Leveraging Collaboration Software
Do you feel like you spend too much in your day dealing with email? Wouldn’t it be great to improve efficiency and streamline tasks? If so, collaboration apps may bring you and your team substantial gains in productivity. Many of these systems offer cloud-based data storage, and can be accessed across multiple devices, from PCs and Macs to smart phones. Affording greater access to recipients and delivering messaging in real-time with the ability to scale user permissions, collaboration software stands as a new industry standard in e-communication.
What Is a Collaboration App?
It’s all about teamwork. Most business processes require a “handoff” between various parties as a project matures to completion. Yesterday’s model of communicating that handoff was to deliver notice via email. But managing and responding to email can quickly become a huge waste of resources. You and your employees have to spend time searching, sorting, and processing messages without actually accomplishing much. However, collaboration tools can help streamline those lines of communication, giving you the freedom to more productively focus your efforts on accomplishing goals. “What collaboration software does is give you new sets of tools for better alerting you when something requires your attention,” says Jill Duffy, a contributing editor at PC Mag who specializes in business software. “In most businesses, using collaboration tools will be more efficient than using email for internal communication.”
Choose the Best Collaboration Software for Your Needs
There are dozens of collaboration programs on the market, each with its own pros and cons. Duffy lays out four scenarios where these productivity tools can provide effective email replacement.
When you need to take care of quick action items: With team conversation tools like Slack and HipChat, you can send a direct message to your teammate requesting immediate action or response in lieu of relying on email that gets buried among dozens or hundreds of others. These programs include features like group chat and video conferencing. “For quick conversations, when you need an answer, or you need to delegate a task, it’s very important,” says Duffy.
When you need to keep track of ongoing tasks: For aspects of your business that need constant attention, like updating and maintaining a website, you can avoid searching for irrelevant information or files within dense email chains. Instead, work-flow tools such as Asana and Trello make it easy to keep track of what needs to be done. “You have the ability to write the task, assign the task, give the due date, they get an alert, and you get an alert when they’ve completed the task,” says Duffy.
When you need efficient project management: Projects are considered discrete pieces of work with a beginning, end, and deliverable. Collaboration tools specifically geared toward project management like Liquid Planner and Zoho Projects include Gantt charts, or charts that track specific steps necessary over time, so you can stay on top of what items need to be completed to maintain progress and meet your deadline. “That gives you a timeline view where it’s very easy to see dependencies,” says Duffy.
When you need to clarify your business processes: Many startups and small businesses function with informal processes, learned through trial and error. Productivity tools force you to define your tasks in a step-by-step manner, giving you opportunities to streamline and make improvements to how your business functions. “When you start to map a business into a collaboration tool, you have to be really explicit about the rules of engagement and how the tool will be used,” says Duffy.
Because every company is unique, when you’re ready to replace email make sure you take the time to find a collaboration tool that fits your operations. Check out reviews online, and seek out feedback from companies that have taken the leap. Understanding issues that novice groups face as they launch collaboration software platforms can offer insights into avoiding pitfalls and it can also bring to light best practices you may find valuable. Look for tools with free trials so you can try out different options, get feedback from your staff and pinpoint what works best for your business. Increasing efficiency and streamlining communication has never been easier with these powerful new tools!