Collaboration in the Digital Age
by N Scheidegger

Different teams need different types of collaboration

There is no one size fits all approach, and sometimes trying to force a single platform that works across the whole company may not work. We tend to see collaboration working across three tiers:

  1. 1:1 communication (colleague to colleague): a more ad-hoc collaboration style, usually done via email unless better tools are in place.
  2. Team communications: a tricky middle ground often overlooked by small business, but is becoming increasingly important with remote teams.
  3. External communications (clients and suppliers): has the added complexity of needing to keep company data secure, without being restrictive.

Fortunately, there are lots of solutions across all these tiers that don’t need to cost you an arm and a leg. We’ll dive in and explore some options, but this is by no means an exhaustive list!

The Tools

  • Skype for Business: If you’re already on Office365 this one is a no brainer. The tool comes free with most 365 email licenses, and it lets you know what staff are in or out at any given moment as well as offering the reliable video conferencing features it’s well known for. Great for ad-hoc chats between staff and video conferencing with anyone, inside or outside the organisation.
  • Dropbox / Dropbox for Business: don’t underestimate the power of this tool for collaboration. If you’re worried about employees sharing files without company oversight go for the Business version – it gives the company full oversight over the data, and allows you to control what staff can and can’t share. Even more exciting is the new Dropbox Paper tool that lets you dynamically create documents with basically anyone.
  • OneDrive and SharePoint: both these Microsoft document tools allow you to share files internally and with external parties with little customisation. They come free with the Office 365 email bundle, so they’re worth investigating for this reason alone.
  • Slack: many businesses swear by this platform, and if used well it can be pretty powerful. Most useful for that middle tier of ‘team’ comms, it lets you create channels based on particular subjects where members chat, share files and more. Free for the basic version, we recommend most businesses give this one a good, hard look.
  • Microsoft Teams: a relatively newer feature in the Office 365 world, this tool is competing head on with Slack. Where Microsoft fell down on team based collaboration, this tool tries to fill the gap by providing “team areas” in a very similar way to Slack. Worth a second look.
  • Google Hangouts / Docs: if you’re in the Google world already these tools are unbeatable. The ability for multiple users to edit a document in real time is a stand out feature for Docs, and Hangouts can definitely give Skype a run for its money. But, if you’re already in the G-Suite world it may not be the best solution.
  • Zoom / GoToMeeting: the video conferencing tools that come with Office 365 and Google have their limitations – if you need something next level than look at Zoom or GoToMeeting. Tools like this are useful for running training sessions and webinars that need more interactivity and multiple users.
  • Asana / Trello: if you find areas of your business are struggling with workflows and project management, consider tools like Asana or Trello. These highly intuitive web based apps can help organisations keep track of where things are at.

So where to from here?

Many of these tools work together well, so it’s often best to decide on the ecosystem first (Google vs Microsoft or something else entirely). Once you’ve narrowed the list, you can evaluate many of these tools for free or very cheaply before committing the entire business.

Above all, don’t overthink it – once you start implementing these tools your staff will learn quickly and make them their own.

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