Collaboration software, also known as collaborative software or groupware, is the technology designed to facilitate and handle group work. Collaboration software may be used by groups to communicate, coordinate, share, cooperate, solve problems, negotiate, or even compete.
Collaboration software technologies are generally categorized along two main dimensions:
- Users are working or doing tasks together at the same time (known as “realtime” or “synchronous” collaboration software) or different times (known as “asynchronous” collaboration software)
- Users are doing work together in one place (also known as “collocated” or “face-to-face”) or in various places (known as “non-colocated” or “distance”)
Here are some of the most important reasons why you should consider using collaboration software for your small business:
- To make communication easier, clearer, more persuasive, and more productive
- To allow communication at times and in places which otherwise would be impossible
- To allow telecommuting
- To minimize if not eliminate travel costs
- To allow various perspectives and expertise in one discussion
- To create groups that have common interests where it would be hard or impossible to assemble enough people face-to-face
- To cut down time and cost in facilitating group work
- To coordinate group problem-solving
- To allow new modes of communication, including anonymous interchanges or structured interactions
Three types of collaboration software
There are three main types of collaboration software:
- Communication – Early collaboration software applications like Lotus Notes are more focused on communications. Other platforms include instant messaging or chat.
- Conferencing – Groupware software tools consist of real-time collaboration of project members who are presented with a unified view screen. In most cases, one presenter controls the view screen, while others provide their inputs by talking or chatting.
- Coordination – The most recent collaborative software type and the one with the highest growth potential today, coordination software solutions help you manage complex or big interdependent tasks with a common goal.
Two Dimensions of Collaboration Software
Generally, there are two main types of collaboration software solutions, at least if we base the division on different dimensions of operation.
1. Asynchronous or non-real time collaboration software
Email is the most common collaboration tool out there. Email is regarded as the grandfather of today’s collaboration software applications, but it is still the most commonly used collaboration program. Today’s email, in comparison with its older features, includes intuitive algorithms for forwarding or filing messages, creating mailing groups, or attaching dozens of files with one single message. What is also sophisticated about today’s email technology is that it could automatically sort and process messages or automatically route messages online, among others.
Mailing lists and newsgroups are very similar to email systems, but the main difference is they are messages to groups of people instead of just one-to-one communication.
Workflow systems on the other hand allow files or documents to be routed through groups or organizations using a relatively-fixed process. Workflow systems can provide interesting features including routing, development of various forms, and support for roles and privileges.
Group calendars allow you to schedule and manage projects, coordinate people, and will help you schedule deliverables or deadlines. Typical features of a group calendar include: detection of conflicting schedules and coordination of meeting schedules that can work for everyone. Group calendars can help you to locate people, too.
2. Synchronous or real-time collaboration software
Real-time or synchronous collaboration software programs allow two or more people to view and edit documents or information even if they are from different areas. Shared whiteboards for instance allow people to work collaboratively on a problem on a web-based platform. Many shared whiteboards are used for informal discussions, but these tools may also serve communications that are structured or more sophisticated, including collaborative graphic design, engineering, or publishing applications.
Video communications systems, on the other hand, allow two-way or even multi-way calling using live video, basically a telephone system that have an additional visual component. Example of this would be Skype, which you can easily use for free.
Chat systems permit various people to write and send messages in real-time. Chat groups are typically created by assigning chat rooms using name, number of people, location, topic of discussion, among others.
Decision support systems are designed to help groups manage the decision making process. They allow the use of tools for brainstorming, analyzing ideas, putting weights, as well as probabilities on events or alternatives, and even voting.
Furthermore, you can look at collaborative software categories in terms of open source and paid softeare. If you have coding skills this article explains how open source collaboration software can be a smart move for you.
If you want to learn more about collaboration software then TMCNews further explains the concept behind it and the associated work process. Likewise, PBWorks talks about a short history of these collaborative software applications. And if you have a small business and you want to try and use some of today’s outstanding collaboration software applications, PCWorld gives a list of free collaboration software tools that you may find useful.
What’s the best collaboration software?
Our expers did a detailed analysis of all popular collaboration software services and we were really impressed with Wrike. This software offers a wide range of useful features nad its pricing plan is both flexible and budget friendly. In our test Wrike was placed at the top of our best collaboration software category. Our experts also appreciated noticed the exceptional level of customer support which was always a very important factor when evaluating any SaaS products. If you’d like to test how Wrike can improve the efficiency of your collaboration you should give their free trial a go. You can get Wrike free trial here.
our Best Project Management Software Award 2018
Wrike stands out from the rest of collaboration software because it was clearly designed around the idea that everything you and your team does revolves around individual tasks. That’s why in Wrike, tasks look like mini-projects because in your everyday assignments everything if focused on the tasks you deal with on a day-to-day basis. Most of the actual work—which is mostly collaborating and sharing—happens directly at the task level. Therefore, at the task level, you have the sense that this app feels very natural to use.
If you are a company that has fewer tasks or you have project that require a longer time to complet, you will be happy to learn that Wrike is more user-friendly compared with the other solutions that prefer breaking tasks up into parts. You can learn more about the numerous advantages of this software from our Wrike reviews section.
Overview of Wrike Collaboration Benefits
- Updates in real time encourages immersive communication and sharing of ideas. Wrike is premised on helping people work together effectively. To illustrate its power as a collaboration tool, one can head straight to its livestreaming feed feature. There in an interface not too different from how Facebook renders its newsfeeds, users would be looking at tasks created or assigned to them, with the user able to call on filters to retain only those tasks that directly involve them. Once there, team members shoot ideas back and forth, attach files as they see fit to support their views or verify statements. A simple, powerful feature gives them a platform for brainstorming, plotting courses of actions—tasks—and hatching necessary schedules and deadlines based on them—together collectively, collaboratively.
- Combines contributions from team members. Wrike’s document editor allows team members to work together in real time to edit documents and save them in one place. Once they’re finished saving, Wrike will automatically update the file version and attach it to their tasks. The document editors supports Microsoft Office for Windows and Mac, Open Office for Mac and Windows, LibreOffice for Mac and Windows, along with PDF, PNG and JPG file types.
- Does away with cumbersome email file sharing. The world was an entirely different place when employees in a team have to share their files only through email. It worked to some extent, until the team members change or expand, and the number of revisions have confounded efforts to track them all. With Wrike, team members simply attach a file to automatically associate it with a task, and others involved in the project can easily change them through the document editor discussed above.
- User groups
- Shared workspace
- File management
- Task-related discussions
- Third party integration
- Collaborative workspace
- Collaboration tools
- Template management
- Personal dashboard
- File version control
- Asset management
Other Examples of Collaboration Software
Monday.com, previously named Dapulse, is one of the leading collaboration and communication solutions in the market. For the seamless way it centralizes communication and keeps everyone engaged on what matters to the organization, Monday.com wins our Supreme Software, Experts’ Choice and Great User Experience Award. You can easily sign up for a Monday.com free trial here.
Overview of Monday.com Benefits
- Expanded @mention tool. Typing @someone has been a popular utility to get specific person or team’s attention, but now Monday.com has also made it possible to mention @everyon to summon the attention of everyone who is subscribed to a board. On a shareable board, you get the equivalent @all guests so all guests gets involved too, at once. It’s a very convenient way to communicate with people involved in any project or task.
- Limit editing permissions to board only. While collaborative editing is truly a blessing of the internet-and-algorithm-driven times, there are still those moments when we come to harbor deep misgivings about it: think about the times when some malware coursed down your internet connection and made a jolly mayhem of your local hard drives or when a colleague made a complete mess of your boards. Life ain’t fair, but now you could do something about it: click on “Edit content” permissions mode and voila, your teammates couldn’t do anything else but edit only pulses where their contributions are needed.
- Effective communication right at the heart of things. Who hasn’t had those dragging meetings and painfully obfuscating email threads just to sort out even the simplest of things? Well, say goodbye to them all and welcome focused exchange of ideas and quick approval of just-concluded tasks right where you do things, in the case of Monday.com’s platform, your pulses—entire rows within your board. Here where your current tasks reside, you get to share whatever matters with the people who are rightfully involved and assigned with you. If tasks get changed and updated and they’re not presently aware, they’ll get wind of them soon enough through desktop or mobile notifications. If you like a particular effort, thumb it up or say them in words. If files are needed, they get dropped in a centralized location where you don’t have to go treasure-hunting for them in your emails.
- A collaboration tool for multiple employees
- A many-to-many communication tool
- A visual display of progress
- An Execution Board – with big screen display
- Easy collaboration: tag teams
- Easy communication: tag people
- Eliminate noise: get updates based on relevance
- Email notifications
- Email updates
- Integrations: Dropbox, Google Drive, Pipedrive
- Knowledge base
- Motivational tool
- New employees can hit the ground running
- Personal and public Boards
- You can copy and paste from Adobe
- You can leave live comments on visuals
- Zero emails and meetings overhead
2. Zoho Projects
Zoho Projects is a cloud-based project management and collaboration application recognized by users ranging from Fortune 500 companies, SMBs, to freelancers. If you’d like to test its features you can quickly do so when you sign up for a Zoho Projects free trial here.
Overview of Zoho Projects Collaboration Benefits
- Get conversations or project updates through social media-like tool. Zoho Projects features Project Stream, a dashboard that turns the best element of social media interface like Twitter to present collaboration with a quick snapshot of the latest activities connected to your project, whether in the form of a new conversation opened by someone or a task just opened or completed by another one. For good measure it also adds status messages from members of your team, dispensing of the need for official, often overdrawn meetings in order to divine such project proceedings.
- Real-time notifications ensure engagement. You can leave your projects safe knowing that if it ever needs your attention, you get instant email or RSS notification when your participation is required again. If you are the one currently committed to render edits and complete specific tasks of a project, you can leave it to Zoho Projects to send those notifications once you have finished with your part and clicked on status updates. RSS feeds can be set up with authentication, so you need not worry about security protocols being breached while you do your job.
- Handy integration enhances collaboration further. Clients who are certified users of Google Apps will appreciate how when they sign up for Zoho Projects they could expect to hit the ground running and make the best of both worlds right off the bat.
- Activity Dashboard
- Automatic Notifications
- Collaboration Tools
- Collaborative dashboard with Twitter-like updates
- Collaborate with Projects via Email
- Drag & Drop Interface
- Email and RSS Notifications
- Import Microsoft project files
- Improved Communication with Wiki and Chat
- Integration with Google Apps
- Interactive Discussion Boards
- Manage files using award winning Zoho Office suite
- Resource Management
- Task Planning
- Third-Party Integration
Established by Facebook co-founders, Asana is a web and mobile application that helps teams improve productivity through more efficient ways of collaborating and tracking their work. Asana scores highly and favorably in our reviews, which at the moment is still led by Wrike.
Overview of Asana Collaboration Benefits
- Functional cross-collaborations improve the value of the company and employees. While many collaboration applications strongly feature collaboration within the same teams or departments, Asana shows foresight about opportunities missed with possible cross-collaborations. To help advance this approach, Asana shows ways where teams share goals and upcoming works within and outside their immediate departments while giving good descriptions of the nature of the work, the people involved and their specialties, while clearly presenting timeline and estimated time commitment so other teams could determine if they have anything of value to offer and just the time to give for those projects.
- Boards are the new workplace, meeting place and communication room in one. With Asana’s boards, teams can create entire team pages, post all the relevant task assignments, give and get effective feedbacks and comments and share status updates just by following those posts that they are actively involved. When tasks and subtasks are completed, the history of everything that happened are attached to the task, rendering the work in context along with all the conversations made in the course of the project.
- If you consider Asana’s boards as your new workplace, meeting place and communication room in one, then you could also think of how those places change in time with you. Asana’s boards are just like those real-life equivalents too: there is not one fixed way to set them up, and chances are it will take time until you get comfortable with the one you have settled on. It’s a fun way to discover things, not a pain-laden road one you usually have it with other applications. It helps that the boards themselves are far from boring things too.
- Access Control
- Activity Dashboard
- Automatic Notifications
- Collaboration Tools
- Collaborative Workspace
- Document Storage
- Drag & Drop Interface
- File Management
- Permission Management
- Search Functionality
- Third Party Integration
Scoro is a cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) multifunctional work management and collaboration solution for small to medium enterprises. It was founded in Estonia in 2013 with headquarters in London, United Kingdom. To check its features at no cost you can sign up for a Scoro free trial here.
Overview of Scoro Collaboration Benefits
- Integration is a breeze. Scoro seamlessly integrates with third-party solutions including Outlook, Google, iCal and other calendar apps. Users can use their Dropbox accounts to access files anytime, anywhere, while the mobile version of the app supports both iOS and Android. This ensures users will not be too far away from their projects no matter where they are.
- Redefining meetings through shared calendar. While not a few of us would frown at the first mention of meetings, and in fact collaboration applications definitely want to at least reduce meetings to the barest minimum, real-world assessments still show meetings eating up a big chunk of manpower hours, often the biggest still. Yet meetings and other collective events cannot be avoided, and in fact essential with their own multiple benefits. Instant messaging, social media-like platforms, chat rooms do not always have the full power of face-to-face engagement to sort out issues, while customers and business partners would always prefer the personal touch of meeting their partners in the flesh. The larger picture of the team still includes those clients and stakeholders, and Scoro Calendars can automate these events so users would not have to sweat it out every time.
- Activity dashboard
- Calendar management
- Collaborative workspace
- Company news feed
- Customizable templates
- Document management
- Drag & drop interface file
- management & sharing
- Email integration
- Multiple user accounts
- Resource planning
- To-do lists, reminders, notifications
Intraboom is an online collaboration platform or cloud-based intranet designed to help businesses and organizations ensure their teams are up to date with the latest tasks, projects, and activities. It features a plethora of tools for team communication to pave the way for fun and meaningful discussions that are easily accessible and neatly organized in threads, galleries, and other tools featured by Intraboom.
Overview of Intraboom Collaboration Benefits
- Built with mobile devices in mind with real-time collaboration. Intraboom allows you to fully utilize all communication and collaboration features on all devices, and all actions performed are synced in real-time. The mobile functionality is quite handy as Intraboom also allows for both private messaging in-app and text messaging through mobile phones.
- Wide selection of collaboration tools and avenues for group discussions. Intraboom is quite versatile as it allows for both internal and external communications. For collaboration with teams, the task tool allows for easy delegation of projects to individuals or a selected team, and tasks can be reassigned at any time to ensure timely completion of projects. The gallery tool allows members to have meaningful discussions with certain photos and videos serving as the main reference for the conversation. There’s also a group calendar that not only keeps everyone updated on upcoming events, but it also encourages all members to voice out their opinions and ideas relevant to the activity. Other features it has includes contact management, a general discussions tool where conversations are easily accessible in a single thread, built-in cloud storage for files, and a bulletin to keep everyone informed on important matters.
- An intuitive dashboard that makes it easy to understand and keep track of all essential tasks at a glance. Basically, this serves as an activity feed that displays all your projects and other pertinent team information on a single dashboard.
- Contact management
- Discussion boards
- File management
- Group calendar
- Photo and video gallery
- Task management
- Online chat, private messaging and text messaging.
Armed with the knowledge on the different collaboration types, you should also learn the best practices in collaboration software use. Furthermore, if you want to know more about other business software applications and their history, read the guide to the history of CRM applications.