We can no longer turn a blind eye to the question of collaboration, especially given that more than 34% of the US workforce is already a virtual workforce, and 50% of the workforce is being projected to be virtual by 2020. For instance, how would you launch a new product with designers in Chicago, the marketing team in Paris, and engineers in Berlin? How do you get all of the participants reading from the same page when they are not in one room? Online collaboration tools provide the answers to the modern virtual working environment- they help virtual teams achieve greater productivity and attain their goals.
Collaboration and online collaboration tools have been found to increase team efficiencies and make it easier to achieve team goals. A study by McKinsey Global Institute confirms that online collaboration tools increased the productivity of workers by as much as 20%-25%. Collaboration tools are so critical in modern day businesses that up to 40% of modern employees wouldn’t mind paying out-of-pocket for their own online collaboration tools to enhance job performance.
Here’s how to choose the best online collaboration tool
1. Supporting robust communication
Communication is key for virtual teams to achieve their maximum potential. An online collaboration tool that will make it easier for team members to share information, connect, and thus enhance working together both at an individual level and a team level is the ideal tool for you and your company. So when choosing a tool you should consider tools that have:
Integrated messaging features.
Private communication features.
The ability to conduct conference calls both online and over the phone.
The capability to host video chats.
Features to store project calls and communications in a central place.
2. Ease of use
Most people are busy and impatient with tools that appear strange and complicated. Ease of use greatly influences the rate of adoption by users. The easier a tool is the better.
Therefore, consider the following features when choosing online collaboration tools:
Ability to work on and integrate multiple platforms.
It should have a good mobile support.
Good workflow management features that is compatible with your own processes.
A simple and intuitive user-interface.
3. Real-time collaboration
Thanks to the latest technology standards, people have become much more impatient with tools. This also applies to the work processes. The longer the collaboration processes are, the more frustrated team members tend to grow. So when picking out a tool, consider the one that enhances real-time working without a team member having to logout and wait for others to process their files. In particular you should look for tools with:
Unlimited collaborators capabilities.
Capabilities to handle changes made by different people in the system.
Version control; the ability to overwrite changes (and go back to them if required).
4. Consider your unique needs and challenges as a company
Here are some of the factors that you should consider before adopting a new platform/collaboration tool:
Your unique challenges should be the driving force behind new platform adoption- for instance, does your team struggle with team communication?
The size of your team- it is rather obvious that larger enterprises will find themselves looking at different solutions altogether than smaller teams, especially in terms of complexities.
Roles and responsibilities- you should define how exactly teams will be collaborating with each other before adopting a particular platform.
Your budget for an online collaboration tool- you should compare different tools based on cost.
The kind of document auditing and processes needed- this will help streamline the process of document viewing, editing, publishing, and distributing.
The level of mobility and accessibility your company offers- this will enhance confidence among users when accessing the platform remotely since they will be able to know how to complete various processes.
Online collaboration tools – what’s on the market?
So after you have gone over all of the previous points it is now time to actually consider the different tools out there. You should however remember that the list below contains just some of the different types of tools available on the market. If you don’t find anything fitting from the list, you should be able to find some more during your online research. So here are some of the collaboration tools you may want to consider for your company:
Real-time chatting tools like Slack, Microsoft teams (a collaboration hub on top of Microsoft office tools), and HipChat among others.
Voice and video conferencing tools like Zoom, GoToMeeting, Hangouts, Skype for business, Join.me, and Amazon Chime.
Document collaboration tools like Evernote Business, OneNote, Dropbox Paper, G Suite, Quip, Etherpad, Office 365 with SharePoint Teamsites, etc.
Knowledge centre tools like Bloomfire, Confluence, and Guru.
File sharing tools like Dropbox, Hightail, Box, MediaFire, and SugarSync.
Internal Social Network tools like Workplace by Facebook, Jive-n, Hootsuite, and Yammer.
Prototyping tools like InVision, Marvel, Mockup.io, Justinmind, Flinto, and CanvasFlip, Realtime Board.
Project Management tools like Wrike, Zenkit, Trello, KanbanFlow, Zoho Projects, Podio, and GanttProject.
Time tracking tools like Harvest, Toggl, FreshBooks, and Hubstaff.
Creating a supportive work environment
Virtual teams can gain greatly by leveraging the perfect online collaboration tools. Some of the advantages of online collaboration tools include reduced cost of operation, automation of repetitive tasks, improved knowledge sharing, ease of connecting with people, improved communication, and improved employee participation among other benefits.
The bottom line is, in order to find the perfect tool(s), you should have a list of requirements which the desired tool should fulfill. Only if you have identified the need(s) your company seeks to solve, will you be able to exactly find the right tool(s).