Apps and other software tools can enable improved communication and collaboration within the workplace – here’s a guide to ten of the best.
By: Francesca Cassidy
Never has it been more important to be able to collaborate and communicate remotely. The coronavirus outbreak has completely disrupted how we work, and those organisations without the proper tools will suffer. Luckily, there are more tools than ever before to choose from.
What began as a messaging tool for video game developers has evolved into the full-service collaboration platform we now call Slack. It is an easy-to-use messaging service and integrates with popular services such as Twitter and Dropbox. Conversations or channels are organised by topic of which you can have as many as you like. The design is slick and simple, and you can share any file type (including photos and videos) with colleagues in a fraction of the time it would take to email them. (Interestingly, teams who use Slack claim to see an average 48.6 per cent reduction in internal email). It also has video call functionality for up to 15 participants, for those days when you need to see your fellow workers’ faces.
02 Cisco WebEx
This video conferencing giant was formed in 2007 and one of the biggest players in the space (it is one of the most widely-used online meeting tools in the world.) WebEx’s major selling points include its high quality, designed to make users feel as though they are in the room with their colleagues. Users can host and join meetings, share screens and documents and easily pass control between team members when giving presentations or writing on virtual white boards. Typically used for team collaboration, webinars, training and customer support, it is now a crucial tool for organisations working from home.
Labelled the “business story of 2020”, remote conferencing company Zoom has been one of the few real success stories amid the global pandemic. The cloud-based service combines video conferencing, online meetings, chat and mobile collaboration. Currently the second-most downloaded app in the world, its stock has soared while the markets plummeted, fainting more than 100 per cent since the beginning of the year. Its main pros are clean, high-quality audio and video, calls can be recorded for future review, screens can be shared with ease, and events can be scheduled, exported to calendars and guests invited, so no one in your team need ever miss a call.
04 Microsoft Teams/Office 365
Technology heavyweight, Microsoft, is another oft-cited purveyor of collaboration and communication tools worthy of respect. For collaboration, there is Office 365 with its unsurpassed range of features. The cloud-based solution offers all the traditional word processing, spreadsheet and slide-show capabilities, and lets multiple people edit the same documents in real time. Microsoft’s video conferencing offering, Teams, now comes bundled in with lots of Office 365 packages, and helps streamline remote communication through high-quality virtual meeting rooms.
Google’s full gamut of cloud computing and collaboration tools. The true value of G-Suite is simply the comprehensive range of interconnected tools – from email and calendar, to docs and sheets, to video conferencing with Google Hangouts. Perfect for startups and SMEs, these collaboration tools are free to use, with supplementary business features for when your company needs an extra level of customisation. Truly collaborative, team members can view each other’s calendars, communicate via chat, and work on documents at the same time.
Founded in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Asana is designed to help teams organise, track, and manage their workloads, making it easier to work on projects together. Slickly designed, this software-as-a-service allows teams to create projects, assign work to teammates, set deadlines, and chat about specific tasks, all in one place. It also comes with a suite of reporting tools to help members monitor project progress.
This web-based project management application was designed to make project collaboration as simple as possible. Overarching projects are set up as boards and members can add cards for individual steps or tasks, assigning them to those involved, prioritising, and adding timelines. Flexible, easy to use and visually attractive, it can be used across a range of sectors, from software project management and web design to law office case management and lesson planning.
Harvest is a web-based tracking tool, which allows you to monitor the time and budget your team members spend on individual projects or tasks. It also has invoicing and reporting capabilities so that clients will receive automated payment reminders rather than managers being required to chase via email. Harvest’s complementary application, Forecast, is a visualisation tool which helps teams map out plans so that you can check how available coworkers are at a glance. The perfect collaborative replacement for lengthy spreadsheets.
Telecommunications company Powwownow may have invented the future of conference calling. Available 24/7, they offer instant, hassle-free communication with your colleagues, wherever they are in the world. The major benefit is a cost saving, as you can conference call globally, without being hit with the bridging fees common to other providers. The in-built web meeting tool allows you to share screens and notes, take feedback, and record important meetings, so no vital decisions slip through the cracks.
Another top-rated messaging platform, Ryver aims to help organisations communicate better. You can create as many teams as you want and categorise them easily, and conversations can be set up with individuals, small groups or whole teams. A set of filters allow you to control who sees what you say and post in the app, and specific posts can be marked if you want to come back to them later on. Finally, all company posts can be found in a Facebook-style newsfeed, so you never miss an important message – or deadline – again.