If you feel like you and your employees waste too much time on things like sending emails, working out projects, and updating each other on progress, you certainly are not alone. While sending an email may only take a few minutes, it is easy to waste hours emailing back and forth about a project. It can also be extremely difficult just to get everyone on the same page. And when that happens, you will likely find yourself devoting a lot of time to briefing your team on progress and goals.
You don’t have to stay stuck in a time-wasting rut forever, though. Technology has made it exponentially easy for teams of all sizes to communicate and collaborate whether they are working in different cubicles or in different parts of the world.
Cloud technology, especially, has changed the way team members, business owners, and clients collaborate. While many of these solutions were once only feasible for large corporations, they have become widely accessible for companies of all sizes. Owners of small businesses are embracing these efficient and dynamic tools for tackling even the most challenging communication tasks, and they are seeing instant improvements.
There are seemingly countless options to choose from, though, which can make selecting the ones that are right for your business more than slightly intimidating. To help you determine which solutions are best-suited to solving your unique communication challenges, we’ve put together this list of powerful tools for collaboration and communication.
If wasting time on email is one of your company’s biggest challenges, you need Slack. This powerful communication tool and management system is on a mission to kill email, and it does a great job. Acting as a searchable repository for a wide range of shared information and communication, including files, comments, videos, and, of course, messages, it makes it easy for teams of all sizes and in all locations to work together.
Slack integrates with several other tools, including Google Drive, Dropbox, RSS, Twitter, GitHub, and numerous others. There are also extensions and easy-to-use apps that allow you to create your own integration to keep everything you need together in one convenient location.
One-on-one messaging, private groups, chat rooms, and group chats are all options in Slack, and a simple interface makes it easy to search through everything in a matter of seconds. The program syncs seamlessly across Android, iOS, and desktop devices, allowing everyone to work together smoothly no matter what platform they prefer.
Cost: Slack offers a basic version for free. Premium features are available at tiered subscription levels.
Need a place to keep track of tasks, projects, and communication? Give Kona a try. Kona is a collaboration tool and “virtual office space” that makes it possible for every member of the team to stay connected through chat, shared calendars, and tasks.
With Kona, you create individual “spaces” for projects and teams. As the owner of the account, you have control over all the spaces and have access to everything. Each group only has access to what it needs, though. This means that you can grant different levels of access to individual users and control who can see what projects, files, and tasks. Intuitive collaborative templates simplify the system and keep things consistent across various projects.
Kona has its own capabilities for uploading files, but it also integrates seamlessly with existing platforms like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Sharepoint. Privacy and security are top concerns with Kona, so you can rest assured knowing that sensitive information is protected.
Cost: A basic subscription to Kona is free. Extra features, spaces, and storage are available at the “Business” and “Pro” levels.
Featuring a real-time chat interface and built-in video chat support, along with file-sharing, link-sharing, task management, note-taking, and shared calendar capabilities, Glip enables teams to plan, share, and organize with ease. By allowing team members to communicate and share important files and information all in one place, Glip saves you a lot of time. The app focuses on a collaborative, natural workflow that facilitates free-flowing communication, streamlined decision making, and organic idea development.
With unlimited content and chat storage that can be searched in context using a vast array of filters, you never have to worry about losing track of anything in Glip. It features a clean interface and promises a zero learning curve and lightning-fast setup.
Cost: Glip costs $5 per company user per month or $50 per company user annually. Unlimited guest users make collaborating with clients a breeze.
Smartsheet looks just like an Excel spreadsheet, but it performs more like a powerful project management program. Its deceptively simple interface is extremely powerful and can be used for virtually all aspects of your business operations. Assigning tasks, sharing files, tracking sales, managing resources, scheduling, adding contacts, and so much more can be done with ease, thanks to an extensive library of intuitive templates.
With advanced reporting tools, it is possible to access necessary information quickly and share it instantaneously with the people who need it. Everything you do in Smartsheet can be shared across desktops, as well as a mobile app that is available for Android and Apple devices. Smartsheet also integrates seamlessly with a huge array of productivity suites and applications, including Google G-Suite, Slack, OneDrive, Dropbox, Evernote, and more.
Because Smartsheet has a spreadsheet-like interface, it is extremely easy to learn. Getting up and running requires no special training.
Cost: Smartsheet subscriptions start at $14 per month. Additional functions, features, and support are available at premium levels.
Struggling to keep track of client passwords and sharing them among members of your team in a secure manner? You need LastPass. LastPass allows to you save login information for countless websites all in one convenient location. The information can then be shared with team members who need to have access to that information. You can organize your LastPass “Vault” so that each client has a separate folder, making it easy to locate in seconds the information you need. A search feature is also extremely useful.
LastPass integrates between browser plugins and mobile apps seamlessly and can be used to autofill passwords. In addition to storing passwords, you can use the program to store things like software licenses, employee IDs, Wi-Fi login credentials, and much more. Team members can be added and removed instantly, improving security when employees leave your organization and simplifying the process of getting new hires up and running with the information they need.
Cost: LastPass offers both a free basic subscription and a premium subscription for as little as $2 per month. Team and Enterprise subscriptions are also available.
HP PRINT SERVICE PLUGIN
Even when you are able to manage most of your collaboration and communication needs online, there will still be times when you need to print presentations, hard copies of important documents, or ideas for the latest creative brainstorm. Taking care of most of your communication and collaboration in the Cloud rather than on paper cuts down on your printer ink cartridge expenses, but, sometimes, you just need a physical copy of something. Whether you are printing contracts, progress reports, expense reports, or just about anything else, having a way to do so conveniently saves you time and helps you and the rest of your team stay on track.
You probably already have the computers in your office networked to a central printer, but did you know that you can also use an app to print directly from a mobile device? If you have a compatible HP printer, taking advantage of the HP Print Service Plugin app means being able to print emails directly from a phone or tablet—as long as you and the printer are connected to the same network. Did clients text you information that you want to add to their file? With the app, you can print directly from your phone rather than emailing it to yourself and printing from a computer. It doesn’t get much easier than that. The app will also let you know if you are running low on ink and should order new ink cartridges soon.
Not connected to the same network? Not a problem. Simply email the document to an ePrint-compatible HP printer, and it will print automatically. With this capability, you can print documents in the office even if you are in a business meeting on the other side of the world.
Cost: Free if you have a compatible HP printer.
Asana is one of the better-known team collaboration tools, and people who love productivity love it. While it primarily focuses on workflow management, it is also a powerful tool for handling in-depth task management tasks. When it comes to managing workflows and tasks, it is an intuitive and elegant tool that can be customized to meet your needs. In fact, PC Magazine says it is “one of the best collaboration and productive apps for teams” and has named it an “Editors’ Choice.”
Asana is different from typical project management apps largely because of its lack of structure. It has more options than project management software options that focus on a series of preset “rules.” While Asana does offer predefined options, it also allows users to customize. It works especially well for ongoing projects as opposed to those with clearly defined beginning and end dates.
The app keeps track of task information, who is responsible for each task, and other task-related information. It can be a bit confusing to get started, but, once you have everything set up, Asana’s open-ended layout provides a powerful tool for keeping track of tasks of all types.
Cost: Asana offers a free option for teams with 15 members or fewer. The free plan, however, restricts access to several popular features. A “Premium” subscription costs $11.99 per person monthly or $119.88 annually. Other options are available as well.
According to CardBoard’s website, “If Google Docs and Post It Notes had a kid, it would look like Cardboard.” That is a pretty accurate description. CardBoard features an online whiteboard, work-flow manager, and collaboration tool that work together to form a unique visual approach that is simple, intuitive, and remarkably engaging.
It is a great tool for mapping content, storyboards, presentations, taking notes, and so much more. “Maps” created in CardBoard can be shared, printed, or downloaded with the click of a button. Signing up for CardBoard takes just a few seconds, and you can instantly start sharing and collaborating with anyone who has an email address. They don’t even need to sign up in order to view or edit your maps.
Cost: CardBoard is available for free for a single user, but free accounts are limited to five maps and lack collaboration functions. Upgraded memberships start at $9.99 per month.
THE RIGHT TECHNOLOGY CAN BOOST PRODUCTIVITY IN THE OFFICE
If your company is wasting too much time communicating ineffectively and failing to collaborate in a streamlined manner, there are a lot of innovative tools to help you out. There are several cloud-based apps that enable you to share files and ideas, assign tasks, communicate, and keep everyone up to date on progress all in one place.
In addition to the tools listed above, there are also several tools to make office life a bit more fun. Whether you use Spotify to share playlists and play music in your office or during an office holiday party or you take advantage of Google Hangouts to drop in on coworkers who are working remotely, there are countless options to help your entire team stay more connected and even improve your company’s culture.