Come Closer! Collaborative Technologies to Improve Your Team’s Efficiency

tools for small business

What is 40?

40 is the number of hours in a typical working week. It’s also the percentage of time that our teams spend collaborating. That’s 16 hours a week, and 64 hours a month. 64 hours of meetings, communication, knowledge sharing, brainstorming, and project coordination – to name a few.

So for us, 40 is an important number. And team, client, and partner collaboration is something we aim to get the most out of.

How? Well it’s easy. We leverage simple but effective collaboration tools and technology.

Okay, we know what you’re thinking. “Oh no! Tools? Technology? Just another way to say EXPENSIVE!” But if this is what you’re thinking, we’re about as happy as a kid on Christmas to tell you that you’re wrong. And never will you be so grateful to find solid evidence of your wrongness!

Because collaborative technology can not only be affordable, but it can be free! In fact, you’ll find some truly innovative, intuitive and masterful tools for collaboration at the push of a button. Of course your biggest challenge is going to be finding the tool that suits your business best.

[bctt tweet=”Your biggest challenge is going to be finding the tool that suits your business best” via=”no”]

Yes. Tools for collaboration are available in leaps and bounds. Some are free, some are cheap, and others are simply unattainable for a small business budget. Their purpose, functionalities, features and formats come in such an array they can make your head spin.

But wait! Before you slam closed your laptop in hopelessness and dust off that flipchart you’ve been using for team meetings, we’ve got good news. You see, we’ve done a lot of digging, some experimentation, and exercised our evaluative skills to bring you nothing less than the world’s best* catalogue of collaborative technologies for small businesses.

We’ve selected our top picks for every collaborative need, and then listed their monthly pricing plans, features, compatibilities, and other useful stuff to help you decide on the best collaboration tool for you.

And the news gets even better. They’re all massively beneficial for small businesses, while being more than manageable for small budgets.

If you’d like a tip as you embark on this enjoyable read: Understand your business processes, your team culture, and your collaboration needs. Because the shoe’s not gonna fit until you know what size the foot is!

Meetings and Conferencing

Join.Me

Pricing structures: Free (up to 3 attendees), Pro for $18 (up to 50 attendees), Business for $30 (up to 250 attendees)

Sign-up: www.join.me  

Features: This video conferencing tool enables professional and efficient meetings for dispersed teams and/or clients. Meetings can be accessed via VOIP, phone or online. Live chat tools, screen sharing and screen control capabilities create the full experience for the presenter and attendees. Meetings can be annotated, scheduled, recorded and locked.   

GoToMeeting

Pricing structures: Free (up to 3 attendees), $24 (up to 5 attendees), $39 (up to 25 attendees), $49 (up to 100 attendees)

Sign-up: www.gotomeeting.com

Features: Dial in from anywhere, schedule meetings from your Google or Outlook calendars, record your HD video conference. Other features include screen sharing and drawing tools.

Fuze Meeting

Pricing structures: Free (per minute rates apply)

Sign-up: www.fuze.com

Features: HD audio and video-conferencing, document sharing, animations and multimedia make Fuze one of the coolest and most flexible collaboration tools today. Much like Join.Me, meetings can be accessed via most devices (VOIP phone, regular phone, computer). Scheduling can take place directly from Google or Outlook calendars. The flexibility and fun of Fuze makes this our choice for video conferencing.  

Project Contributions and Workflow

Trello

Pricing structures: Free (Basic), $9.99 per user (Business Class)

Sign-up: www.trello.com

Features: This tool enables you to organise, allocate, and communicate tasks and projects using shared team boards. Teams that are invited to a project board are able to upload attachments, comment and tag other team members so that all progress is stored and visible in a central location. By dragging cards across lists, assigning due dates, and using checklists, Trello also enables your team to track progress. A selection of stickers, wallpapers, and labels create a further customisable experience. Unlimited boards, cards, lists, checklists, members and attachments (up to 250MB). Integration is available with Evernote, Github, Google Hangouts, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Slack, Google Drive, Dropbox, and more.

Asana

Pricing structures: Free (up to 15 members), $9.99 per member, small team discounts can apply (unlimited membership)

Sign-up: www.asana.com

Features: Asana is a central hub of projects, teams, and tasks. Unlike Trello, Asana provides less of an overview of all projects, and more of a tracking system for task completion and allocation within a project. Each team member views a list of their own personal tasks, rather than a board of all tasks and projects. The advantage is that team members can focus on those tasks that they are assigned to, without being distracted by those that they are not. Comments, member tagging, and attachments again allow for a central record of work. For small business use, we’d recommend the user-friendly and team-wide transparent Trello, over Asana.  

Team Building

Yammer

Pricing structures: Free (Basic), $3 per user (Enterprise Network)

Sign-up: www.yammer.com

Features: This tool allows your teams to create their own private social networks, where they can share files, documents, photos and other fun things. With an intuitive “Facebook-like” interface, Yammer creates opportunity for improved team cohesion, no matter how far across the world those team members are.

Workplace by Facebook

Pricing structures: Free (Standard Plan), $3 per user for first 1000 users (Premium Plan with 90 day free trial)

Sign-up: www.facebook.com/workplace/

Features: This, is Facebook for work! And it’s amazing. Connect your team members, your teams, and your business partners with live chats and videos, idea-sharing, and instant-messaging. Mobile friendly and fully integratable with so many of the other tools you’re already using… this, is the shizz!

Team Messaging and Communication

Slack

Pricing structures: Free (suitable for small teams), $8 (as an integrated business solution), $15 (advanced)

Sign-up: www.slack.com

Features: A super easy but effective chat technology that enables your team to set up multiple chat rooms (or channels) focused around a certain project or topic. Group and private channels are available, along with the ability to tag team members and attach files. Great for quick, easy, real time interactions.

Google Hangouts

Pricing structures: Free (up to 10 participants), $5 (30GB storage), $10 (unlimited storage)

Sign-up: www.hangouts.google.com

Features: Linked to Google+, Hangouts provides a quick and easy way to communicate in real time with other team members, especially when your team is already using Gmail. Private and group chats are available, as well as voice and video calling. Hangouts is compatible with iOS and Android, and provides a history of all conversations. Our preference is Slack for its central and user-friendly interface.

Ideas and Knowledge Sharing

Interact

Pricing structures: $8 (up to 100 users, unlimited storage), more advanced options billed annually and tailored to business needs.

Sign-up: www.interact-intranet.com

Features: Offering forums, directories, and workflow tools, Interact is an intranet for connecting your people with each other in a way that encourage them to share, review and vote on ideas. Mobile compatibility makes the spread of creativity and problem-solving even easier and more convenient. Further features, like content management systems, teams, and intelligence stores create the informal knowledge management system that every small business dreams of.

Organization and File Sharing

Google Drive

Pricing structures: Free (15GB), $1.99 (100GB), $9.99 (1TB)

Sign-up: www.google.com/drive/

Features: Drive allows you to set up organised folders of all sorts of documents. These can be arranged by project, by team, or any other category, and shared with only the relevant people. Privacy and sharing settings (when used correctly) can protect sensitive information. But the best part is that documents and sheets can be collaborated on by multiple people at the same time. With the same functionality as Word and Excel, Google Drive allows members to comment and make track changes, or edit without the risk of multiple versions. This tool builds collaboration and filing into one, simple technology.

DropBox

Pricing structures: Free (2GB), $9.99 (1TB)

Sign-up: www.dropbox.com

Features: Much like Drive, Dropbox allows you to create and share folders for different teams and projects. There is an option for editing online, without having to download the document. But while this may be appropriate for storing information, when it comes to collaboration, the capabilities are limited. This is why we opt for the more collaborative and user-friendly Google Drive option.

All-in-one Solutions

Basecamp

Pricing structures: Starting at $99 for unlimited users and projects

Sign-up: www.basecamp.com

Features: Basecamp is a pricy, but all-inclusive technology offering private ‘campfires’ for brief interactions, as well as space for formal announcements, FYI’s and other forms of team communication. The creation and allocation of projects, tasks, subtasks and deadlines assists with project management and tracking. Standard features include to-do lists, message boards, document and file storage, scheduling and automated check-ins, and campfires.

Podio

Pricing structures: Basic at $9, add on automated workflows and read-only access for $14 on the Plus plan, or Premium for $24 with reporting, dashboards and advanced workflow.

Sign-up: www.podio.com

Features: Podio is your one-stop shop for working as a team, while managing workflow, tracking project progress, and communicating regularly and efficiently. It’s flexible, it’s customizable, it’s user-friendly, and it scales well with business growth, too!

[bctt tweet=”By just 2020, more than half of the workforce will consist of Millennials.” via=”no”]

Tricks to Optimize Your Collaborative Technology!

Okay, so you’ve spotted the tools and technologies best for your team’s collaboration. Maybe you’ve even signed up for a few. But having the right tools doesn’t matter if you don’t use them right!

So here’s a few tricks to make your technology work for you:

  1. Build your collaborative tools deep into your business processes. This means different things for different businesses. But make sure that daily tasks require the daily use of collaborative technology.
  2. Fit the technology to the talent, and not the other way around. If your business plays in the creative space, then make sure your collaborative tools make for the easy flow of ideas and innovations between your creative team members. If your core business is largely administrative, you’ll want to go for something that offers security and an easy-to-use filing system.
  3. Foster a collaborative culture, supported by collaborative behaviours. If your team doesn’t want to collaborate, or they’re encouraged to compete, then even the coolest of technologies won’t prove effective. Rally your team towards collaboration by helping them to understand the benefits, for them and for business.
  4. Collaborate with anticipation for the future. The future brings change. Change in the way people want to interact with each other. So identify the tools and technologies for collaboration that will evolve with relevance for the future.

By just 2020, more than half of the workforce will consist of Millennials. Millennials who started using technology to play and learn before they could say the word “dada”! As your team evolves, so they’ll be expecting new ways to collaborate with technology, regardless of whether they’re sharing an office or working around the globe. So the question is, are you ready?

*Disclaimer: This is our personal and biased opinion

 

About the Author: Lauren Neuper, Chief of Content

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