Top five online collaboration tools
With most organisations now fully embracing the concept of remote working, the need for effective teamwork and diligence in overall project management has never been more apparent. Consequently, many businesses are turning to online collaboration tools as a way of strengthening performance and improving productivity. From workflow management apps to video conferencing tools, there is a wide selection of collaboration software available on today’s market. Here we choose our Top five tools, guaranteed to deliver improvements in both the work process and the final outcome:
Trello is undoubtedly one of the most popular project management apps on the market, offering a simple but highly effective tool. Based on the Kanban framework, the platform creates a collaborative workspace which centres on boards, lists and cards which represent tasks to be completed.
By giving each project its own ‘board’, team leaders can create task cards and assign them to members accordingly. Users then move the task cards across to the relevant lists in order to indicate the status of a particular activity, i.e whether it has been completed, is in progress or is yet to begin. Individual cards themselves can contain a variety of information, including attachments which can be added from a user’s PC, Google Drive and Dropbox as well as other sources.
Trello offers many benefits for teams looking to streamline their collaborative activities. Its responsive design means it can be used on tablets and other mobile devices, -ideal for team members who work remotely. As Trello operates via a role-based system, it gives a better sense of control and organisation for users i.e ‘Project Managers’ or ‘Administrators’ oversee the creation and distribution of tasks. Importantly, Trello can help to promote good time management and accountability. By breaking down a project into clear stages, visible to all members, teams can see exactly what is being worked on who is responsible for individual tasks.
Scheduling a meeting should be a relatively simple task, yet the process often results in copious amounts of time being wasted on reviewing personal calendars, organising locations, inviting attendees and so on. Doodle is a great tool to help eliminate this; essentially a scheduling app, it enables users to set up meetings, events and activities in real-time by giving all attendees access to a set of potential time slots. Participants simply select any times that they are able to attend in order to identify a slot that suites everybody. The process is easy and efficient, -no need for long, confusing email threads.
With remote working now par for the course, video conversation apps are an invaluable method of communication. appear.in is becoming an increasingly popular example among small teams as it enables groups of up to eight people to interact in a ‘video room’. Free to use and with no login or downloads required, the tool is incredibly user-friendly. Participants are able to share their screens, which is great for presenting work or exchanging ideas. Furthermore, appear.in can be used on both desktop and mobile devices.
Marketed as ‘team communication for the 21st century’, Slack is essentially an instant messaging and project management platform which enables users to engage in public, private and group conversations. Free to use and acting almost as a business-specific version of Whatsapp, the tool offers a more efficient way of communicating with colleagues in ‘real-time’ and one that helps to minimise the need for email threads.
Slack is particularly useful for individual projects; users can create separate ‘channels’ for each activity, to which group members can add comments and documents. Users also have the ability to assign tasks to other channel members as a way of monitoring progress. Archiving functionality means any content relating to a particular topic can be stored in one place (away from a company’s core IT system) and easily retrieved via a single search box.
Crucially, Slack can be integrated with hundreds of other commonly used web tools for added efficiency. For example, integration with Google Drive makes file sharing much easier; by pasting the link to a Google Doc into a chat box, files are made available to all members of a group. Integration with MailChimp is also popular as it enables users to receive updates, via Slack, when people subscribe / unsubscribe from mail lists.
As a free, Web-based application which enables users to create, edit, store and share files, Google Drive is fast becoming a staple of the business environment. One of its main strengths lies in its real-time collaboration environment for its office suite of applications, encompassing Docs, Sheets and Slides; multiple users can access and edit the same file simultaneously, regardless of device or location. (A full history of changes made to a given document is readily available). Having a single, core version of a file not only saves time for teams but also helps to eliminate any errors resulting from lost emails or miscommunication. With Google Drive, all content is automatically saved and stored, and it can be exported and used offline at any time.