Top 10 Best Online Collaboration Tools in 2019
The Top 10
If you own a small business, you might need tools that can help you manage your projects on a strict budget. Fortunately, there are several collaboration tools that allow you to do that. While most of the tools on this list aren’t entirely free, they do offer x-day trial versions that enable business owners to try them and see if there is a fit or not. Here’re 10 of the best, so far.
Collaboration Tools Guide
Entrepreneurs hear about different terms all of the time. As an executive or owner of a business, it’s your job to decide whether a new trend is worth following. In this collaboration software guide, we’ll outline what collaboration software is, why it’s essential, and how to make an informed buying decision. That way, your business will be able to take advantage of new software. Carry on reading to find out more info.
What Is Collaboration Software?
There’s a lot of discussion surrounding the dictionary definition of collaboration software. However, the simplest and easiest one to remember is “a tool that allows people to work together on projects or joint tasks.” Included tools, such as messaging applications and file sharing, let users interact with ease so that there is no confusion.
A quality piece of software should ensure that you improve on features such as the dissemination of information and coordination of activities. The overall aim is to boost teamwork to the point where it positively impacts productivity and output.
The Types Of Collaboration Software Tools
There are three main ones:
- Collaboration suites
- Unified communications
Single-Purpose Collaboration Tools
As the name suggests, single-purpose tools center on one crucial feature rather than a variety of core topics. By doing this, it makes a discussion more straightforward to follow, not to mention making the people involved more focused. When there are fewer tasks to concentrate on at once, there is no need to waste time and energy juggling them.
Email is by far the biggest and the most popular version is still. While the format allows you to participate in a variety of tasks if you need to, the primary purpose is to communicate. You can do it in two ways – internally or externally. But, you may not find them as useful as discussion boards. For entrepreneurs, this medium is excellent as it encourages a range of people to contribute their ideas. As a result, the business maximizes creativity, and you can do so remotely without the need for a long and unorganized meeting.
Instant messaging and social tools are quickly becoming a force in the industry. Every collaboration software guide has to mention them as they contribute to a multi-billion-dollar industry. TechCrunch has estimated it will hit the $100bn mark soon. One feature that’s effective for business is the instantaneous nature of communications. In the past, colleagues had to leave their desks or pick up the phone to speak, whereas they only need to check their cell or tablet now. It’s also changed the way companies interact with their customers, which is why social tools are convenient.
Although they are like email in a way, the fact that they’re designed in a user-centric way means they are superior. While you may think social media is getting milked for all its worth at the moment, there is still plenty of room for growth. Why? It’s because they are free, cloud-hosted, and have mobile apps. That makes them cost-effective, easy to store, and accessible tools.
Collaboration suites mix features from the above and put them together in a single, accessible platform. Putting the tools together in one solution negates the need to invest in multiple solutions and sync them across the company. As a result, you can save more on training costs, as well as promoting time management and unify teams.
Everything about a collaboration suite shares information, from voice communications to web conferencing. A sophisticated CRM is an excellent example. It’s worth noting that collaboration suites are expensive, which makes them unpopular with SMEs. Usually, large corporations use them as they can afford the initial fee and the running costs.
UC is a set up from a collaboration suite. The aim is to combine software that focuses on interaction with tools that have asynchronous capabilities. As well as implementing email and VoIP technology, among others, it deals with functionality too. This may mean that you can track a customer or client’s presence and unify your messages.
The former is a fantastic way to tell whether a contact is busy or free, allowing you to target them efficiently, while the latter gives you the ability to retrieve your messages. Businesses that use UC benefit from increased efficiency customer satisfaction as they can complete tasks from anywhere through the interface in real-time.
The problem SMEs face is the fact that the software is too advanced for outdated systems. To integrate correctly, you need a hyper-converged network.
What Makes Software Collaborative?
Not every piece of software is collaborative, even though manufacturers and suppliers like the use of the term to advertise their products. Conflating communication and collaboration is an honest mistake as you may see them as mutually exclusive. Plus, different versions of the same software can be collaborative and uncollaborative. Here’s how you can tell them apart.
Collaboration software is always flexible. Therefore, anything that’s rigid doesn’t fit the brief. An online spreadsheet is an excellent example. If there is no version control and changes you make are permanent, then it’s going to help with communication and teamwork.
What makes a spreadsheet useful is the fact that anyone can edit it. The best versions let users make comments or ask questions.
The integration of a collaborative tool has to center on task management and not the app itself. Facebook seems like a collaborative software tool until you realize that the chat function’s only benefit is to speed-up communication. While it’s helpful, it’s not an inclusive feature that lets people share or deliver ideas.
For Facebook or any social media tool to be collaborative, it must speed-up interaction that is project-based with collaboration functionality.
Using tools that block ads and unnecessary distractions from the workplace is becoming more common. Think of it as a “Do Not Disturb” function, but for your web browser. That way, you can focus the team’s energy on the critical tasks that require completing to tight deadlines.
Of course, there isn’t any collaboration with a piece of basic productivity software. The platform becomes collaborative when they provide users with the ability to solve a problem or create an original concept.
While an interactive whiteboard may fit the bill on the face of it, you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Today, most firms don’t have the time to gather around a whiteboard during a meeting and fire off ideas. So, if the equipment isn’t accessible, it won’t be collaborative.
However, virtual technology fixes the problem. A virtual whiteboard remains open for as long as you need so that everyone with a solution can jot it down. A message board is similar, yet it concentrates on asking questions and soliciting information.
The Benefits Of Team Collaboration
Teamwork has always been a buzzword that employers have invested in to launch a successful startup. Still, this was around the time when executives used their gut and didn’t analyze the data. In our data-driven world, it’s not hard to see why team collaboration has become one of the central core principles of businesses around the world.
A massive 96% of 21st-century bosses and managers believe that a lack of collaboration leads to the majority of their issues. Below are the benefits this collaboration software guide thinks you are likely to experience by investing in team-focused equipment.
1. Effective Management of Tasks
Collab tools make it simpler to manage projects because they eliminate slip-ups such as documents getting lost or new versions not saving properly. Modern companies have employers that are digital nomads, so it’s vital that a team can check-in and ask questions without being in the room.
2. Brings People Together
Just because they don’t interact face-to-face doesn’t mean they don’t bond. Colleagues often build a rapport because they’re regularly communicating and egging each other on. As a result, your company culture isn’t only more creative – it’s more harmonious, too. When employees are satisfied, output and efficiency increase.
3. Better Customer Service
Keeping customers happy is as imperative as maintaining employee satisfaction. Team collaboration software does this by letting your workers communicate to put out fires. When a person calls with a query or complaint, all the rep needs to do is access the platform to locate the person who can answer the question. Or, they can reverse engineer the notes to see what went wrong and provide a solution.
4. Productivity Boost
All together, these features ensure productivity hits new heights. Far too often, cliques in the workforce cost businesses money, around $3,000 per person according to a study. By incorporating collab software, the company has to work together, ridding the office of the cliques once and for all.
How To Pick A Tailor-Made Solution
If this collaboration software guide has made you consider investing in a platform, the next step is to decide which solution is best for your business. These are the factors to consider.
Employees don’t listen to bosses or wait for confirmation concerning collaboration tools. If it makes their lives easier, they’ll download an app and use it to communicate with coworkers. And, the process is hassle-free because the majority of them are free.
Although this is beneficial in some regards, it means you need to ensure everyone uses the same technology. Otherwise, it will negate the point of investing in it in the first place. With that in mind, choose a piece of software that gives everything employees need and want.
That way, there will be no need to go off-piste and split the office.
To stop things from quickly getting messy and spiraling out of control, you should opt for a platform that has a wide range of features. From messaging to video conferencing and calendar sharing, try and put all of the tools in one place. Then, accessibility and navigation couldn’t be more straightforward. A unified communications tool is usually a fantastic choice for this reason.
3. Personal Ease
Everybody works differently, which is why you shouldn’t try and implement a one-size-fits-all policy. Instead, pick software that integrates across various platforms for added accessibility. A mobile option is always a good idea so that people can work remotely, but don’t forget about web browsers.
Having access to data from a desktop version of the app means there’s no need to download anything. All employees have to do to make a call or attend a video meeting is to open their laptop.
In a culture where hackers will target your servers, you must secure your sensitive data. Always look for signs of security, such as encrypted communications, before you advertise all of the company’s information online. Also, ask if the vendor has a backup for when the software goes offline.
Of course, remember that you have a responsibility too. So, do you have a person who will monitor security?
5. Added Extras
You don’t want the service to finish once you have made a purchase. Quality collaboration software ensures the customer experience continues for months and years after the fact. A warranty that covers maintenance is essential as glitches happen, as is 24/7 customer care.
Probably the main add-on to watch out for is a training course. Software is hard to integrate, so having an expert teach you how to use it is a must.
Things To Consider
Just because you have a platform doesn’t mean success is guaranteed. The first step is to decide who will take control of the software. Governance means one person, with a team under them, will manage the software and create policies. These should include processes, priorities, and strategies.
How you train your workforce is another massive consideration. Once the info is passed to you, it must continue down the chain clearly and concisely. Otherwise, your staff won’t understand how to use it effectively.
Your business plan shouldn’t be separated from the software. The platform directly impacts the things you want to achieve, so you should define your primary goals. That way, you’re more likely to hit your targets in the short, medium, and long-term.
This collaboration software guide aims to show that you can benefit from higher productivity and efficiency with the right platform. However, you need to concentrate on features such as navigation and accessibility, as well as manufacturer training, to tailor one to your needs.