Productivity and collaboration software, best known as only collaboration software, is a suite of business programs and applications that allow team members to collaborate on different projects and activities actively. Collaboration software tools usually consist of solutions for effective document exchange, communication, real time assistance, and conferencing. This diminish collaboration obstacles in decentralized and remote teams. By utilizing these collaboration & productivity software solutions, organizations can keep their employees on the same page, save money and time, and identify issues at an early stage.
What are the Ideal Features of Productivity and Collaboration Software?
Task Management: Collaboration software tools must have a complete task management system which lets you to check tasks across different projects on one screen. Having conversations, checklist, files, and time-log for each task all at one place can save time and offer you solid control. Tasks must also have a good and logical flow. In addition to this, team collaboration software must allow you to change state of tasks as the work progresses. You must be able add resource, re-assign work, and re-prioritize the process. Moreover, check for notification that gives updates on the project tasks, which you are responsible for or need to reject or accept. You must also get entire reporting of the tasks in any file format.
Project Management: One of the most essential features of any team collaboration tools is the ability to manage projects. With this feature, you can ask a question, share an update, do a poll, or recognize a team member. It is also important that you must be able to invite partners or customers as guest users to offer them visibility and transparency during the execution of project. The feature also has a task management module that helps ensure that your projects are on track and that you have got sufficient resources to execute them.
Calendar: The shared calendar facilitates the efficient management of meetings and appointments without the need to consult all members in the project. The person organizing the event finds a time interval and can check the availability of the meeting room as well as other project members, and then send out an invitation. This feature in a collaboration tool can save a lot of time that goes in facilitating teamwork.
Content Creation: A number of collaboration platforms provide content creation feature that allows for the publication as well as production of content, both for external and internal audiences. This is helpful for inbound marketing activities such as creating informative content and blogs to lure new audience and improve the online presence of your business.
File Sharing: File sharing feature allows you to distribute files, transfer them, and give access to them. Shared files can be of different kinds; books, software, documents, and videos, among others. This feature avoids transferring of files via email and crowding the inboxes with heavy files.
Powerful Search: Finding previous conversations, old files, or past blog posts are facilitated by this robust search feature of online collaboration software. What was earlier a time-consuming process has turned out to be simpler as now you can use search filters and tags to find what you’re looking for efficiently and quickly.
Document Synchronization: Document synchronization in any project collaboration software aims at matching two documents. This means that any addition, deletion, or modification of a document in a directory will also be effective in the second directory. In this manner, project members have the latest version and the data remains the same everywhere. The two documents stay exactly identical.
Instant Messaging: Enterprise collaboration software offers instant messaging that allows you to exchange online files and text messages in real time via a computer. The dialogue is interactive and most software solutions allow the exchange of voice communication, video files, and video conferences as well.
Video Conferencing: This feature enables different people across multiple locations to connect through videos. In-person meetings can be substituted with video conferences so the team can still see each other as they communicate.
Cloud Storage: Data storage can be done within the organization as well as in the cloud. Cloud storage takes benefit of the server’s information storage system in the cloud. The data is remotely stored via a telecommunications network.
Whiteboards: A whiteboard in collaboration & productivity software is a literal replacement of the traditional whiteboard. Collaborators can communicate visual information via drawings, text, and graphics on this whiteboard. In addition to this, they can also erase it as you would with a conventional white board to use it again.
What are the Factors to Consider Before Buying a Productivity and Collaboration Software?
Selecting and implementing team collaboration software is a crucial business decision. It is essential that you consider certain requirements and factors concerning your business. You would not want to waste money and time on a full-featured collaboration solution when all you need is a good internal communication tool. But you also have to be forward-looking and anticipate the number of your employees has risen, the time when your company has boomed, and the different processes at hand have developed to almost uncontrollable levels. Future-proofing your company now with scalable collaboration tool will keep you ready for future challenges. Here are some factors that you need to consider before selecting any enterprise collaboration software:
Features: The best collaboration software must carry all the basic set of features that can suffice your business needs so that it can be an effective productivity tool. The features must be responsive, simple to use, and sufficiently robust to get things done. They must improve user performance and add efficiency as well as not be a burden to users. To get a first-hand experience on how features work, you can get hands on the free trials normally offered by vendors. In addition to this, you can also read actual customer reviews and feedback by industry experts.
Needs: Many project collaboration software tools can offer that gratifying instant solution to many collaborative and productivity issues. But you have to calculate your specific requirements before you jump right into a collaborative software environment. How will it deal with the current problems? What can the solution actually do, and how does it operate? Is it on-premise or cloud-hosted? Will your files and data be safe? Once you have decided on the specifics on the basis of your parameters and got a clearer view, you can move on to the next steps.
Responsiveness: Does the software offer the feature of data import or export in standard file formats such as .txt or .xml? If yes, then there are more chances for the software to prove its worth in the long-term collaborative affairs of the organization.
Visibility: Collaboration & productivity software must be capable of offering a real time insight into all operations of the organization. This might help in enhancing the strategic decision-making process and eventually optimize the overall performance.
User Community: Even though different companies have different priorities, looking for a team collaboration software adopted by a number of companies could turn out to be helpful. Reading the feedback of professional reviewers for positive evaluations will also make the buying decision smooth and easy.
Support: Reliable vendor and technical support is a must. Tutorials, trainings, and a knowledge center must come with the solution. There must be frequent improvements and updates to keep the software running in top condition.
Cost: This is always a major factor while considering any software. The purchase decision will depend heavily on your budget. While consider the investment, you must also consider the product’s maintenance expenses and the associated long-term value. In the same manner, you must also mull over the possibility of any hardware upgrade. Eventually, the benefits of collaboration software should be worth the cost of buying it.
What are the Different Types of Productivity and Collaboration Software?
Communication Software: As per a study, 59% employees claim that communication is the biggest obstacle that hinders the success of their team. Communication software helps in the exchange of communication between groups. The most common communication solutions used are applications and systems for project management, file sharing, email hosting, and an online platform or a website that can be readily accessed. In addition to this, research findings have shown that file sharing is the most needed and common feature in any collaboration software tool. To solve communication challenges, communication software provides chat features so team members can communicate within teams without having to travel. In this manner, communication software helps solve problems faster, saves time, and allows remote teams to connect, which otherwise might be time-consuming and difficult.
Conferencing Software: This type of team collaboration software allows for real-time collaboration among members. Also known as groupware software, these tools make possible real-time discussions among project members via a virtual meeting room with a moderator who monitors the data sharing. These online meetings are useful when there are critical matters to be discussed by project members who are working in remote locations.
Task Management Software: Task management is an essential part of collaboration. Teams use task management tools to track and prioritize tasks, which helps to monitor deadlines. To make collaboration more effective and transparent, task management software often provides timelines, boards, and calendars. This type of team collaborationtools also offers boards to create and manage tasks. In addition to this, these tools also offer task assignment feature to appoint team members to a task as well as a task prioritization feature to move tasks and set the project schedule. Moreover, task management software also helps with planning and scheduling to create plans and meet deadlines using calendars and timelines.
Coordination Software: This type of collaboration tool assists in group activities, deliverables, and schedules. Coordination software tools are employed for complex interdependent tasks to understand a common objective. Typical systems applied here are for project management, time management, and online proofing so that members are properly coordinated, are aware of deadlines, and can monitor the project status.
Document and Content Management Software: Document and content management software allow users to store, share, and work together on various files. Most of these solutions track history of changes made by different team members. Some enterprisecollaboration software and platforms also have features such as video and chat conferencing, allowing users to collaborate on a file and communicate simultaneously. These solutions are majorly used for document and content management to store and track files and documents as well as offer cooperative writing to allow several team members write content together. They also allow synchronous editing to let different team members edit the same document simultaneously and see modifications in real time.
What are the Issues Faced While Using Productivity and Collaboration Software?
Lack of Strategy: This is an issue that is not specific to online collaboration software alone but in fact, applies to the usage of most SaaS programs. Organizations start replacing manual processes with functional solutions whether it is in learning or recruiting or billing keeping only the immediate improvements in sight. There is no planning on how to enhance the overall professional life of a team member keeping these different tools in mind. In fact, only by adopting these tools one after another with such a short-term view point can end up confusing and overwhelming the employees. It is essential to have the bigger picture in place when you use collaboration software tools. It should be just a simpler way for employees to communicate within the company. It should also be a pathway for them to be more productive and collaborate better.
Lack of Training: This is one of the most often overlooked yet easily solvable issues when it comes to project collaboration Since most of these solutions don’t have a very steep learning curve, managers do not feel the requirement to have a user training in place. As a result, employees have to learn to use the software on their own. While some members become accustomed to the software, others never get as comfortable and there stays an element of hesitation. Since the purpose of collaboration tools is to improve team and individual productivity, an employee’s comfort level is essential. Fortunately, this is an easily solvable issue. It is not difficult to design a short training module based on all the important features of the software and how they are used through the company. This assists new employees get on the same page from the beginning and it offers everyone an opportunity to establish the desired level of comfort.
Not Involving Employees: This is one of the major challenges businesses face while successfully using team collaboration software. The most successful initiatives are those that are led by employees. Most organizations do not have regular surveys to get feedback about things such as collaboration, culture, and team productivity. As a result, they end up implementing team collaboration tools without a thorough understanding of the pain points of their employees. Therefore, employees usually end up with a plethora of tools, none of which are dealing with their real concerns. Getting employee involvement from the very beginning is a huge part of using any collaboration tool. If concerns are heard and incorporated before deciding which software to use, the chances of success will increase dramatically.
Unclear Goals: This is another issue that happens due to negligence. Since collaboration tools are not traditionally associated with quantitative results, managers ignore KPIs to measure performance. This makes it simpler for the software to be taken less seriously as there is no calculable impact that can be seen. While it is true that many outcomes will be qualitative, it is not very difficult to quantify specific goals. Keeping track of KPIs will assist team members see the immediate advantages of using the collaboration softwaretools that will go a long way towards encouraging adoption.
Forcing Team to Use the Tool: With team collaboration software, there is a very fine line that often gets crossed. Most team collaboration tools can enable constant real-time information and a flurry of notifications. This may work well for some team members based on their own nature or their job role. But it can also backfire terribly in other scenarios. Many team members feel that they do not need constant alerts or information overload to be productive. In fact, some members feel that hyper-connectedness takes a toll on their mental health and is actually counterproductive. It is essential to customize the collaboration tool in a way that works for every team member. Know their needs and allow them to configure their account in a manner that works for them. Selecting a collaboration& productivity software that allows for that degree of customization and flexibility will also go a long way in winning over skeptical team members.
Too Many Software Solutions: This usually happens when organizations have a more short-term and narrower outlook. They replace a task with a specific tool that has limited features. The next time they face a similar issue, they tend to use a different tool. Therefore, team members are wasting time daily feeling overwhelmed and juggling between different tools. It is essential to have a more comprehensive approach. Understand not just your immediate requirements but also potential future requirements so that you opt for a tool that is amenable to a variety of integrations and is more broad-based.
What are the Benefits of Productivity and Collaboration Solutions?
Collaboration software can help any team, from the smallest organization to the biggest MNCs. As per a study, 53% of companies all over the world had adopted collaboration tools and this percentage has been increasing. Organizations are moving toward digital solutions to enhance collaboration. Here are some significant advantages of collaboration software and how collaboration software can impact your business.
Time Saving: Time is a very essential factor when it comes to business. The more you save time, the better it is for your company, and the more you save on unwanted expenses. Collaboration among team members make it possible to ensure quicker achievement of end goals that would not be achievable in other ways. Using collaboration & productivitysoftware cuts disparate, uncoordinated work from different contributing members on a specific project and saves not only time but also efforts and resources. If you are looking to save time while working on projects, collaboration software can definitely help.
Increased Efficiency and Speed: There are many ways in which online collaborationsoftware can be used to help increase the project completion speed as well as the coordination of cross-continent teams. Collaboration software tools increase the efficiency of your team, as they can directly contact each other via instant messaging feature. Errors are lowered as documents are saved automatically into the online system, making sure that work is not repeated by different users. Rather, they can all work on the latest files and documents on the system. Deadlines can be tracked more easily across all team members working on the project, and notifications and alerts can be set up to guarantee everyone stays on the same page.
Improved Client-Customer Relationships: Team collaboration software can also help you to enhance your relationships with your customers and clients. If you are an Account Manager working with a client and the work is being managed by your team, you can easily use the software to see where each team member is up to. This means you can adapt to the requests of your client to contact instantly, instead of panicking and trying to get updates from your team, which is particularly difficult if the team is divided across different countries and offices. Team collaboration tools can also be used to give your clients frequent updates, so they do not feel left out or have to chase you for updates. You can also see the planned schedule for future work, so if your customer is looking for an update on future deadlines, you will be able to give them an insight on when to expect the project delivery. Simply put, collaborationtool will help you to streamline and enhance communication as the team works from a shared system, enhance the workflow efficiencies amongst your team, and positively affect your external relationships as all data you need is edited and recorded in a central system.
Enhanced Communication: Communication in the workplace is of utmost importance. Team members need to facilitate the flow of ideas within their company and share things instantly with other team members located remotely. Collaboration in person is great, but it is not always possible for employees to be present at the same place and time. Enterprisecollaboration software allows team members from different locations to share content in videos, messages, documents, and other formats. Fast and efficient communication must be in the form of dialog, not in the form of emails that can pile up, be ignored, or be difficult to find. Project collaboration software broaden communication opportunities by supporting voice and video calls, organizing discussions into channels, providing easy navigation through documents, and integrating with various popular apps.
Enhanced Project Management: Managing a single project can be easy. But managing dozens or hundreds of projects without an ideal collaborating tool can create confusion. Project management includes four main factors—planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. During the initial planning phase, the project manager creates a detailed plan based on thorough research and organization’s goal. Collaboration software helps to schedule the entire planning stage and share ideas among team members. It also assists the team to make informed choices by placing all project details in one place. The next stage, organizing, is all about setting up a software development team structure for the project. When managers need to find a suitable specialist for some task, they can search employee profiles within collaboration tool where core skills are mentioned.
Leading, the third stage, refers to managing the project and motivating team members to be more productive. Coordinating project activities across different teams and team members is much easier with collaboration software. All documents can be shared, all information is available in one place, and deadlines can be set suitably so that the management process is hassle-free. To accomplish long-term success, controlling (the fourth stage) the project’s progress is important. Collaboration software has a huge role in monitoring project stages and helps to make sure that tasks are done in a timely manner.
Improved Scheduling: As per a study, lack of scheduling wastes almost 36% of employees’ work time. Companies that plan and schedule their activities and goals are more effective and get more work done. Daily, weekly, and monthly scheduling enables teams to efficiently organize their workflows. With collaboration tools, employees can share personal or public calendars to know all deadlines and meetings. Employees can plan meetings, schedule daily conferences, brainstorm sessions, and much more in just one click.
Extra Security: One of the greatest issues amongst modern business owners is the threat of security breaches, specifically for those that hold plentiful amounts of sensitive information. Investing in online collaboration software helps alleviate these threats, since they are a safe way to carry out daily work. During the initial set-up phases, those in charge can control who can access and view specific information and documents. This allows access to be given to employees based on their different responsibilities and roles. Collaboration tools can even notify the relevant team members in case of an attempted breach.
What are the Trends in Productivity and Collaboration Software?
While collaboration software offers a number of benefits, they also go under technological advancements at the same time. This leads to rise of new trends in the industry. Below are some latest trends that will be seen emerging in the future:
Huddle Rooms: Companies have been implementing open-office floor plans and replacing cubicles to promote employee interaction. On the other hand, recent studies have shown that open offices are not working as intended. A latest survey found that more than 50% of workers feel open offices only cause distractions, thereby hindering productivity. To resolve this, a number of companies have started using huddle rooms. These are basically small conference areas with audio-visual tools where teams can come together for scheduled or unplanned meetings. Study shows that these huddle rooms streamline the arrangement of quick meetings. These rooms allow for a more focused brainstorming in distracting open office spaces and also offer privacy to confidential discussions. According to the latest figures, there are now 32.4 million huddle rooms all over the world. One more great thing about huddle rooms is that they do not need much space. They are created for low effort, low cost installation. That said, companies both small and big can easily benefit from this collaboration trend. With huddle rooms, you can make your employees feel more included and guarantee higher quality discussions without interruptions.
Corporate Social Networking: Social media has gained utmost importance in our daily life. An average Internet user spend 30% of their online time on social media to connect with family and friends. On the other hand, social media’s power to bring people together is not restricted to personal interactions anymore. Nowadays, a number of organizations use social collaboration tools such to make team efforts more engaging. By using these tools, team members can post status updates, share photos and documents, or even set up group chats just as they might on their social media accounts. The only difference is they will be focusing on work-associated data. This makes collaboration feel less of an imposition and more of a social activity with colleagues. In addition to this, because employees are already familiar with the UI of these websites, using it for internal communication is very easy. The only issue that lies with social media usage is generation gap. Digital immigrants and natives have a better knowledge and grasp of social media and are comfortable using it for work-related purpose. Older generation people, however, do not have prefer to use these websites as they are not familiar with them. Almost 30% of Gen X and Millennials have used instant messaging for office-related tasks every day. In the meantime, just 12% of older generation have used corporate social networking. However, corporate social networking has tremendous potential and can be leveraged to boost businesses.
Smart Meeting Rooms: Smart meeting rooms are the new future of collaboration. From interactive whiteboards and virtual assistants to 360-degree video cameras and intelligent scheduling, there are a wide range of new technologies that you can integrate with your meeting rooms. By having these equipment and technologies at your disposal, you can do away with manually pulling data on past projects or transcribing meetings. In addition to this, by using a smart stylus on digital whiteboards you can even start annotating charts as you present them. Furthermore, you may opt for IoT to connect all these technologies and equipment with the rest of your system. In this manner, relaying information and ensuring that all of your software solutions are synchronized are done as quick as possible. However, companies always mull over the fact, “Why invest extra money on these new tools when you can work with what you already have?” Well, having these advanced tools at your disposal is good for employee morale which can, in turn, boost better collaboration. As per a study, 66% of employees say technology will create new opportunities and positively impact employee satisfaction. Simply put, investing in smart meeting rooms is money well invested in due course.
AI and Machine Learning: In a latest study, experts claimed that 41% of organizations will be using AI for collaboration and unified communications in the years to come. These technologies include but are not restricted to predictive filtering systems for alerts, voice assistants with specialized roles, and Collaborative Robots (CoBots) that can interact with people to optimize processes. With these technologies, you can automate everyday tasks that come with collaborative efforts. From simplifying the appointment scheduling to examining opportunities for collaboration, these can assist you in making the most out of your productive hours. In addition to this, these technologies can help you and your team brainstorm more effectively rather than managing back-office tasks. On the other hand, remember that as machine learning and AI leverage data. This means, such technologies could leave you vulnerable to data abuse or cyberattacks. Therefore, you might need to equip yourself with good IT security tools to safeguard your confidential company information.
Cloud-Based Communication: With the demand for operational agility and workplace flexibility, more companies are jumping from on-premise collaboration software solutions to cloud-based online collaboration software Cloud-based communication lets your employees to get in touch with each other more conveniently. Firstly, these solutions can serve as databases where team members can retrieve and upload files quickly. Next, it lets employees to send real-time updates on their tasks. Lastly, the tools allow you centralize communication between remote and in-house employees through mobile devices and desktop. This makes it extremely popular for distributed teams as well as organizations with employees that travel a lot. In addition to this, this is one of the top nonprofit collaboration trends as it simplifies brainstorming for employees who cannot always make time to meet with fellow team members physically.
VR and AR: While we might not have enough advanced technologies as seen in sci-fi movies, the good news is that modern breakthroughs are slowly making these possible. In addition to this, the VR and AR tech that we have on the market now are advanced enough to strengthen collaboration efforts. These are the game-changers at present, and one of the growing trends in the industry. These help you dodge the risk of getting lost in translation while online collaboration. In simple words, you no longer have to worry when it comes to team collaboration. With AR and VR at your disposal, you can take benefit of more immersive online conferences with your team. Moreover, it will allow you to create virtual spaces where you and your team members can more clearly visualize ideas. For instance, interior designers can make a 3D mock-up of the space they wish to design and at the same time modify their designs. In the same manner, engineers can make use of 3D imaging to get a more precise idea of robotics projects. However, one thing to note is that there are still plenty of issues that developers need to solve out before implementing these technologies. As per a latest study, the biggest challenge in VR/AR adoption is UX (user experience). They believe the hardware for this technology is too heavy currently and there are still too many technical errors.
How Much Does Productivity and Collaboration Solutions Cost?
Collaboration software costs majorly depend on how they are packaged. These software solutions are divided into four pricing models namely—free, monthly payment, annual payment, and quote-based plans. Free plans are the most affordable option while annual and monthly payment models allow users to use advanced features without investing too much. Quote-based model, however, are used for enterprise-grade collaboration software, which can be personalized as per users’ needs.
Free Plan: There are only a few collaboration tools in the market that come absolutely and completely free. These systems come with all the basic features that you require and are a great option if you need to collaborate with little or no budget to invest in a costly software. Many vendors provide free versions of their solutions.
Monthly Payment Plan: Collaboration software solutions that are sold based on monthly pricing model let you enjoy advanced features without spending a huge amount. They allow you to make monthly payments that are affordable and in budget. In addition to this, you can cancel your subscription anytime you want. This is great for organizations who need to use premium features without investing too much.
Annual Payment Plan: Collaboration tools that are sold based on annual payment plans offer the greatest value for money because you can avail advanced features at greatly discounted prices. The plan offers you more flexibility when it comes to managing costs, leading to more savings. You also get to enjoy updates for the entire duration of your subscription.
Quote-Based Plan: Designed to offer users with personalized features, collaboration tools that are sold under quote-based plans involve offering estimates based on a company’s requirements. This is pretty good for potential buyers as they get to select only those features that might go with the system. Hence, if you are planning to opt for quote-based solutions, make sure you inform the vendor about everything you require and want from such a software.
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