The Rise of Collaboration Tools

Businesses of all sizes are working with an increasingly remote workforce, which can now include a mix of full-time, part-time and contract/freelance employees. In order to effectively manage these teams, companies are now taking advantage of cloud-based collaboration tools that bring together technologies like instant messaging, chat rooms, file sharing, and video conferencing. These make it easier for everyone to stay on the same page. And they are seeing results: according to communication software company, Clinked, firms using social collaboration software see productivity enhancements of 12.5% on average through increased efficiency, better access to knowledge, and faster document creation.

While email is still king, we’ve had a growing number of clients ask our opinion about which – if any – tools they should consider using. So, we thought it worth taking a few minutes to highlight a few of the top performing tools and review each of their pros and cons:

Skype for Business

Microsoft acquired Skype in 2011 and has built the Skype for Business platform to integrate with its other Microsoft products since then. This platform is great when working from a business domain. Businesses can opt for a package if/when they invest in Office 365 so that the cost of Skype for Business is included – a major benefit in terms of cost savings as compared to other solutions.

This platform can be used anywhere with an Internet connection and on many types of devices. Screen sharing is easy and can be done over video conferences. Document sharing and meeting recording are also simple, and instant messages are sent as emails if users miss them. That said, users must pay for additional features like phone calls and, as mentioned above, there is a cost for the service if you do not already have Office 365.

Google Hangouts

Google Hangouts offers multiple communication options, such as video conferencing, texting, phone calls, and instant messaging. For video conferencing, the platform allows for up to 10 people to join a “hangout.” One participant initiates the video conference call and sends a link to the other participants. Others join the meeting by following the link provided.

While business users must pay for Google Hangouts, it is free for non-profits and the education sector. This app can be used across many different operating systems and mobile devices, it is easy to implement when using other Google products, and there are many free add-ons. However, the lack of tech support can be a downside for businesses. Users must also have Gmail and Google+ accounts and install Chrome Remote in order to use screen sharing. Essentially, the program was built with home users in mind. However, this is changing and the platform is gradually becoming more and more business-friendly.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting is an all-in-one communication app for business that can be used on many platforms. GoToMeeting is one of the original video conferencing tools and was made with businesses of all sizes in mind, making it a leader in the industry. The platform makes it easy to record sessions, share documents in real time, and host meetings anywhere at any time. It has many of the same features and add-ons as Skype, but they come in a simpler add-on package. While Google Hangouts only allows for up to 10 people per hangout, GoToMeeting users can host meetings with up to 1,000 attendees. On the flip side, users must have a fast, error-free Internet connection in order for the platform to work. It also doesn’t work well on older computing devices.

Slack

Last, but not least is Slack. Unlike Skype and Google Hangouts, Slack – one of the relative newcomers to the space – is specifically designed as a team messaging system. This cloud-based, chat-driven collaboration tool is designed to help workgroups reach short- and long-term goals in less time.

Slack can be free or paid depending on the level of service you seek for your business: small teams can use the somewhat-limited free account, or opt for a paid edition with more capabilities, support, and storage for team files. Slack has both desktop and mobile apps so you can use it wherever you go. Perhaps most notably, Slack works seamlessly across multiple devices and keeps an automatic archived message repository so that less tribal knowledge lives in email and everything is kept in perpetuity, indexed and searchable for team members to find with ease.

While each of these platforms has its own various benefits and drawbacks depending on your business’ size and situation, they all provide reliable security and overarching value from our perspective. As with any communication platform, it is critical to have all of your employees/team members on board. But, so long as you are thoughtful about which tool is best for your employees and you educate your workforce as to how to use the service you opt for, integrating such tools will empower your team take your business to the next level.