Collaboration software has come a long way! It’s making our virtual work world easier and easier to navigate.
In today’s landscape of remote work and cloud computing, online collaboration tools have true value. Incumbent software giants and many new competitors are reshaping efficient teamwork and work in general. How? Thanks to the birth of a new generation of extremely useful and user-friendly collaboration tools.
What are collaboration tools?
Collaboration tools can increase a business’s effectiveness, efficiency and communication capabilities. They can seamlessly help team members in different locations connect with each other and understand what the whole team is doing. Real-time collaboration prevents duplication and enables group project work. For example, complex engineering projects involving building engineers and architects in different locations.
What can collaboration tools do for your business?
Collaboration software presents users with a dashboard which also acts as a bulletin board. Users can see items posted to the dashboard and channels, such as messages, ideas, documents, links or videos and other content. This happens under various functional categories, headings and people. More specifically:
- Users get an overview of what’s going on across the whole team at a glance. All communications can be visible to team members.
- Conversations, messages, files and any decisions and supporting materials are all stored in the cloud and are easily searchable.
- Drill down into boards and search to find resources and documentation on specific projects and categories of information.
- Synchronized messages and notifications for various triggers let team members know when others are accessing files or reading important team messages.
- Collaboration tools organize different departments, tasks, priorities and projects by assigning areas and boards where associated content lives.
- As a business owner, you might want to see why your engineering team chose to use more expensive parts. You might see a message thread in the design tab, and notes from your purchasing manager that the parts order was indeed changed.
- Real-time messaging brings the same immediacy we have with personal smartphones to our work life.
- Project managers benefit tremendously. Team pages identify team members and assigned tasks. When people communicate about the project, project managers can follow message threads and anticipate possible delays or problems that team members can’t see. No need to wait a week or two for the next R&D meeting.
- Collaboration tools work with other apps and tools, such as cloud storage apps and other specialized software. This plug-in app approach means you can add various class-leading applications for specific purposes, rather using a single platform that can’t do everything well.
Why use collaboration tools in a small business?
You might think small businesses don’t need collaboration tools as much as large corporations, but they can still benefit from using them. Here are some of the reasons why collaboration is more important than ever, even for small businesses:
- Many small professional firms, owners, and consultants work from different locations. Small business owners don’t need to run their business out of a rented office any longer. They can instantly and constantly communicate with their entire virtual team using a computer or mobile device, and track team progress and concerns within collaboration software.
- Online collaboration tools help you, your team and others you work with function and work well in separate locations.
- Collaboration software brings everyone together to work on projects. One-on-one video chats or group video conferences can be set up on the fly. People don’t need to be at a specific location. They can just use any computer with a camera and microphone, right from their home office desk. No conference room needed!
- Instant messaging, group chats, video calls and file sharing give everyone on the team unprecedented visibility and virtual proximity. They can drag and drop items into channels, rooms and boards.
- People who work remotely don’t need to work in isolation any longer.
My business only has a few employees – do I really need collaboration software?
Collaboration software helps your teams get organized and be more efficient. But would it help a small team in a single location? Or will collaboration software just force people to write messages and use an additional application when they don’t really need to?
Let’s say your business only has 2 or 3 team members, and you all work in the same space most of the time. Even in these cases, collaboration software could help by reducing the number of emails sent, providing a single place where files are located and more.
Most collaboration tools offer a free version. These are good ways to try something out, see if it works for your business. If the free version works for your needs … great! Many also offer paid upgrades that have more features that you may need as your business grows.