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Published Monday, March 15, 2021

The best online collaboration tools

With cloud-first storage solutions and bandwidth at a historically low cost, more and more businesses have been moving their teams from office to be distributed or fully remote. The recent COVID-19 crisis has supercharged this transition and now more than ever more businesses need a way to bring the most vital part of office culture to distributed teams: collaboration

 

What’s the best online collaboration tool for my team?

With more choices than ever, each with their own feature set and pricing models, it can be confusing to find the right collaboration tool for your team. Ultimately you have to choose the tool whose feature set most aligns with your team’s needs. At minimum it’s recommended that whatever solution you use has secure file sharing, messaging, tasks, and document collaboration. In order to get you started, let’s take a look at some of the best collaboration tools available today.

 

1. Basecamp

Basecamp

Since launching in 2004 as a simple project management software, Basecamp has grown and evolved to become a fully featured collaboration platform with to-do lists, messaging, file sharing, and scheduling features. But with this growth comes some growing pains: Basecamp’s rich stable of features can make for a steep learning curve. Basecamp requires a great deal of initial set-up to be used to its full potential, but when that work is done it is very effective.


PROS:

  • Messaging
  • File Sharing
  • To-Do Lists
  • Calendar Integration
  • Highly customizable
  • Simple pricing structure ($99/month)

CONS:

  • Steep learning curve
  • Requires lots of initial set-up

2. Slack

Slack

Odds are you’ve encountered Slack in your career. Thanks to its ease of use and appealing pricing structure, Slack has come to be synonymous with inter-office communication. Slack has the benefit of being easy to set up, easy to learn, and cheap to start, with just enough additional features to make it worth your while. However once you need to branch out beyond simple messaging and rudimentary file sharing, Slack quickly shows its limits as it has virtually no project management features.

 

PROS:

  • Messaging
  • File Sharing
  • Video Calls
  • Easy to use
  • Pricing structure that scales with your business

CONS:

  • Strict storage limits per user
  • No task features
  • No calendar integration
  • Limited customization options

3. Asana

Asana

Founded in 2008 by two former Facebook developers, Asana was built first and foremost to keep developers on task and on schedule. Since then it has evolved to incorporate features befitting larger and non-development focused teams. However the agile development methodology that bore it is still a heavy influence and may not work for all teams, and messaging features are scarce and rely on integrations with third party apps like Slack or Microsoft teams, effectively doubling your cost.

 

PROS:

  • Tasks
  • To-do Lists
  • Task based messaging and comments system
  • Pricing structure that scales with your business
  • Robust third-party integrations

CONS:

  • Limited messaging functionality
  • Designed around Agile methodology
  • Slight learning curve

 

4. Trello

trello

Historically Trello did one thing and it did it exceptionally well. Trello is great at breaking projects down into manageable boards with easy to edit cards that can be moved along each stage of the process, with vital collaboration elements such as comments and notes. That was where the functionality of Trello begins and ends, when looking for anything resembling messaging or file sharing, you will have to look elsewhere. But new updates promise much more functionality on the way.

 

PROS:

  • Tasks
  • To-do Lists
  • Task based comments system
  • Project boards
  • Pricing structure that scales with your business

CONS:

  • No messaging features
  • No file sharing

 

5. Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams

If you’re already deeply invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, Teams is a no-brainer. Teams provides functionality that looks and behaves incredibly similarly to Slack, but with deep and rich integrations with Office 365 and Sharepoint. As with all things Microsoft, Teams offers rock-solid up time, and like all things Microsoft, the software can be a bit memory intensive and the webapps lacking.

 

PROS:

  • Messaging
  • File sharing
  • Video calls
  • Easy to use interface
  • Rich integration with other Microsoft cloud services

CONS:

  • Suboptimal web apps
  • Very locked into Microsoft ecosystem

Do I Really Need A Separate App For Collaboration?

Of course, the best solution of all would be to have these features integrated directly into the CRM or BI software your team is already using. There is no true replacement for a fully integrated collaboration solution, where your collaboration can be contextual and meaningful to the work you’re already doing. With contextual collaboration, there's far less room for ambiguity when discussing the details of a specific project or data point as the conversation is taking place where that data already lives. Supporting documents can be shared in real time and adjustments can be made without ever having to navigate to a separate application. Looking something like this:

 

weavy screenshot-1

Luckily for all of us, I think this is ultimately the direction the industry is moving in: away from silo'd apps and towards contextual collaboration in other parts of your productivity stack. Moves like Salesforce's acquisition of Slack signals that the change is going to come sooner rather than later. Don't be surprised to see similar moves industry wide, and more smaller players announcing the addition of contextual collaboration features like messaging, file sharing, and to-do lists in order to remain competitive. In a few short years we won't be asking what the best collaboration tool for our company is, but which BI or CRM platform offers the best collaboration features. 

 

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