Have you heard of that word collaboration? Who hasn’t! Collaboration has been touted by businesses as the pathway to healthy teams and the very spark of innovation itself. Sure, it’s become a business buzzword. But that doesn’t mean that everyone’s on the same page about how to make that elusive magic happen.
Let’s get beyond the trends and consider what tools you need to make collaboration successful. When teams act collaboratively, with autonomy, there are great benefits to project productivity. Equip your team with an online collaborative tool and you’ll quickly see the positive results.
Benefits of Collaboration Software
Some hold to the belief that competition brings out the best in people. Maybe for some it does, but more industries are embracing another idea: many heads work better than one. Research shows that collaboration offers real productivity benefits. For one, it fosters creativity and empathy for others by promoting other perspectives, which is good both for product development and organizational health, and collaboration can also help blends complementary strengths to build teams that are more well-rounded, which can save valuable time and support better productivity. Also, when you give your teams the freedom to act independently, you’re also building trust, creating more loyalty and retaining talent.
If collaboration is a process for teams, the collaboration tools are meant to facilitate those communication processes. There are many different forms and types of collaboration software, from video conferencing platforms to chat apps to project management tools to shared online document storage and workspaces. There are many different ways collaboration tools help teams collaborate together. Different features include:
- Chats & Discussions
- Video Conferencing
- Shared Tasks
- Online File Storage
- Working in the same document or space together
- Alerts to keep team up-to-date at the same time
- Mobile apps
- And more….
Online collaboration is more prevalent than ever with more projects using distributed teams. Therefore, more products have come into play to help teams work better together. There are a lot of them, but which is the right tool for you and your team? We hope to make that selection more natural with this rundown of some of the best on the market.
WebEx is an online meeting tool by Cisco, which allows people to meet in a virtual place, regardless of where they are geographically. Workplace teams need a computer and an internet connection to use this product. It helps teams meet in small groups with video conferencing and screen sharing, but it can also be a teaching tool and set up for webinars for training or technical support. WebEx offers a free 30-day trial with its sister product, Cisco Spark, a messaging product, or you can buy a plan ranging from $19/month to $39/month, depending on how many people use it per meeting.
Skype isn’t just for talking to friends and relatives. It’s proven itself a great virtual watercooler for teams to connect via video or text, share screens and documents, either one-on-one or with larger groups. It has a desktop and mobile application, and only needs some connectivity to bring teams together on its virtual platform. It can also be used simply as a phone to conduct voice calls. There are two versions of Skype. One, a free model, connects you with other Skype users. The business version offers a variety of different price plans, from $5/month and user to $12.50/month per user, with a package of services, such as email hosting, 1 TB of OneDrive storage and more.
Pinterest made a big splash when it was launched in 2010. It quickly became the most popular app behind only Facebook and Twitter with users in the United States. The app is a visual discovery, collection and storage tool, which teams can use as a sort of vision board when collaborating on a project. It’s free to use, but does require registration. Once in, you can upload, save, sort and generally manage images and videos through collections that can be shared. There are business relationships that do required a financial commitment, but that model is mostly a marketing one.
Google Drive was launched in 2012 as cloud store for files such as Google Docs and Google Sheets. It synchronizes files across all your devices, and allows users to share documents. Teams can collaborate on the same document in real time, without fear of overwriting or losing another team member’s contribution. Google Drive gives you 15 GB free space, and offers monthly upgrades, such as $1.99/month for 100 GB, $9.99/month for 1TB and $99.99/month for 10 TB.
Slack has made quite the splash in the business world with its transparent digital workspace connecting teams. An administrator creates a “workspace” and then can invite members and guests to participate. Now they are connected to share ideas, documents, pictures, etc. There are multiple channels for specific teams or you can connect with an individual privately. You can leave message, get notifications and even search. You can use Slack with a limited number of features for free or get a more robust version that starts at $6.67/active user/month.
Connectteam is a way to put communications, business process and training on a mobile platform. The product helps to improve accountability and ends the constant notification of emails that can make you lose the signal in the noise. Like any good collaborative tool, it works to empower teams with real-time communication through its chat, updates and notification features. It can be used for on-the-job training, employee orientation modules, sales training, as well as project management teams. It’s free, but to get access to all the features can cost between $3/month plus $5/a month per user to enterprise level, which is negotiated.
ProjectManager.com is online project management and collaboration software that connects teams in real-time and gives them an arsenal of tools to foster collaboration while they work. Teams are always connected, and tasks are easily assigned and modified by a simple but dynamic online Gantt chart. Comments and files can be added at the task level, so all work on that task is documented, and team members and leaders can be notified when a task is updated, again, in real-time. There’s chat to create groups or private messages, update tasks and projects either on your desktop or mobile device. Sharing is easy, as well, with unlimited file storage. Plus, the software syncs with Google Docs and other with its app integration feature. It can manage workflow and timesheets online, anytime and anywhere. ProjectManager.com offers a free 30-day trial after which you can sign up for different tiers of use, from $30/user/month, depending on how many people you want to include, to an enterprise edition.
Dropbox is a cloud file storage solution, a centralized place to hold and access photos, documents, videos and files that can be accessed online. Once you move something to Dropbox it is available on your computer, phone and on the Dropbox website, giving you access anywhere and at any time, which is ideal for remote teams to share and collaborate. You can send someone a specific file or give them access to folders of material. Dropbox costs $8.25/month for up to 1 TB of storage, and offers a free trial for its standard and advanced models, after which they cost $12.50 and $20/month, respectively.
Office 365 is probably quite familiar to most of us. Microsoft age-old document tools, like Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Outlook, have been put online, enabling teams to work anywhere, any time and on any device version of its iconic office suite of software products. Microsoft also owns the aforementioned Skype, so it is tied in to support virtual collaboration, too, among other features. Though a Microsoft product, it works for either PC or Mac. There is also a mobile version that gives you access on your phone or tablet. It’s pricing plans are fairly expensive and complicated. Depending on whether you have a download or just a cloud instance, whether you’re an individual, student or organization, the price will vary quite a bit.
Confluence is document collaboration software from Atlassian built to improve productivity. Teams can create, share and collaborate on documents in one place, allowing for easy publishing, organization and access. A core tool as part of the Atlassian product suite, Confluence is most used as a software documentation platform to support dev teams, as it integrates with Jira, a software development ticketing service. But more teams are beginning to use its document sharing and organization tools for other uses, too. There’s a free seven-day trial to see if it’s for you, and then it’s available from $10/month.
There are many ways teams can collaborate together. And tools can help support the processes that you put in place to get the most out of your collaborative teams. One thing to keep in mind is how many different tools your organization can actually support and maintain, before important communications get lost. Streamlining your toolset is an important goal to best support the management of your collaborative teams.
Only one tool supports team collaboration and project management in one, easy-to-use platform. ProjectManager.com helps teams work together, communicate in real-time, and keeps everyone on track throughout every phase of the project life cycle. Start your free 30-day trial today.