By Nai Kanell
Director of Marketing
We all know communication amongst teams is imperative for success. Teams that can’t communicate well don’t function as a unit. Responsibilities, expectations, and information become jumbled, which leads to any number of failures. Conversely, groups with a strong penchant for communication develop positive synergies. The difference-maker? Access to helpful team communication tools.
Often, communication issues aren’t for lack of effort. They arise because of gaps in communication modes between team members. John sends an email that Suzie doesn’t see. Patty works on a recent version of a document while Jerry works on an earlier draft. When people aren’t on the same page, they can’t work effectively together. Access to the right team communication tools can bridge these gaps and help people collaborate better.
Here’s a look at five essential types of team communication tools and some of the best options among them for teams, both in-house and decentralized.
1. Messaging and chat apps
Messaging platforms are quickly replacing email as the de-facto form of communication. A team communication app like Slack, Microsoft Teams, Facebook for Work, or even an office group chat provides more functionality than email.
Emails show up in your inbox and there’s not much you can do with them other than flag them or sort them into folders. Messenger and chat apps offer a world of organization and interactivity for teams. Slack organizes conversations into threads for easy navigation. Microsoft Teams makes file-sharing simple across large groups. Facebook for Work makes communicating via GIFs and emojis easy.
Messaging apps go beyond email to bring teams a level of interpersonal communication that’s much-needed in high-functioning workplaces. Quick, succinct, organized—exactly what communication should be.
2. File sharing applications
Moving data and assets between team members is a hassle. Cloud-based file sharing apps give everyone access to the same information at the same time, so no one’s left out or left behind.
Today, Dropbox, Box.com, Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive rule business clouds. They house infinite gigabytes (even terabytes) of data in a central repository where all members of the team can access them. Anytime you update a file, it’s updated for everyone.
File sharing apps make organization and collaboration easy. Apps like Dropbox and Google Drive allow real-time collaboration right in the cloud. These same apps also help distribute huge files in a pinch—those too big to send via email. No need to put files on a thumb drive; just upload to the cloud via a file sharing app and send the link.
3. Video conferencing tools
Decentralized teams are rarely able to meet in person. Mark’s home, John’s at the coffee shop, and Nicole’s at the office. While they can all collaborate through a myriad of tools, sometimes there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication. Enter: video conferencing tools.
Zoom is the market-leading team communication tool for video conferencing, but it’s far from the only one. GoToMeeting, Join.me, and Skype all offer their own iteration on video chatting. With features like person-to-person chatting, group chats, screen sharing, and even private chat screens, groups can meet the same as they would in person. Video chat fills the visual communication void that comes from an increasingly mobile workforce.
4. Document editing software
Working together on a single piece of collateral is tricky without cloud-based document editing software. Groups need a real-time, up-to-the-minute version of whatever document they’re improving. Modern collaboration software gives it to them. Forget printing multiple versions for the group to edit or trying to follow a never-ending email chain of drafts. Today’s teams put their stock in the Google Apps Suite, Microsoft 360 Online, Evernote, DocuSign, and many others.
The beauty of document editing software as a communication tool is the contextual feedback. Marking up a document is much easier than explaining it in an email or even trying to talk someone through it on the phone. Teams can also invite outside collaborators (like clients) to view and make notes directly in a document. With historical iterations captured and archived, it’s easy to see who’s changing what and even to go back if there’s an error. It’s another example of how invaluable cloud-based platforms are for group communication.
5. Project management platforms
Project management platforms are the undisputed most valuable communication tools for business teams. These applications are where communication, collaboration, accountability, and responsibility come together. They’re the heart of any high-functioning team—the home base for any and all work.
Project management software takes many forms. You might opt for enterprise solutions like Basecamp or ZoHo, go full-featured with Wrike or Asana, or try minimalist with Trello or Monday.com. The list goes on nearly forever, with platforms for all team sizes, budgets, or complexities. Regardless of the software, the sentiment is the same: organization leads to success. Project management platforms are the ultimate show of communication and bring total visibility to the group’s efforts.
A full suite of communication opportunities
Each facet of communication plays an important role in team success. There is no silver bullet. This task might require a simple messaging app; that one might require video conferencing. What matters is that teams use the same suite of tools and understand the role each one plays in collaborating.
There should never be uncertainty in the team environment, and no one should need to guess about anything as it relates to their peers. Instead, they should be able to use any of the communication resources in their toolkit to get answers and information. Every interaction is an opportunity to grow the team dynamic stronger and improve the natural synergy of the group.
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