Real-time collaboration software can be a game changer for your business. Whether you’re working with clients, employees, or freelancers, you don’t have to rely on email and other dated communication methods when you have real-time collaboration software.
Real-time collaboration software is designed to make it easier for everyone to do their job, whether that’s editing documents, brainstorming ideas, or sharing information about the project at hand. And the best part? It’s available everywhere—on your computer, tablet, phone or even your smart watch!
You’ll never have to worry about missing important information again because it will be at your fingertips in real time. You can also easily track progress and see who’s doing what—no more guessing as to when someone might have sent something back or what stage of completion they’re at.
Real-Time Collaboration Software
ollaboration apps are changing the way people work, and it’s about time. A collaboration app is any piece of software that helps people get work done together. Typically, these apps let people know about team activity on work that pertains to them. Through the app, people have access to the information and assets they need, so they can pick up their piece of a project at the right time without someone else having to email them to do so.
Collaboration apps are a subcategory of productivity apps. Their area of specialization is to emphasize and enable teamwork, including remote teamwork. That’s critically important now that so many people are working remotely and are unable to communicate with—or interrupt—their coworkers in person.
A Word on Overlapping Categories
Collaboration software isn’t exactly a clear-cut category because it overlaps with several other software categories. Here we include apps from a few closely overlapping categories: project management software, to-do list apps (as long as they have ample sharing and collaborating features), and kanban apps. We’ve included the top-ranking team messaging app, Slack, because it has become such an important staple of communication for so many.
Zoho Projects is our top pick for project management apps for small businesses on a budget.
Best Project Management Apps for Collaboration
Of those overlapping categories, project management software is the most competitive. PCMag has three Editors’ Choice selections in that category, all of which have made it to this list of the best collaboration apps.
- LiquidPlanner for very large organizations that need to manage both projects and resources,
- Zoho Projects for small and growing businesses on a budget, and
- Teamwork for small and medium-size businesses that need to get started with project management quickly.
Several high performers in the project management category were narrowly edged out, however, and deserve honorable mention. They are Wrike, ProofHub, Celoxis, TeamGantt, and GanttPRO.
Miro is a collaborative whiteboard with video calling included.
Best Visual Collaboration App
Visual collaboration apps are growing in popularity, and our two favorites are Editors’ Choice winner Miro and close runner-up Mural.
Both take the form of a digital whiteboard or canvas that multiple people join simultaneously. They have tools for drawing, posting sticky notes with text, uploading files and images, embedding videos, and adding other kinds of content to the board. Miro offers video calling, so you can chat with colleagues while simultaneously brainstorming and working on visual projects. Mural purposely offers only audio calls. The idea is to keep the visual focus on the board.
Miro and Mural both include a healthy stock of templates. Mural’s library includes many templates used for team building and group icebreakers. They work almost like tabletop games. Miro offers more in the way of library objects and templates for making charts, diagrams, and other visual aids that you can reuse in other business materials, such as presentations. If neither of those apps fits your needs, you might also consider Conceptboard or Lucidspark.
Mural has templates for team building exercises.
Best Multipurpose Apps
A few of the entries on this list don’t fit neatly into any one category. In a way, that’s what makes them special. They’re flexible, customizable, multipurpose tools.
Podio is one. It’s an online hub where any organization or team can get any kind of work and communication done. When you create an account, you choose what kinds of apps you want to have from across a variety of business purposes, such as HR, management, sales, IT, and so forth. If there isn’t an app that fits your needs, you can build it or simply use one of the existing apps as a starting point and change pieces of it.
Another example of a multipurpose app is Asana. Asana started out as a task-management tool but has grown to include excellent options for managing workflows, ideas, projects, and more. If you want to use it as a full-fledged project management app, you can, but Asana’s real strengths have to do with its flexibility and customization options.
Asana is among the best multi-purpose collaboration tools because it’s highly customizable and flexible.
Basecamp belongs among the best multipurpose collaboration apps, too. It is one of the stronger examples of an app that balances work management and communication. Plus, there’s a lot of flexibility regarding what you use Basecamp for. You can manage projects as well as non-project work. It’s a great place to have asynchronous discussions with in-house colleagues as well as partners on the outside, such as contractors and clients. It all depends on what you need the tool to do.
Todoist is our favorite collaborative to-do list because it effortlessly keeps teams in sync.
Best Collaborative To-Do List
Todoist is the PCMag Editors’ Choice winner for to-do list apps, but it’s also a highly valuable collaboration tool. If your team needs an inexpensive tool that helps a group of people write down, prioritize, and manage everything they need to get done, it’s at the top of the list.
What makes Todoist better than other collaborative to-do apps? For starters, it has apps for every major platform that all work reliably and sync effortlessly. It also gives you a ton of tools for organizing tasks, such as priority ratings and labels, without creating a cluttered interface. That keeps the app easy to use and highly accessible to newcomers.
Airtable takes a database-style approach to organizing collaborative work.
Best for Working With Databases
Two apps on this list specialize in changing the way you manage and interact with relational databases. They are Airtable and Smartsheet.
Before the word database makes you run away, know that Airtable is an approachable collaboration tool with a variety of uses. You can set it up to manage information, such as an editorial calendar, or any kind of collection, such as inventory of a vinyl record collection. You can use it to track and monitor work as it goes through a workflow, moving for example from one person to another for edits or approvals. It’s surprisingly easy to use, highly customizable, and downright versatile.
Smartsheet is another app that lets you work with relational databases, though it’s a bit beefier than Airtable. At PCMag, we also cross-list Smartsheet under project management software, because it can do that, too. What makes Smartsheet powerful, however, is its support for automations, something like “when X occurs, do Y.” For example, “when new information comes in through a client intake form, alert the team manager and automatically assign the junior team member a task to follow up with the new client within three days.” Using this example, you can set up a rule in Smartsheet so that as soon as a client intake form arrives, the rest happens automatically. When you automate rote tasks, it saves the entire team time that they can spend on more important work.
Trello is one of the easiest collaboration tools to use, making it a great choice for many teams.
Best for Kanban
Kanban is a system for working used in a variety of fields, though it’s especially popular among software developers and other kinds of technical workers. Simply put, here’s how kanban works: It uses cards on a board to represent tasks or ideas. The board contains columns, and each column is (usually) a stage or step in the work process. So you might have a board with the columns To Do, Doing, Done. You write down all the tasks that need to be done and put them into the To Do column. When you start a task (represented as a card that contains the task name and other details about it), you move its card to the Doing column. When you finish, you put the card in the Done column.
Trello is one of the friendliest kanban tools on the market. Anyone can sign up for an account and start using it quickly. It isn’t especially feature-rich out of the box, but with a paid account you can choose Powerups, or add-on features to make it more powerful.
Many collaboration apps have started adding kanban views so that you always have the option to work in kanban if you want. Asana, Zoho Projects, Teamwork, and even Todoist all have some kind of board feature now.
Culture Is Key
One important point about all collaboration and communication tools is that they must have a company culture behind them. Throwing a new tool at a bunch of people and telling them to use it instead of email doesn’t work. To start using a collaboration tool successfully, all the key players on the team need to buy into it. It has to become part of the culture.
When you’re up and running with a collaboration app that fits your needs and everything starts clicking, you may be amazed at how much more productive and organized your team has become.
collaboration tools for business
ollaboration is essential in the workplace. With offices in multiple cities and more employees working remotely, companies rely on online tools to help employees work together. Tools like instant messaging and video conferencing let your employees collaborate on the same project from anywhere using their desktop computers, mobiles or tablets.
Here are five top online platforms for business collaboration:
Slack has millions of users worldwide. Its slick interface lets you make video calls and send direct messages (DMs) to individuals and groups. Slack lets you organize employees into groups based on projects and departments. It’s compatible with Google Drive and Dropbox.
This cloud-based collaboration software is widely used in business and government. The platform offers group messaging, video conferencing and virtual meeting spaces that come with useful backgrounds. It offers HD audio and video. An attendance indicator helps you track individual participation and conduct polls.
Flock has an easy interface and useful productivity tools. Employees can use Flock to exchange DMs, share files, host video conferences and more. The application can be easily merged with essential business tools like Google Drive and Google Calendar. Additional features include workflow automation and note-taking.
Workplace by Facebook
While Facebook is known as a tool for promotion and marketing, Workplace by Facebook lets you communicate with staff in a centralized hub. Instant messaging allows individual or group chats through text, voice or video. You can also stream video to make announcements or conduct training sessions. Real-time engagement analytics deliver instant feedback. It can be integrated with Office 365, G Suite, Google Drive and more.
Despite tough competition, Microsoft is still a big player in the workplace collaboration sector. This cost-effective software improves productivity and boosts engagement. Teams lets employees share files, work collectively on a document and sync with other Office apps.
Whichever platform you choose, your goal is to bring employees together. It not only boosts productivity, it empowers every employee to share ideas and reach out to colleagues from other departments.
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