February 7, 2018
Questions to Ask Before Choosing a Collaboration Tool
Thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of tools that one can use for work.
Working from home? There are tools for you. Cab to the office taking too long? No worries, you can log into an online platform where you can start working on whatever you need to accomplish for the day. Members of your teams located in different parts of the world? Yep, there are tools for that, too.
For any of these situations, a collaboration tool is the answer.
“A collaboration tool helps people to collaborate. The purpose of a collaboration tool is to support a group of two or more individuals to accomplish a common goal or objective they have set themselves (source).” This definition can refer to good old paper and pen. In this instance, however, we are referring to software or programs that aid in team collaboration.
The last couple of decades saw the rise of these handy programs. Whether a company operates in a traditional manner or is comprised of remote workers, a collaboration tool is a definite must-have. It is useful in any type of office in any type of industry. It is used in retail, food business, government, education, medicine, and in various other fields. In fact, a lone freelancer without a collaboration tool will find getting work done with clients or business partners an extra challenge.
While it’s well and good that there are dozens and dozens of collaboration tools available in the market today, having too many options can be a headache, too.
Imagine just wanting a good tool for working with a team and then being presented with dozens of options.
Here are questions that you need to ask to avoid a potential analysis paralysis situation. Hopefully, these factors will aid you in choosing the most ideal collaboration tool for your company.
1. Is it a standalone tool or a multi-purpose tool?
One question to ask when shopping around for a collaboration tool is whether the platform is standalone or comes with multi-purpose features.
Not all collaboration tools are created equal. This is perhaps due to the fact that collaboration covers a broad spectrum of activities. When you collaborate, you communicate, you share files, you manage a series of tasks that all contribute in the accomplishment of a certain project.
Some tools are ideal for chatting, emailing, or general correspondence. Others focus on file storage or data sharing. There are also some that make project management the focal point.
So should you choose a tool that allows for chatting alone and a different program for sharing files? Or should you pick a platform that lets you tick all aspects of collaboration in one go?
Studies show that teams prefer to work using full-featured tools over standalone programs.
Eileen O’Loughlin, Software Advice:
While specialized tools can boost efficiency in one area, they lack the capacity to meet multiple needs at once. For example: a chat tool may restrict attachment file sizes, or a content management application may lack an activity feed.
One downside, of course, is that programs with multi-purpose features may be crazy complicated. They can be quite pricey, too, when you compare them to standalone collaboration services.
What you can do is find the sweet spot between full-service but simple and affordable. At the very least, you will want a tool that has these three features: allows your team to send messages, has storage for file sharing, and lets you coordinate on tasks for accomplishing projects.
Dead Drop software, for instance, is a full-featured collaboration tool that is not only affordable but also quite simple to use. This cloud-based platform allows teams to send messages to one another, share or store files, and run projects using the calendar.
2. What’s your budget?
Siv Rauv, Elcom:
Most online collaboration tools are available at a low monthly subscription cost — but there are also some open source platforms available for startups and organisations that aren’t ready to commit. Professional solutions are often priced out at a per seat rate, so it becomes important to compare different tools based on cost.
The budget issue will likely be affected by the size of your company. This is because most tools charge subscription fees per user. Basically, the bigger the number of users who access the tools, the higher the monthly bill would be.
Conversely, there are also tools that offer all-in or fixed monthly plans. This may be a good option if your team is on the larger side or you have no clear picture of your manpower in the near future.
3. Does it offer free trial or free demo?
One way to learn how a collaboration tool works is by trying it out. This is where free trials or free demos come in handy. If a platform isn’t offered on trial, you might want to steer clear of it.
Depending on the vendor, some free trials consist of only a few basic features. Some, however, will let you explore and try every facet of the program. This way, you will know exactly that you will be paying for, if ever you do sign up for a plan.
Have your team try one or two tools before signing up for a paid subscription. As a result, if you do end up signing up for a particular tool, the teething stage would be shorter for your team.
4. How secure is it?
Just imagine: ideas that flow through your company are worth a lot of money. When these ideas are stored in an online platform, it’s imperative that you make security a top priority when choosing a collaboration tool.
Most vendors would disclose just how secure their platforms are so you simply need to browse their FAQ section before you make the decision to sign up.
5. Does the tool answer your team’s specific problem/s?
Different teams have different needs. Before you choose a collaboration tool, take time to analyze how your team interacts first.
Do they prefer to use real-time chat rooms as a venue to collaborate? Do they like to use emails to coordinate on projects? Do you have remote workers whom your team need to video call often?
By knowing how your team collaborate, you will be able to choose the tool that best fit your business.
Some full-featured collaboration tools available in the market today focus on the real-time interactive side of working together. They showcase chat or commenting functions so that teams can talk about what they are working on as they work on them. If your team loves to chat, these are tools you may want to look into.
Speaking of work to get done, there are also platforms that come with handy checklists or to-do lists. These can prove quite useful for teams that love to tick items off after finishing with certain tasks.
If your team is also using Google Drive, Dropbox, and other online tools, you might want to invest in a collaboration tool that allows for integration.
Another factor that you might need to consider is whether a tool allows for secure business to business collaboration. There are tools that can be used only by one team or company. There are some, like Dead Drop, that are suitable for collaboration with external entities, such as clients, business partners, and other parties who may not be part of the company. These types of tools are quite useful for collaboration beyond only one team.
If you find a collaboration tool that has the right answers for these questions, consider yourself lucky. You and your team will be well on your way to accomplishing many goals. Of course, we reiterate that you take advantage of the free trial offers first. A trial is a good test whether a program is a good fit for your team.
Go forth and dive into the wonderful world of collaboration tools. Trust us, one or two will make your work life much better.