Empowering yourself and your team with the tools to succeed makes everyone more productive (and your business more profitable). Team collaboration is essential in any work environment, regardless of team size or office location. It doesn’t just apply to businesses; volunteer organizations, neighborhood associations and even your family can benefit from better collaboration. So how exactly do you go about achieving optimal efficiency and what tools are ideal for each task? We’ll share the tools we use to manage our own highly-productive virtual team. Use the menu below to jump to the specific section that interests you.
- What Are Collaboration Tools?
- 5 Reasons To Add These Tools to Your Arsenal
- Best Collaboration Tools
- Why Trust Our Reviews?
- Got Questions?
For those of you who aren’t familiar with collaboration tools, it’s a relatively new term used to describe online services and software that helps groups of individuals work together towards a common goal (regardless of time or place). Thanks to the digital age, team collaboration is becoming more widely used in the workplace. From virtual video conferencing and chatting to document sharing and revisioning in real-time, as long as you have the internet, it’s easy to implement and utilize these tools.
If you’re not using team collaboration platforms, then you probably aren’t aware of how great they are. So let us share some of the productivity and efficiency gains we’ve experienced.
- Gets Everyone On the Same Page – From small tasks to larger, more complex projects, everyone has access to see the history of a project or zoom out to see the big picture. It helps new hires get up to speed quickly, and if someone goes out of town or leaves for good, you have a history of what they were working on and can easily delegate those tasks to others.
- Cuts Down On Email – They help cut down on emails clogging up your inbox by threading together topics in one place, notifying those that need to know, and giving respective people access as needed. You’ll typically also have access to a searchable archive.
- Eliminates Conference Calls – Sometimes a quick phone conversation can solve more than going back and forth via email or chat, but often calls are an unproductive use of people’s time given the idle chatter that takes place before and after. Chatting platforms have evolved to be more advanced than the days of AOL Instant Messenger. Now you can upload photos, embed links and more to multitask efficiently without getting distracted.
- Enhanced Version Control – Attaching documents to an email not only eats up your email storage, but it also creates confusion on which document is the most up to date version. Plus, while a word document is sitting on your desktop waiting for feedback, it could be getting another round of revisions. Putting them in the cloud for everyone to access at once prevents confusion and allows you to comment, tag people and more.
- Minimizes Costs – While some of these platforms aren’t free, the fee is minimal compared to the costs you’ll save on things like hardware, paper, gas for commuting, phone lines, and of course your employees’ and contractors’ time.
Now that you have a better idea of what they are and some of the reasons why you should use them, let’s get into the various types of tools, how they work and what each is best for.
Here are the categories of tools we recommend you look into. While you may not need them all, they each service specific functions that can help boost your team’s (and your own) productivity and efficiency tremendously.
Some of the tools we review cover more than one function, and they all excel at different things. For that reason, we’ve broken each collaboration tool up into categories based on what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Depending on your situation, you might need some but not others. As your needs change, so will the tools you’ll use. We encourage you to learn about them all and what they’re capable of, then determine which mix of tools is the best fit for your team.
Have trouble keeping up with various to-dos or trying to figure out whose court the ball in? Tired of juggling deadlines and not making any progress towards meeting milestones? Then project management software might be for you! It can keep your team on track by planning, organizing and managing tasks in a more systematic way. Here at We Rock Your Web, we use Basecamp to assign tasks to each other along with a due date. That way nothing slips through the cracks, and we can prioritize based on when it’s due. However, there are nearly a dozen other tools on the market, some which might meet your specific needs better. We’ve reviewed them all in detail in our Project Management Software Comparison.
There are so many ways to communicate nowadays including email, phone, text, chat, video, etc., and all are available 24/7. However, it can be overwhelming to keep track of conversations and set boundaries, so you’re not constantly bombarded. That’s where collaboration tools come into play. We use Slack to communicate, and it has worked wonders for our team’s communication. From creating individual channels based on topic (and inviting relevant people to each) to seeing who’s online — you can even set notification settings and sleep times so you won’to be disturbed after hours. But again, Slack might not be the best fit for your team. Check out the top communication tools we recommend in our Best Team Collaboration Review.
Find yourself needing to access documents while on the go? Need to reference a file while in a meeting without your computer? Thanks to the cloud it’s now possible to put your hard drive in a virtual space where you (or others you’ve approved) can access company content anytime and in a secure manner (even offline in some cases). So put down that USB flash drive (if you haven’t lost it already 😉 ), drop your old-school methods of storing and sharing digital data on disks, and get a cloud storage account. Discover how cloud storage will make your life infinitely easier in our Cloud Storage Comparison Review.
Natural disasters and accidents happen every day and more often than you think. In those instances, it’s essential that your documents and precious work that is being shared across multiple devices are securely backed up. Not to mention losing the work of team members – get everyone synced up with a backup solution so no projects fall behind schedule. There are many great online backup solutions on the market, but how do you know which one is going to be the best fit for you? Find out in our Best Picks For Online Backup.
While working remotely or at home certainly has its pros, sometimes nothing beats the face-to-face time you can get in an office environment around real people. Not only does it energize you and your team, but it also has more tangible benefits like printing, coffee, snacks, meeting spaces and more. All that overhead can be expensive though. Enter: coworking spaces. These community-oriented offices are popping up around the world and are available for short term pop-ins or long term memberships. Find a location near you and what each space has to offer in our Best Coworking Spaces Article.
Work from home and need to make a video conference call, but don’t know which service to use? Being able to share screens, documents and video are much more simple, efficient and cheaper through an online meeting than traveling across the country. This also applies to how you interact with clients and even potential new customers. We compare the best video conferencing software and discuss why some of the most recognizable companies may not be the best. Read more in our Best Video Conferencing Software Review. For online conference calls, make sure you have An Agenda That Doesn’t Suck.
Are you spending a fortune on printing, faxing and filing papers? Need to get people to fill out forms, sign off on contracts or other documents, but don’t have time to wait for them to complete, sign and return them? Electronic signature software can get documents completed and signed faster while taking far less effort and at less cost (not to mention it’s better for the environment!). Easily upload forms, insert fields you need, click send and have a link to the document securely emailed to the recipient at the touch of a button. The software even sends reminders, so you don’t have to. Learn more including Our Top Recommendations For Document Signing.
How To Manage a Virtual Team
Northwestern’s Kellogg School professor Leigh Thompson shares four key steps to managing your virtual team effectively in this video. We couldn’t agree with them more!
Our reviews are conducted in an unbiased fashion by independent writers that do rigorous research and gather reader and consumer feedback from various sources around the web. Check out our Review Process for details.
Hopefully, you’ve gained some valuable insights about team collaboration and see the value in using collaboration tools to boost your business productivity. If you’re still on the fence, checkout our article on how to Successfully Manage a Virtual Team – taken from our own firsthand experience. As always, we’re here to lend a hand and be a resource for you. So if you come across something you don’t understand or would like us to dive deeper, leave us a comment on the respective article you were reading, or Post a Reader Question. Our rocking community will do our best to help you out!