Google Workspace. Microsoft 365. Skype. Zoom. Even if you don’t use them, you’ll have heard of all the biggest and best business collaboration tools on the market.
The modern workplace is changing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote and hybrid working was on the rise. Now, in many industries, they’re more the default than unusual.
Business collaboration tools ensure organisations stay connected, maximise productivity, and can keep working closely together no matter how far apart they are.
Yet with so much of what was once called “groupware” available, it can be hard to decide on the best choice for your organisation. Here’s how to choose your business collaboration software:
Understand the three types of business collaboration software
Before you decide on specific solutions, it’s good to take a step back and think carefully about the type of collaboration software you need. There are three broad categories:
1) Communication software
This software lets your team send instant messages and emails, post threads for discussion, and share files. It’s also possible for this kind of software to include voice calls.
2) Conferencing software
Most modern workplaces wouldn’t be the same without voice and video conferencing software.
Conferencing software enables both internal communications – between individual team members or between managers and their whole team – and with external suppliers and clients.
3) Coordination software
Contemporary project management relies on coordination software. This lets several people work towards clear targets on multiple projects and often features the ability to assign specific tasks.
There is a great deal of variation in this software. Some is designed for team coordination. Some are Content Management Systems (CMS). Some industries have their own specialist options, such as Translation Management Systems (TMS) in the language services sector.
How to choose the best business collaboration tools
To narrow down your choices in the field of collaboration software, it can be helpful to ask yourself about the specific functionality you need from it:
1) What problems are you trying to solve?
Different business collaboration software is designed to solve different problems.
Do you struggle to manage projects with multiple team members in separate locations? Or do you find it difficult to communicate when not everyone is in the office at the same time?
2) How big is your team?
The scale of your business can help you narrow down the most suitable software options.
For example, Microsoft 365 Standard Business supports 300 users. If you have a larger organisation, you might need an enterprise plan.
Some products are specifically recommended as being best for organisations of certain sizes. Others meet the needs of organisations of a wide range of scales.
3) How well will it integrate with your existing systems?
Your need to understand your existing tech set-up before you choose any new business collaboration tool. If your new tool doesn’t integrate easily, it may create more problems than it solves.
A common example would be the cloud-based platforms like Google Docs or Google Drive that are used to great effect by so many businesses.
As you would expect, these integrate well with Google Workspace. However, integration with other collaboration tools is not always guaranteed.
4) How much does the software cost?
Collaboration tools have been shown on multiple occasions to give businesses some serious benefits in productivity and collaboration. They also let you offer employees highly attractive remote and hybrid working conditions.
However, it’s essential to understand the various pricing models in place. Most have transitioned to a Software as a Service model, where you pay monthly for the products you need.
This has many advantages over the one-time purchase products of yesteryear. Chiefly, their costs are very predictable and don’t require sudden spikes in expenditure when it’s time to upgrade. It’s also very easy to scale your service to your needs.
5) How secure is the software?
Cybersecurity should be a major concern of every business of any size. The threats out there only seem to multiply every year.
This is another reason why many organisations use a SaaS option. In these cases, the responsibility for a great deal of cybersecurity is essentially offloaded to the service provider (whose interests it is very much in to have the latest protections in place).
You can’t afford to neglect your own cybersecurity, of course. But this is a big help if your provider does it right.
Get help and advice
If you’re unsure how to choose the best collaboration tool for your business, talk to your Managed Service Provider or in-house IT department.
It’s their job to know how to match the most suitable choice with the needs of your business and they should be able to provide clear, impartial advice.
Want to talk to an expert about collaboration tools and your business?
Dial A Geek helped nearly 1000 businesses in and around Bristol manage their tech use.
Set up a cost and commitment-free chat with Chief Geek Gildas Jones today to talk things through.