In reality, collaboration means different things to different organizations and people. The way your employees collaborate entirely depends on your business model. It's time to learn what collaboration tools are best suited for your success.
Not to mention, different teams within an organization often have their own unique needs. The key point here is that collaboration is not a one-size-fits-all approach, because all business environments are different.
Three Categories of Collaboration Tools
1. Communication Tools
Communication tools include platforms for emails, voicemail, instant messaging, and chat. They reduce the time spent communicating with coworkers, clients, and outside stakeholders. Keep in mind: chat is to email, as text is to voicemail. Chat makes it possible for users to discuss plans, ask questions, and take action without wasting too much time searching for the right resources. With chat platforms, questions can be answered in real-time, or at leisure in a thread format, eliminating the back and forth game of phone tag.
2. Conferencing Tools
Conference tools are increasingly valuable for organizations that have a large workforce, especially those with remote workers or multiple offices. Conferencing platforms are a way for teams to gather under the same “roof” despite time differences, state lines, or global boundaries. Conference tools allow entire organizations to meet, increasing the chance that culture, process, and success persists despite remote attendance.
3. Contextual Collaboration/Project Management Tools
Contextual collaboration tools, also known as project management software, or coordination tools are the most advanced and modern of the collaborative tools on the market today. These tools are becoming a necessity to manage complex and interdependent tasks across a number of resources. They typically include the ability to track time, files, schedules, resources, budgets, and status updates all within one interface. Think of contextual collaboration as a software that provides a one-stop-shop for all your project management needs. Save time, money, and headaches with a unified platform for collaboration.
Chat vs. Email
Email is pretty standard for nearly every business, but it can be problematic and even downright frustrating. According to a study by Radacti Group, business professionals send or receive an average of 120 emails a day, which works out to be one email every four minutes!
Considering the sheer volume of email, it becomes difficult to read and respond to messages in a timely manner. Project managers often run into problems when it comes to avoiding spam, tracking conversations, filtering messages, and the inevitable email “black hole” (the technical term for an email that is swallowed by the inbox, never to be seen again).
Chat software is a communication platform (similar to instant messaging) that allows users to share ideas and files in real time, either in a group or one-on-one chat. Chat software is generally easy to use and implement, with minimal setup and little training required. These tools allow users to instantly communicate, no matter where they are. This means a project team can share updates and feedback, send files and even screen-share, helping keep everyone on the same page. It can significantly improve team efficiency and productivity.
The best work environments for chat tools include:
1. Organizations with virtual teams distributed amongst different locations
2. Remote workers or those who are constantly working away from a centralized location
3. Teams looking to operate with high agility
4. Vendors or contractors working with multiple clients
5. Small teams or departments within larger organizations
Four Popular Chat Tools in 2017
As chat tools become more popular and more sophisticated, a number of popular new tools have emerged on the market.
Slack is becoming increasingly popular as more teams start considering collaboration a requirement for success. Many Slack users share their love for the simple and easy-to-use user interface. Slack reduces email and meeting times, keeping all team communication in one place.
2. Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts for Messaging & Chat Not to be confused, Google Hangouts is the umbrella brand name of both the chat and the video conferencing tools. Most notably used as a chat—rather than video—tool, Google Hangouts are part of the Free Extension package offered by Google Chrome. By enabling the Hangouts extension, you can immediately chat with anyone, in real-time, for free. Meant to be easy-to-use and navigate, Hangouts allows you to have instant communications, share comments, files, and even video-chat.
3. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is one of the newer chatbased apps recently introduced onto the market. One-on-one, team chats, as well as Skype are available for dispersed teams to unify over a common goal. MS Teams is a fan favorite for Microsoft-heavy firms and users, due to its familiarity and security features.
The main goal of HipChat is to provide an easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate, chat platform to replace the time wasted on lost emails. Originally engineered for IT teams, HipChat provides a platform for businesses across industries to find the answers they need without slowing down momentum.
5 Ways To Minimize Distractions During Chat
1. Keep one-on-one conversations limited to private channels, or direction conversations, and out of group spaces
2. Sign off if you need to focus on a project or need some quiet time without any distractions. 3. Limit live notifications to channels in which they are necessary
4. Only tag or notify users who truly need to see your message
5. Make sure the right people are in the right conversations so messages are always relevant