Business success is built around a great team. Employees who work well together achieve great things. But to work seamlessly side-by-side, your team needs the right collaboration tools – especially if they don’t all work in the same place at the same time.
Collaboration tools are software applications or platforms that facilitate and enhance teamwork and communication among individuals or groups working on a shared project or task. These tools are designed to enable collaboration and coordination, regardless of physical location or time zone, by providing features that promote real-time interaction, document sharing, task management, and more. Collaboration tools are especially valuable in remote work environments and for distributed teams. They can encompass a wide range of functionalities.
Finding the best collaboration software for business involves drilling down into the individual segments of cloud computing. It’s important to give employees the resources they’d have if they did sit next to one another. More importantly, you need to provide them with these tools in a way that connects their efforts as a whole.
Best communication tools for productivity
First things first, teams can’t collaborate if they can’t communicate. The best communication software makes it easy for team members to connect – combining instant messaging, video conferencing, and file sharing – all in one place.
Top communications applications are:
- Slack: Slack is a powerhouse among company communication tools. Organize messaging into topic-specific threads, invite coworkers to relevant conversations, and share files. It’s the messaging app every business needs.
- Microsoft Teams: Teams is Microsoft’s equivalent to Slack, with a seamless tie-in to Microsoft’s full suite of programs. For companies using Outlook and OneDrive, Teams is an alternative to Slack with nearly identical features.
- Zoom: Messaging isn’t just a text platform anymore. In the age of remote work, video and audio are equally important. Zoom’s platform was specifically built for multimedia conferencing, making it easy to video chat or join a call with dozens of individuals at once.
Communication applications allow teams to work successfully on projects, no matter if they are in the office, hybrid, or remote. Thanks to the cloud, it’s possible to collaborate with someone halfway around the world as easily as if they were sitting next to you.
Best online collaboration tools for your team
Business changes rapidly – daily and sometimes even hourly. Teams need a way to adapt just as quickly, and real-time editing platforms give it to them.
This collaboration software supports dynamic workflows and team agility. The ability to act, react, and reallocate resources as fast as projects change is an asset teams can’t function without. Editing software helps teams respond to changes as quickly as they’re expected to, prevent setbacks, and keep projects on track.
Here are some examples of real-time editing platforms:
- G-Suite: One of the earliest and most widely adopted business communication tools, G-suite is the bread and butter of many businesses. Google Docs, Sheets, Presentations, and other apps offer real-time editing and input.
- Dropbox Paper: Dropbox Paper is a tie-in to Dropbox’s cloud storage platform. It’s a great way to annotate files, leave collaborative notes, and work together on a document or project with all your resources on-hand.
- Evernote: Evernote is one of the simplest collaborative applications and also one of the most robust. It supports just about any type of media you need to document, with cross-collaboration that’s easily controlled by whom you share notes with.
Best cloud storage tools
Collaborating on projects requires organization. Cloud storage tools store data online –presentations, spreadsheets, documents, or images – giving everyone access to the same information. It acts like a filing cabinet; your team can put all of a project’s relevant materials into one place. This accessibility means that team members can easily and instantly access project documents whenever needed.
Commonly used cloud storage tools are:
- Dropbox: Dropbox is one of the original business cloud file storage platforms. As a result, it has integrations, tie-ins, and support for every other piece of software your business might use. It’s simple interface and superb security makes Dropbox the favorite enterprise application.
- Box: Box offers the same concept as Dropbox but with more native apps to improve team collaboration within the platform. Box is also less expensive and offers more flexible plans for smaller teams. Permissions sharing in Box also tends to be very robust, making it easy to loop in third-party partners and clients on specific repositories.
- Google Drive: If you’re using G-Suite, Google Drive is already an active part of your business computing experience. Google’s cloud storage platform is free with an email address, extremely secure, lightning fast, and easy to navigate. Permissions can get tricky, but the native file viewer makes Google Drive worth using.
Cloud storage software simplifies how teams work, as a secure collaboration with anyone, anywhere, on any device.
Best tools for project management
Expecting people to collaborate without full visibility over what, exactly, they’re working on together is a recipe for disaster. Every member of the team needs to see the bigger picture and how what they’re doing fits into it. Project management tools make this possible with the ability to see task timelines. Everyone is on the same page, working toward the same goal.
Leading project management programs include:
- Wrike: If you’ve got tasks to assign across team members, Wrike is one of the better task collaboration tools out there. It’s got everything required to create detailed tasks, delegate, track progress, and measure results. All that, and a user-friendly navigation system.
- Asana: Asana helps teams prioritize goals, stay on-task, and collaborate across all parts of a project. List, timeline, calendar, and accomplishment views let employees pick their perspective on work, while in-app messaging and integrations bring the project together one step at a time.
- Trello: Trello uses “cards” to collect tasks under a single project header. Each card is assigned to someone who manages it as part of the larger project. It’s a visual take on project collaboration. Plus, there are tons of high-profile tie-ins that make Trello an instant asset within your digital app ecosystem.
With this visibility also comes an element of accountability. If a task isn’t finished, team leaders know whom to hold accountable. Or, from a proactive perspective, team members can see when others need help and collaborate to keep the project on schedule.
Best calendar software
Employees working on the same project won’t necessarily have the same schedules. Shared calendars offer transparency into coworkers’ availability, encouraging team members to schedule time together – to discuss joint ventures – when they are mutually available.
Top calendar software:
- Microsoft Outlook: The old standard, and for good reason. Outlook is an email-calendar client all-in-one. Many businesses utilize Outlook for email, making its calendar component a natural fit. That, and the fact that it’s incredibly easy to use, intuitive, and directly integrated into your email and address book.
- Google Calendar: In all the ways Microsoft Outlook is convenient and accessible, so is Google Calendar. Where Google has the edge in its usability, which features numerous custom options for creating events, integrating with other cloud services, and recognizing appointments sent to your Gmail account.
- Calendly: For a calendar that’s not bundled with email or other software, Calendly is a simple, intuitive choice. Calendly makes a great collaborative calendar, allowing users to sync calendars to find common free time for meetings. Calendly also has smart scheduling tools to connect users within the same group and outside contacts.
Calendar software also gives insight into one another’s workloads, encouraging a culture of respect.
Why are collaboration tools important?
Collaboration tools are important for several reasons:
- Enhanced communication: Collaboration tools provide efficient and effective channels for communication among team members. They enable real-time messaging, video conferencing, and document sharing, reducing the need for lengthy email exchanges and facilitating quick decision-making. These tools bridge the gap between remote team members, enabling seamless communication regardless of physical location.
- Improved productivity: Collaboration tools streamline workflow and enhance productivity by providing a centralized platform for task management, document sharing, and progress tracking. They eliminate the need for manual coordination and ensure that team members are aligned on goals and responsibilities. With better organization and access to information, teams can work more efficiently and complete tasks more quickly.
- Remote and distributed teamwork: Collaboration tools are particularly valuable in remote and distributed work environments. They enable teams to collaborate seamlessly, regardless of geographical barriers or different time zones. By providing virtual workspaces and real-time collaboration features, these tools promote teamwork, idea sharing, and knowledge exchange, fostering a sense of cohesion among remote team members.
- Document and version control: Collaboration tools offer features that enable teams to work on documents and files together in real-time. This eliminates the need for sending multiple versions of files via email and ensures that everyone is working on the latest version. Collaboration tools often include version control mechanisms, allowing users to track changes, revert to previous versions, and leave comments and feedback on shared documents.
- Transparency and accountability: Collaboration tools provide transparency into project progress, task assignments, and deadlines. Team members can easily track the status of tasks, identify potential bottlenecks, and ensure that everyone is on the same page. This transparency enhances accountability as it becomes clear who is responsible for each task and whether it has been completed or not.
- Knowledge sharing and retention: Collaboration tools often include features that facilitate knowledge sharing within a team or organization. By providing centralized repositories, wikis, and knowledge bases, these tools allow team members to document and share information, best practices, and lessons learned. This helps foster a culture of knowledge sharing, promotes continuous learning, and ensures that valuable insights are not lost when team members change or leave the organization.
Overall, collaboration tools promote effective teamwork, enhance communication, and increase productivity in both co-located and remote work environments. They enable seamless collaboration, efficient project management, and streamlined workflows, ultimately leading to better outcomes and successful completion of tasks and projects.
Whether instant communication, document collaboration, project planning, or shared calendars, the secret to seamless teamwork is implementing the right tools. Collaborative software enables full group participation and synergy – everyone contributes meaningfully. Each person uses their unique skills and talents to drive the project forward in a show of true collaboration. The easier it is to collaborate and communicate – in real-time – the easier it is for the team to succeed.