What Is Collaboration Software?

TAS
12 July 2022

Collaboration between employees is a natural process that occurs in any workplace. To work together efficiently, employees need an effective way to communicate with each other and share information. Even if you run a small business, you might sometimes need to share files or collaborate on a project with your team members. Some businesses choose to use collaboration software solutions to make this process easier, and this type of technology solution is extremely helpful for all kinds of businesses.

You may wonder, what is collaboration software, and how can it help my business? Read on to find out what it is, how it works and how it can benefit your business.

What Is Collaboration Software?

So, what is collaboration software? Collaboration software is a type of computer application that helps people work together on projects. It facilitates intentional group processes by providing a shared virtual workspace where users can discuss tasks and track their goals.

Furthermore, collaboration software enables businesses to work together on projects, regardless of location, making it perfect for a world where working from home and across locations is increasingly part of how we get work done for many businesses. A collaboration tool can be a valuable addition to the tech stack, even in companies with only a few employees.

Many collaboration software applications are available on the market, with different capabilities and features. Some collaboration platforms might be primarily designed to enable file sharing, while others offer more advanced features such as internal messaging and real-time collaboration. Depending on your chosen platform, you can use a collaboration platform for everything from creating virtual kanban boards to video calling, instant messaging, and simple task management.

Many vendors offer a free tier that businesses can use to get started. As your business grows, you can upgrade to a paid plan with more features and collaboration tools.

Why Not Just Use Email?

Some may say that online collaboration tools have existed since the beginning of the Internet. This is true if you consider email as one of the first means of digital collaboration. So why not just use email for collaborative work? Well, email was never designed to be a collaboration tool and lacks many of the features that are now considered essential for collaboration software.

For example, email chains can quickly become unmanageable as more and more people are added to the thread. It can also be challenging to keep track of who has seen which emails and who still needs to respond.

Email also doesn’t offer any features for real-time collaboration — everything is asynchronous. While it may serve many useful purposes within a business, it is generally not as effective for collaboration as more dedicated software platforms.

Who Uses Collaboration Software?

Dedicated collaboration software is an effective productivity tool for businesses of all sizes across a wide variety of industries. Whether you run a small design studio, an e-commerce store or are in retail or hospitality, your business can benefit from collaboration software. Here are a few examples of teams that typically use collaboration software.

Sales teams

Sales teams can use collaboration tools to discuss goals, communicate between team members, and track each project. By using a shared kanban board, sales teams can see which deals are in progress and which salesperson is working on them. This transparency helps to close deals faster and keep the sales team organised.

Design teams

Design teams use collaboration applications to send files, give feedback, and track projects. Design teams often need to give and receive feedback quickly in order to stick to deadlines. By using a collaboration platform, design teams can share their work and receive feedback in real-time. This type of software also stores design files and tracks who is working on different projects.

Marketing teams

Your marketing team can use collaborative software to create content calendars, assign tasks, and track deadlines. Marketing teams often need to coordinate their efforts in order to launch successful campaigns. By using a collaboration platform, marketing teams are better equipped to easily coordinate their efforts and ensure everyone is on the same page.

Developers

When working on large projects, developers must be able to share code and track changes with other team members. Collaboration software helps developers not just share code but also track bugs, discuss features, and stay up-to-date on the progress of their project.

What Can Businesses Do with Collaboration Software?

Collaboration software includes a diverse category of tools with many different use cases. Most tools are generally used to improve communication and online collaboration within a team. The features and capabilities of your collaboration software will depend on which platform you choose. Here are some of the most common ways that teams use collaboration software.

Make video calls

Many collaboration platforms offer video conferencing features, which allow users to hold virtual meetings, give presentations, and more. Video calls are a great way to stay in touch with employees working remotely and may not be able to get into the office.

Share files

Online collaboration tools can be used to store and send files, making it easy for workers to access the latest project version. Multiple users can also leave comments on files, which you can use to give feedback or ask questions.

Create to-do lists

To-do lists are a great way to keep track of tasks that need to be completed. Collaboration software makes creating and assigning tasks easy, allowing users to see what needs to be done and when tasks are due.

Track project progress

Collaboration tools help manage project information, track progress, and issue project status updates to team leaders. This is great for keeping everyone up-to-date on the latest developments of their project.

Send internal messages

Many platforms provide communication tools such as instant messaging and chat, which facilitate general discussion and quick questions. These tools are sometimes used instead of email to improve communication within a team.

What Are the Benefits of Collaboration Software?

In an era where remote working is becoming increasingly common, collaboration software has never been more important. But even for in-office teams, there are many advantages to implementing a collaboration platform. Here are some of the main benefits of using collaboration software within your business.

Enhance team performance

Perhaps the most apparent benefit of collaboration software is that it helps improve team performance. Businesses improve productivity, save time, and increase efficiency by providing a platform for team members to communicate and collaborate.

Reduce expenses

Good collaboration software also helps businesses save money. With features such as video calling and file sharing, businesses can reduce travel expenses and the need for office space. This is particularly beneficial for small businesses that may not have the budget for a large office or additional overheads.

Facilitate remote work

Many businesses operate using distributed teams based across multiple locations. Online collaboration tools facilitate remote working by providing a platform for employees to stay connected and work together, regardless of location. A primary user, such as a team leader, can create a virtual workspace where employees and teams can easily coordinate their work towards a shared goal.

Promote open communication

One of the key benefits of collaboration applications is that it facilitates free communication within a team. By providing a forum for discussion and debate, businesses are better positioned to encourage creativity and allow team members to voice their opinions. This is essential for businesses that want to build strong and cohesive team relationships.

Enable asynchronous working

Asynchronous working is a term used to describe the ability to work independently of time and location. With collaboration software, several users can contribute to projects and easily access files from anywhere in the world at any given time. This is a great way to improve work/life balance and increase flexibility within a team.

Make information accessible

Collaboration tools have the capacity to store and share critical information, facilitating easy access at any time. By unifying all the information your team needs in a single platform, you can ensure that everyone is up to date.

Improve project management

Collaboration software helps manage and track project data so that team leaders can see the latest developments and ensure that projects and tasks are on track. This helps position your business to enhance project management and avoid costly delays.

Foster creativity & innovation

One of the most important benefits of a collaboration tool is that it helps businesses foster creativity and innovation. By providing a platform for team members to share ideas and opinions, team members can inspire each other to come up with new and innovative solutions.

Reduce employee churn

Employee churn is a significant problem for businesses across any industry. Businesses can improve employee engagement and satisfaction with a collaborative platform, leading to reduced churn. When employees have the right tools that make it easier to do their job, they will be far more likely to stick around.

Produce higher quality work

If your employees cannot communicate effectively, it can delay projects, waste time, and cause workers to lose track of their goals and tasks. The right collaboration tool will allow group activities to flow seamlessly, resulting in fewer mistakes, better quality work, and improved efficiency.

Cloud-based Vs On-Premises Software

Typically, collaboration software falls into two main categories — cloud-based or on-premise. Both solutions have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to choose the right option for your business. Here’s a quick overview of the two.

Cloud-based

Cloud-based or online collaboration software is a popular choice for businesses of all sizes. Because it’s delivered over the Internet, installing any software on your computer is not necessary. All you need is an Internet connection and a web browser, and you’re ready to go.

These platforms are often subscription-based, with monthly or annual fees. Cloud-based solutions can be a great choice for smaller businesses that do not have the IT infrastructure to support on-premises software.

On-premises

For businesses that require more control over their data, on-premises collaboration tools can be a preferred option. These solutions are installed on your company’s own servers, giving you complete control over your data. On-premises solutions may incur a higher initial cost than cloud-based alternatives, as they require additional hardware and software investments.

Types of Collaboration Tools

Different vendors offer different features, and the type of collaboration software you choose will depend on the specific needs of your business. Here are some of the most common types of collaboration software.

Project management software

Project management software is designed to help businesses plan, track, and manage projects. This type of software often includes common features that enable task management, team collaboration, and file sharing. Popular platforms include Asana, Basecamp, and Trello.

Document management software

Document management software helps businesses to create, edit, and share documents. The available features facilitate version control, security, and workflow management. Popular platforms include Google Drive, Dropbox, and SharePoint.

Instant messaging software

Instant messaging (IM) software provides real-time communication between team members. These messaging platforms are ideal for businesses that need to communicate quickly and efficiently. Popular solutions include Slack, HipChat, and Skype.

Video conferencing software

These tools support teams that need to hold real-time meetings and presentations over the Internet. With this type of tool, team members can share their screens, discuss tasks, view presentations, and collaborate on projects in real-time. Popular solutions include GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Skype for Business.

Calendar software

Occasionally overlooked, calendar platforms can be a valuable tool for businesses. This type of collaboration software helps businesses schedule and track events, meetings, and deadlines. These solutions often include features such as task management and reminders and can integrate with email and instant messaging platforms.

Businesses can use a unified calendar platform to ensure that everyone is on the same page with no scheduling conflicts. Popular solutions include Google Calendar, Outlook Calendar, and Apple Calendar.

Tips For Choosing the Right Tool

Picking the right collaboration application requires careful consideration. With so many tools on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start. Here are some tips to help you choose the best collaboration software for your business:

  1. Define your needs. Firstly, take a step back and assess your business needs. What specific problems are you trying to solve? What type of collaboration do you need? Once you clearly understand your most essential requirements, you can start narrowing down your options.
  2. Consider your budget. It’s important to consider your budget when choosing a platform. Collaboration tools can range from free versions to hundreds of pounds per month. Free options may be suitable for small businesses with limited needs. However, paid options often offer more features and support.
  3. Evaluate your options. Once you’ve defined your needs and considered your budget, it’s time to start evaluating your options. Read online reviews, talk to other businesses in your industry, and take advantage of free trials.
  4. Pick a winner. After careful consideration, choose the best collaboration application for your business. Select a platform that offers your desired features at a price that fits your budget.

Important Features to Look Out For

Choosing the right collaboration application can be a critical business decision. There are a few key questions to consider when evaluating digital tools, as shown below.

How secure is the platform?

 

Before choosing software, you should consider what security protocols are in place. What type of encryption is used? How is user data stored? Is the company GDPR compliant?

These are all important questions to ask before entrusting a platform to manage data related to your projects and tasks. Security breaches can be costly, so choosing a platform that takes security seriously is important.

How easy is it to use?

The user experience is an important consideration when choosing any application. You’ll want to choose a platform that is intuitive and easy to use. Most workers find their own way of managing tasks and keeping track of projects, so even with the best platform, it can be difficult to introduce a new type of work process into the mix.

Consider how easy it would be for your team to get up and running on the platform. Is there extensive training required? Are there helpful tutorials available? If the platform is not easy to use, your team will be far more likely to find ways of working around it, defeating the tool’s purpose altogether.

How well does it integrate with other tools?

In today’s business world, it’s rare for one piece of software to exist in a vacuum. More often than not, you’ll need to integrate your collaboration application with other tools in order to get the most out of it. Consider how well the platform you’re considering integrates with the other software your business uses. Does the collaboration software work with your calendar? Will it sync? Can you easily share documents? The more seamlessly it integrates, the less likely you are to run into problems down the line.

How scalable is the platform?

As your business grows, your collaboration needs will change. It’s important to choose a platform that can grow with you. Think about how easy it would be to add new users or features as your business expands. Will you need to upgrade to a more expensive plan? Are there any limits on the number of users or projects? Choosing a scalable platform will save you headaches down the line.

What type of support is available?

If you run into problems with your collaboration platform, will you be able to get help? Most companies offer some type of vendor support, but the level of service can vary greatly. When considering a platform, find out what kind of support is included. Is there a knowledge base? Are there email or phone support options? What are the hours of operation? The last thing you want is to be stuck with a problem that you can’t fix because no one is available to help.

What’s the total cost of ownership?

When budgeting for collaborative software, you may want to calculate the total cost of ownership. In addition to the monthly subscription fee, you’ll need to factor in the cost of training, support, and integration. You may also need to purchase new hardware or licences for certain features. By taking the time to calculate the total cost of ownership, you can be sure you’re getting the best value for your money.

Is the platform mobile-friendly?

In today’s world, it’s more important than ever to have a mobile-friendly platform. With so many employees now working remotely, it’s useful if they can access the collaboration application from their mobile devices. When choosing a platform, find out if a mobile app is available. If so, how does it compare to the desktop version? Is the interface easy to use? Can you access all the features you need? A mobile-friendly platform can do wonders for productivity and efficiency when used the right way.

Level Up Your Workflow with the Right Collaboration Software

Time is money in the world of business. That’s why it’s important to have an efficient and effective workflow. Collaboration tools help you level up your workflow by making it easier for teams to communicate and share information.

If you think your employees could benefit from using collaboration software, look at some of the options out there. Adding such a tool to your processes can boost productivity and propel your business toward its objectives.

Related articles in Collaboration to support your technology adoption