Online Collaboration Tools

Collaboration - Many people say that there's not enough of it, between people, in business, or in life. Some say we should collaborate more in-person, but sometimes, that's just not possible. There are dozens of collaboration tools available; nearly every major software manufacturer has one. Here's good review of some online collaboration tools that can help you business or organization be more productive.

Is your team having a communications breakdown? Or maybe just leaning too heavily on endless email threads? From workflow management apps to all-in-one collaboration tools, here are some of the many services available to help your colleagues cut down on email (yay!), get work done more efficiently, and—here’s the best part—have more fun.

Group messaging

  • Slack: is so popular that there’s a good chance your office is already using it. If not, this cloud-based tool should be the first one you look into. Its themed channels for teams, customizable alert settings, archiving, and search capabilities make it a robust tool for both real-time messaging and storing old conversations for easy reference. Many people are also using Slack channels for personal use outside of work, so your team will probably adapt to it easily.

  • Workplace by Facebook: Speaking of systems that are popular outside of work, Workplace by Facebook lets your staff instant message, group chat, create team groups, and use newsfeed features with tools they are already familiar with from social media. This secure collaboration platform also integrates with Microsoft Office, which can come in handy for a number of businesses.
  • Hangouts Chat: We predict that Google’s transformation of Hangouts from a consumer service to a corporate one will have a big impact on businesses once it’s released. The new Chat is integrated with G Suite, has virtual project rooms and filterable search, and even has a chatbot that’ll help you schedule meetings for your team in Google Calendar. Paired up with Hangouts Meet — Google’s new business videoconferencing service—Chat may become the messaging app of choice in G Suite-friendly offices.
  • Hipchat: If your business uses Atlassian’s Jira for project management, you’ve probably been exposed to Hipchat at some point. Atlassian’s chat service is really a lot like Slack—team channels, searchable discussions—and integrates with the rest of Atlassian’s products as well as popular third-parties like Github.
  • Skype for Business: Skype’s consumer app has been ubiquitous with video calls for a long time; Microsoft made it business-friendly by mixing in features from Lync (formerly known as Microsoft Office Communicator). Now, with Skype for Business, groups can use the familiar, friendly interface for instant messaging, audio calls, video conferencing, and screencast one-on-one or in large groups.
  • Microsoft Teams: When Microsoft introduced Teams last fall, its user interface was frequently compared to Slack.1 But since Teams is based on Office 365, it fully integrates with Microsoft apps and programs, and is a practical alternative to Slack if everyone on your team is an Office 365 user.

Task management tools that communicate well

  • Asana: Like its yoga-themed name suggests, Asana is one of the most flexible, communicative project managers out there. Its dashboard features a “Team Conversations” tab that lets you send out team announcements organized by thread. You can @mention colleagues like in Slack or Hipchat, but you can also highlight tasks (which appear as links). Asana’s team-based alerts ensure that only the right people get task alerts—so you don’t waste anyone else’s time.
  • VolerroVolerro uses Kanban boards, a Japanese style of work management that breaks down big projects into smaller chunks. Kanban boards are easy on the eyes; they’re a great way to present project status to external stakeholders without bogging them down with the nitty-gritty details. A bonus with Volerro is that it also has some great communication features, like one-click meetings and an in-app chat box for multiple users working on the same project.

All-in-one collaboration tools

  • Igloo: Sometimes it makes sense for a business to use a tool that offers a bit of everything. Igloo is a pre-built company intranet that has the usual calendars and content management tools, but also lets users chat and post in forums.
  • Podio: Need a flexible intranet for your growing business? Citrix’s Podio may be your answer. It’s highly customizable (it even has its own app store), which works for startups and entrepreneurs who want to add features as they grow. Chat and direct messaging are built in, and users can collaborate in digital workspaces too.

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