every phase of the project from initiation to close, but in terms of collaboration it is a great platform for teams, whether working under one roof or distributed anywhere in the world.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based software that keeps everyone connected. Managers can easily assign projects from an online Gantt chart and teams are able to execute tasks how they want. There are multiple project views, from task lists to calendars and kanban boards.
ProjectManager.com gets team members working together on tasks. Each task can be commented on and as many documents and images can be added as needed, so dialogue and notes are all in one place. Better still, as tasks are updated, relevant team members are alerted, so collaboration happens in real-time.
Managers are going to want to make sure teams are scheduled to work when they’re available to work. This can be a problem, especially for remote teams, but not with ProjectManager.com. Resource allocation is all collected on one page, so you can see at a glance who is doing what and when. Scheduling teams has never been easier.
Outside of scheduling, there are a lot of resources that managers need to keep teams working and collaborating effectively. ProjectManager.com lets you check allocation resources and even track costs for them. A real-time dashboard gives you a high-level view and one-click reports can be filtered to get more detail.
If you’re looking for a section of the software that is yours alone, ProjectManager.com has a My Work page. Here you can see all the tasks that you’ve been assigned across all projects. You can also add your own personal tasks and to-do lists, which helps team members manage themselves better.
While ProjectManager.com has all the features you need to manage a project, it is likely you are using other apps, like Google Drive, calendars and others. ProjectManager.com has custom integration through Zapier to sync your work with all your other apps.
Asana is a task management tool that allows you to manage teams and tasks to work more productively. It includes board and list views that allow users to break down plans into next steps, which keeps team members on track with concrete goals.
The tool has simple kanban boards to visualize work, so managers and teams can see where everyone is in terms of the production cycle. Asana also has automation to streamline your work, simplify workflow and reduce errors. A portfolio view allows managers to monitor the status of work in real time, so they can report back to stakeholders.
Trello is a project management software that helps with collaboration through kanban boards and lists. It allows teams to organize their work and prioritize projects, giving them a great deal of flexibility. Tasks are collected on cards that have due dates and attachments, and teams can comment.
One of the nice things about Trello is that there is a built-in workflow automation that increases productivity by taking those tedious tasks off your desk. Trello also integrates with the apps that your team is already using, which keeps everything in one place for a more efficient workflow. It even syncs across all your devices, so teams can collaborate anywhere.
Slack is a collaborative communications hub that unites teams in real time. Unlike a project management software, Slack focuses on the communications aspect of collaboration software. It makes email feel obsolete. All your attachments and conversations are in one place and easy to search.
The software can be broken down into different channels, so teams can have their own place to communicate without cluttering others’ workspaces. Other channels are visible if team members are invited, which creates transparency and lets everyone know what everyone else is doing. Individual team members can also send direct messages or they can message themselves, creating a space to collect ideas or to-do lists.
ProofHub is a project management and team collaboration software that helps teams stay in ultimate control of their work. A great thing about ProofHub is that you can use to-do lists for simple task management or switch to kanban boards for a more agile approach.
There are multiple views (List view, Kanban board view, Gantt chart view (timeline view), and Calendar view) for flexibility. ProofHub helps in boosting collaboration by giving teams a dedicated space for real-time discussions, and an in-built chat app. There’s also an online proofing tool that lets teams share and review files, annotate design files using markup tools and proof them without switching to other apps.
Zoom is a video conferencing and phone app that can be used for meetings, video webinars, as a virtual conference room and phone system. There is also Zoom Chat, which keeps teams connected for greater collaboration. Zoom allows users to create a virtual workspace where teams can get together and work collaboratively.
There is also a feature to organize communications. Zoom makes it easy to get to the signal in the noise of too many messages, content and links related to conversations and projects. Search also makes finding contacts fast, and a calendar integration syncs to show the status of team members, whether they’re in a meeting, on mobile, desktop or offline.
Skype is another communication tool that gives users features to talk with each other. It provides video conferencing for two or more team members, so face-to-face time can happen no matter where the teams are located. You can also make audio calls and use the text function to stay in touch with teams.
You can call phone numbers anywhere in the world from Skype, even if they don’t have a Skype account. It works as a mobile or desktop application for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. Skype is owned by Microsoft, which will retire its Skype for Business premium service on July 31, 2021 and replace it with Microsoft Teams. This will expand capabilities by bringing together files, chats and apps, making it a more integrated app for collaboration.
Dropbox is a cloud-based content hub that brings all your files together. It is great for personal and business file storage. Consider it your backup for all the important files you have. Anyone can upload and transfer files to and from the cloud and then share them with anyone. You can backup photos, videos, documents and other files, which are then synced with all your devices.
Some of its features include automatic uploads, accessing files even when offline, being able to send files too large for email and scanning documents directly to your Dropbox account. The benefits for collaboration are many, especially for teams that are not located in the same space. Being able to share files and have relevant documents only a keystroke away makes working together more efficient.
Box is a secure online storage that helps teams collaborate. It protects sensitive files while making everything easy to get to when team members need the file. Box helps build bridges between team members, customers, partners and vendors, keeping everyone on the same page. It also helps with workflow, allowing users to automate their repeatable tasks, such as HR onboarding, contracts, digital asset management, etc.
This central and secure place to store your content is a boon for both those inside and outside your organization. From there teams can edit, comment and share files. Tasks can even be assigned from Box. Built-in integration with Slack, G Suite and Office 365 add to the usability of Box.
10. G Suite
G Suite offers Gmail, Docs, Calendar, Meet and more for business from Google Cloud. This suite of software touches on many of the bases that collaboration is built on. There’s Gmail for correspondence, and Google calendar to track availability and set meetings. Then there’s the whole Google Drive suite of office software: Docs, Sheets, Forms, Slides, Sites, Keep and more. All your files are stored on Google Cloud and easily accessible and searchable.
In the basic edition there is 30GB of online storage per user, but unlimited storage is available for an upgrade to the Business or Enterprise edition. Collaboration is fostered by such a wide array of tools that are the building blocks of almost any enterprise. There are admin controls to add and remove users, set up groups and manage security options all from one centralized admin console.
11. Office 365
Office 365 is Microsoft’s Office suite of business tools with online storage which is accessible by web. You get Outlook for email, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Sharepoint, Microsoft Teams, etc., all saved and available online with OneDrive. You get updated apps for desktop and web that are available on all your devices to improve productivity wherever you are.
As you might imagine, with this amount of firepower there are many advantages to Office 365. In terms of collaboration, it allows teams to work anywhere with internet connectivity. Everything is there for you in real-time on PC, Mac, iOS, Android or Windows devices. Everyone on your team can add and edit documents that are shared with them, all working on the same version to avoid frustrating and inaccurate duplicates. Multi-party HD video, shared calendars and team chat are always synced, too.
ProjectManager.com is a cloud-based project management software that gives teams the tools they need to work better together, more effectively, more efficiently and more productively. From real-time chat, unlimited file storage to transparent workflow with kanban boards, everyone is free to do their best. See why ProjectManager.com is the best collaboration software by taking this free 30-day trial today.