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What Is Collaboration Software: Tools Breakdown & Buying Guide

Category: Collaboration Software
What is collaboration software?

Collaboration software helps individuals work together on projects or joint tasks using various tools. It often comes with messaging applications to facilitate communication and allows users to share files, recordings and even videos so that everyone stays on the same page.

If you own a business or are an executive in a company you most likely heard about services called collaboration software tools. In this article we’ll try to describe what that kind of software does and what are the main features offered by such solutions that can benefit your business.

What is collaboration software? The low down

A good and simple definition of collaborative software  is that it is a solution that helps people to work together on a certain project or joint task. Today’s software is the product of a long history of collaboration best practices and developments.

Collaboration software allows you to facilitate and improve on the following:

  • Communication
  • Sharing and discussing information
  • Working together on data/information
  • Coordination of efforts and activities

Collaboration software can be categorized according to the following types:

  • Single-purpose collaboration tools
  • Collaboration suites
  • Unified communications and collaboration

Single-purpose collaboration tools

Single-purpose collaboration tools focus on an aspect of joint projects or tasks. Here are some of the top examples of single-purpose collaboration tools:

Email. Considered the granddaddy of all collaborative software tools, email ironically is still the most frequently used. Its main purpose is both internal and external communication. The email’s structure allows usage for various other collaboration tasks.

Discussion boards. Among the best single-purpose collaboration tools are discussion boards, which are oriented for simultaneous multi-communication meetings; meaning, many people contributing their ideas at once. You can still use your email for discussions, but you’re under performing the potential of collaborative ideas.

Document management.  They enable you to create, organize, store, and access important documents.  Most of our days at work consist of producing, working together on, or disseminating documents with other people, groups, or businesses. Document collaboration tools often have features that include version control,as well as audit trails to facilitate multiple contributors or permissions to coordinate access.

Project management. All efforts in your business can be divided into a set of tasks, dealing with many people (who may be inside or outside the organization), and then aggregated as projects. These projects and tasks have sequence relationships and dependencies. Project management collaboration software tools allow you to delegate tasks, do milestones, set dependencies, track progress, and, thus, ensure everything is on track.

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Intranets (and extranets). They are basically web pages localized to your organization. They can be viewed as communication tools, where you publish announcements, policies, plans, or even events. They can also be used as a way of motivating employees (such as citations like “employee of the month” or inspiring messages like “message of the day”).

Social tools. Social tools such as networking, news activity streams, and wall messaging have frequently been regarded as the new email. Their main purpose is communication and sharing, but these tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, are designed in a special, dynamic, and individual-centric way, which is arguably a big improvement over email. In fact, although it’s being tapped now, social media has more up its sleeves and is one of the future tools of collaboration software. A review of these tools shows that many are free, cloud-hosted, have demo versions and have mobile apps.

Workflow tools. Although not known frequently in comparison to others, workflow tools can be viewed as collaboration tools. A workflow in essence is a business transaction from inception to closure. Workflow collaborative software tools manage the data associated with a workflow as it proceeds through several stages. A good example is the CRM workflow.

Instant messaging. IM or instant messaging is more oriented towards instantaneous communication.

Collaboration suites

Collaboration suites are a group of several and multiple individual collaboration tools. The underlying philosophy is: no single tool is enough for collaboration. All companies and businesses need various collaboration tools depending on their needs. So why not have these tools in one single solution?

In addition, collaboration suites view that various tools need to share information. A “unified communications and collaboration platform” includes voice communications tools such as audio and web conferencing, telephony, and voicemail. Because of the sophistication and their associated costs, these tools are mostly used only by large enterprises.

5 Collaboration Software Tasks To Assign

Some factors to consider

Before you buy a collaboration software tool for your company, always remember that usability, flexibility, and integration with popular third-party tools are critical.  To ensure a successful collaboration software implementation, create a plan for your business based on the following factors:

Governance: who will “own” and manage the collaboration software from your company’s end, such as setting the policies, processes, priorities, and strategies even while you’re away?

Training: Who will teach you and your team and future users how to use the tools?

Maintenance: When something is not working in your collaborative software tool, what happens? Who do you call? Or when it requires upgrades or upkeep? What if you need customization? Does the vendor has a physical office you can call? Do you need to employ an IT staff to maintain the tool?

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Security: Are your data and conversations secure from both external and internal hacks? Who is the person in charge on your company’s end to make sure data security is monitored? Does the vendor have a backup plan in case of downtimes or crashes?

Accessibility and localization: Can you or your team quickly access the collaboration software when needed and wherever there’s Internet connection?

To know more about collaboration software, check these diagrams about the concept of collaboration software tools, or its life cycle according to the Association for Information and Image Management, a global community of information professionals.

If you want to learn more about business software tools and their benefits to your business, check out our 5 Main benefits of CRM guide.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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