The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a significant shift in the way we work.
Instead of working in spacious, brightly-lit offices with a friendly gaggle of co-workers, we’re doing the best we can on kitchen tables or in messy spare rooms.
Stanford University performed a snapshot study and estimated that 42% of the US labor force is presently working full-time from home. A further study found that only 6% of businesses have a provisional date for return to the office.
The situation is not ideal for effective team collaboration.
So how do you take a geographically-distant team and get them all on the same page with work? How do you keep them engaged and driven?
Enter stage left: the collaboration platform.
Read on to find out what a collaboration platform is and get an overview of some of the best platforms available to bring your team closer together.
What is a collaboration platform?
A collaboration platform is cloud-based software with tools that facilitate communication and shared work.
Collaboration software often takes the best bits from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms and marries them with capable business software.
Benefits of a modern collaboration platform:
- Keep teams focused on the task at hand with easy access to all required files and documentation.
- Cut down on unnecessary meetings by facilitating communication throughout the project.
- Track progress on individual tasks and, as a result, an entire project.
Here’s a snapshot of monday.com’s communication feature, snapped onto a single task:
What are the important features to look for in an online collaboration tool?
Great question. Let’s break it down so you can tell the difference between the highest quality collaborative platform and something sub par (oh, did we link monday.com there? Oops!)
- Shared cloud storage. Teams need access to the same documents and data. Shared storage makes sure that everyone uses the correct files and can locate them quickly.
- Group calendars. There never seems to be enough time in the day, so a way to manage your team’s schedule promotes more efficient working.
- Shared task management. Track the status of each task to keep on top of your team’s project.
- Instant messaging. For the quick two-way conversation to renew the office chit-chat.
- Smartphone friendly. For any workers on the move.
- Security-conscious. Protect your valuable data from hackers or other bad actors.
Which collaboration platform is best for me?
It seems that there are more collaboration platforms available than there are seats in Yankee Stadium ― so how do you pick the best one for your team?
You need to focus on the features that are best for your needs. Some do one thing well, like instant messaging. Other platforms aim to be the final word in task management.
And some do it all excellently.
No matter what, though, most have a free trial period. So feel free to experiment to find out which is the most suitable one for your needs.
Here’s a selection of online collaboration tools that solve many of the significant pain points caused by teams working remotely.
monday.com is a complete Work OS — a collaboration and work-oriented platform that helps teams manage projects and workflows with visual boards that keep track of tasks and helps you monitor progress.
You can manage everything from one central dashboard and get up and running quickly, thanks to the intuitive working environment.
How does monday.com help remote working teams?
When teams aren’t communicating well, problems take longer to resolve — increasing the chances of missed deadlines, or worse, project failure.monday.com lets you assign ownership for tasks. Everyone knows what everyone else is working on, which prevents miscommunication and work duplication.
Your coworkers can see a personalized view to understand their weekly assignments. Team leaders also get to understand what each team member is doing and who is overloaded with work or underutilized.
Collaboration and communication improvements are essential to get the best out of any remote team.
Who is monday.com for?
monday.com works for teams of all sizes. You have to start with a minimum of 3 users, but the platform can work for groups of 200 or more.
How much does monday.com cost?
Monday.com offers 4 pricing plans focused on specific business types.
All subscription plans have a free 14-day trial period so you can see if monday.com is right for you. Check out our pricing page for more details.
How do I make a start with monday.com?
Start getting your team organized with a shared board. You can check us out and test us out with a 14-day free trial.
Slack is a team communication tool for connecting people in a shared chat room (though Slack prefers you to call the chat rooms ‘channels’).
Slack recognized the problem with using email for conversational communication ― it takes too long for messages to transmit back and forth.
Slack aims to replace email and other messaging platforms for conversational communication in the workplace, by providing a feature-rich solution ideal for busy teams who need fast interaction.
How can Slack help remote teams?
Fast communication is essential for remote teams for effective operations and to foster team bonding.
Slack can be the glue that binds your team together, providing a space to keep on top of daily tasks. Slack is also the space for more casual team chit-chat, which may help those feeling isolated at home.
Slack’s USP is its channel features. You can quickly set up logical channels to group the right team members together. Should you want to have a team video meeting, you can also use Slack for group video calls of up to 15 people.
Available on desktop, tablet, and smartphone, Slack is a portable tool for getting in touch with staff wherever they are.
Slack also integrates seamlessly with monday.com, and you can create new tasks for your team boards directly in chat:.
Who is Slack for?
Slack can work for a team as small as three people but is also perfect for large enterprise organizations. Sharing a channel between organizations if you are working on a project together is also possible.
How much does Slack cost?
Slack costs from $6.67 per-user per-month for a standard account. You can opt for more advanced features and guaranteed service level agreements for $12.50 per user per month.
Trello is a Kanban application that helps teams visualize workflows. Toyota developed the Kanban board (seen below) in Japan to optimize inventory and materials in its automotive production.
Tasks were written on cards and organized into columns that denoted a task’s status.
The most basic type of Kanban board has three columns…
- Current tasks. The tasks your team is currently working on.
- Task backlog. The tasks that your team is yet to start.
- Tasks completed. There’s a benefit to celebrating finished work and understanding which tasks are complete.
You can create your own Kanban board with a few lines on the wall and a pad of sticky notes, but Trello lets you create digital boards to share with your team in the cloud.
How can Trello help remote teams collaborate?
The main benefit for remote teams using Trello is having all tasks organized in one central place. You aren’t limited to a single board either. Should you need it, you can set up multiple boards for different projects or split one project into smaller boards if appropriate.
Once you have your boards organized with all your tasks set out, Trello has additional features to help you manage your workflow ―
- Add a visual element with colored tags.
- Assign task ownership to team members.
- Automatically create cards for regular tasks.
- Break tasks into smaller action steps within a card.
Who is Trello for?
Trello is ideal for those who like to visualize progress. Move completed cards across the columns as tasks are done so you can always see the big picture at-a-glance.
If you want to manage your individual workload, Kanban boards and Trello are also popular for this too.
How much does Trello cost?
Smaller teams can try out Trello for free, though with limited functionality and a maximum of 10 boards. For $9.99/user per month you get the functionality that most teams will ever need.
There is a more expensive enterprise level for large teams of 100 members or more.
#4. Microsoft 365
Microsoft wasn’t the first to produce a software suite of office tools. But their dominant position in the computer market meant it rapidly became the standard when they did.
Microsoft 365 is the latest iteration of the Office suite of tools, which includes Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. This time, though, the software is available over the cloud as a subscription service.
Microsoft 365 also has features that help businesses keep data secure and manage users.
How can Microsoft 365 help remote teams collaborate?
Microsoft 365 has many of the same features and functions of its competitor Google Workspace. There is shared cloud storage called OneDrive, so your team has an easy method of sharing files.
Your team can quickly attach files to a task if they are stored in OneDrive using the monday.com integration:
Multiple team members can work on the same document at the same time. File version and edit history is available should you need to revert to a previous version.
You can comment on documents and use the @mention feature to bring the right people in as needed. The @mention feature also lets you assign tasks to other team members.
Who is Microsoft 365 for?
Microsoft 365 has a 38% market share of the office suite sector, and their file formats are often the default ones required for file exchanges. If you don’t want to use the Google Workspace suite, then chances are you’ll choose Microsoft 365 instead.
How much does Microsoft 365 cost?
Microsoft 365 now uses a subscription model too. The entry level costs $5/user per month with a minimum commitment of 12 months.
Asana helps businesses manage all the individual tasks that collectively make up a project — all from a central location.
How can Asana help remote teams collaborate?
A central record of project tasks that all can access has clear benefits for a remote team. Additional features available in the Asana app that support group working are ―
- Attach relevant task files.
- Use @mentions to tell coworkers when you require help with a task.
- Visualize workflows and break-down jobs into smaller next-actions.
- Share company goals and milestones, so your team understands business priorities.
Note: monday.com also provides a super-handy method of managing team tasks. You can see at-a-glance who is working on what task, but also assign priorities and project time duration:
Who is Asana for?
Asana is an alternative to monday.com and is suitable for smaller teams working on common goals. While Asana is a capable product, monday.com may be a better choice for your team. You can find out in our in depth comparison of monday.com vs. Asana.
How much does Asana cost?
Small teams of up to 15 users can use basic functionality free of charge. For $10.99/user per month, you get access to the main set of features. If you want to track team goals, though, it’s a little more pricey at $24.99 per month.
How can Wrike help remote teams collaborate?
Wrike has many features in common with other project management tools ― it can help teams organize work and visualize outstanding tasks.
You can use Wrike to share documents, stay organized, and allocate tasks to other team members.
Wrike also has a neat feature they call Spaces. Spaces is a central place for remote workers to share documents and other common assets required for a project.
Another useful tool is an in-built time tracking feature to record hours worked on tasks. So you can measure precisely how long a task took your team against any projections you made.
If time tracking is important for managing your team, monday.com has an inbuilt time-tracking feature where your team can record hours worked against individual tasks.
Who is Wrike for?
Wrike is a little more expensive than similar project management tools and is perhaps aimed more at corporate or enterprise users than smaller businesses.
But if you’re prepared to bear the extra cost over its competitors, any small team with a project to manage could use it.
How much does Wrike cost?
There is a free plan available for Wrike, but it’s limited to a maximum of 5 team members, and much of the functionality is limited. For $9.80/user per month, up to 15 users can collaborate.
If you want a shared calendar and make full use of the Wrike app, the price is $24.80/user per month.
Pipefy is a task management tool and, like Trello, organizes a business workflow based on the Kanban system.
Pipefy is more capable than Trello with deeper functionality, and you can use it to improve efficiency in complex workflows.
How can Pipefy help remote teams collaborate?
You can use Pipefy to formalize nearly any workflow that you can conceive ― If you can think it, you can build it in Pipefy.
Once you’ve built your workflow, you can assign cards to team members for completion, set mandatory actions, and then automatically transfer the card to the team member responsible for the next step.
Pipefy can formalize all sorts of workflows like staff onboarding, accounts receivable, or sales funnel management.
Note: Sometimes it’s best to keep it simple. If you want to manage your team’s workflow using a Kanban style card system, but feel that the solution provided by Pipefy might be too complex, check out the Kanban view available with monday.com.
Who is Pipefy for?
Anyone who feels like they don’t have a handle on their team’s workflow could benefit from using Pipefy.
How much does Pipefy cost?
A feature-limited free account is available to get you up and running. A paid subscription starts at $18/user per month. This subscription level gets you access to nearly all of Pipefy’s functionality and will have enough features for most needs.
It’s estimated that by 2028, 73% of US businesses will use remote workers.
Workers will convert their spare rooms into home offices as they adapt to new ways of working. Similarly, businesses will have to adjust the way they foster team collaboration on projects.
Collaboration platforms will become an essential tool for businesses to oversee knowledge work ― why not make a start today by creating your first team board with monday.com.