The enterprise certainly has a vested interest in fostering greater collaboration within its workforce as well as with outside entities like suppliers, partners and even customers. But there are many ways to collaborate, which naturally means there are many options to choose from when it comes to selecting collaboration software.
The general rule of thumb is to select a platform that best meets your needs, but that’s kind of like saying the best shoes are the ones that fit your feet. So rather than evaluating collaboration as a single function, most experts recommend breaking them down to their constituent pieces to determine which sets of key features will best support your business model.
“There’s lots of technology at work that provides more notifications and information, but doesn’t provide teams with insight into the work being done and in turn creates more work,” says Chris Farinacci, head of business at software developer Asana. “Asana’s capabilities empower team leaders and planners to identify issues and opportunities across projects, so they can focus their attention and energy where it will have maximum impact.”
One key element in a successful deployment is the ability to integrate into legacy workflows rather than force knowledge workers into new patterns. The trick is to improve these processes to make them faster and more efficient without disrupting established routines.
“The goal … is to enable all teams to coordinate, manage, and execute their work in a way they can get more done with less effort,” Farinacci said.
This is usually managed through broad integration with existing tools, such as Gmail and Dropbox, which allows users to coordinate their activities through a single interface. At the same time, targeting key employees who can then evangelize the new, streamlined work process goes a long way toward getting the buy-in of the workforce at large.
Ultimately, however, collaboration is a two-way street: Employees will utilize the tools that bring them the greatest benefit while the platform will impact workers’ habits and the corporate culture itself.
“Traditional productivity software for individuals has moved now to team collaboration,” Farinacci said. “When you have a structure, plan, process or goal, teams should understand who’s doing what at any point at any given time so that they don’t waste all that time trying to coordinate. The software can help you do that and we find our customers are able to spend more time on the actual work.”
Below are some of the leading collaboration platforms:
Asana offers a range of list, board, calendar and other tools to organize projects from the start, then provides a visual planning function to map out key steps and pinpoint potential trouble spots. It also has a template function to standardize common processes.
CodingTeam describes its platform as a “forge” that allows development teams to coordinate workflows over a network. It includes a number of dev-centric tools, such as a bug-tracking system that allows classification and fix uploads, as well as a translation system to convert code from one language to another.
Flowdock organizes projects into collaborative flows, which can house multiple conversational threads while also preserving the ability to view project integrations in a single space. Threads can be defined by confidentiality and other policies, while users have the ability to customize their tool sets and personalize their presences with gifs and emojis.
GoToMeeting specializes in online video conferencing, with added features such as screen-sharing and a meeting scheduler. It supports collaboration between Macs, PCs, Chromebooks and Linux machines, as well as iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Users can establish personal meeting rooms with access to more than 25 HD feeds per session.
Igloo provides a range of workplace productivity solutions with an eye toward unifying multiple platforms like Office and Dropbox into a streamlined architecture. The system provides a virtual townhall and directory services to help workers connect with one another, while also giving managers a means to share best practices and receive feedback from employees.
The former Dapulse, Monday offers single-board management that encompasses all tasks, statuses and contributors. It also has a centralized communications hub with real-time device notification, task evaluation tools and drag-and-drop file centralization.
ProofHub allows users to define their projects using basic or kanban workflows, as well as custom roles, access and other functions. It also allows for branded sign-in pages, time tracking and Gantt charts for visual timelines.
Quip is owned by Salesforce, which gives it a unique ability to link to real-time data for dynamic documents and spreadsheets. It also provides a range of interactive, customizable apps like calendars, record management and organizational tools.
Redbooth offers a full suite of project management tools and templates, plus productivity reports and multi-assignment capabilities to ensure tasks are completed on time and with the proper level of resources. It also includes a shared feedback function for improved communication and a hashtag feature for more advanced users.
Slack offers the ability to divide channels by team, project, client or other category, allowing users to join and leave channels as needed. It provides drag-and-drop integration of PDFs, images, videos and other files, plus an API that allows organizations to develop their own custom apps or choose from among 1,500 in the App Directory.
Trello uses a card-style interface to organize and prioritize projects and workflows. Comments, attachments and other items can be added to each Trello card, while integration with Google, Slack and other platforms enables multiple features like search, automated tasks and field customization.
Webex provides a single, secure app for audio and video meetings, group messaging, file sharing and other collaborative functions. It contains a cloud-based calling service that offers global reach without a complex or costly deployment, and offers broad integration with third-party platforms or custom tools to enhance workflows.
Wimi offers unified workspaces for individual projects or actions with individual rights management and centralized tools and data. As well, it links to the Wimi Drive for file and folder sharing with automated version management.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.