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The ultimate guide to team collaboration software in 2021

All of us at monday.com

    16 collaboration software options for 2021

    Effective collaboration is at the heart of every successful project.

    This is especially true when working on larger projects that involve dozens of team members, many of them probably working remotely. Coordinating all of these resources, as well as communicating effectively with clients and key external stakeholders, is a big part of PM life.

    The good news?

    You’ve got some seriously capable collaboration software options to choose from. This article will teach you everything you need to know about team collaboration software and provide an in-depth look at 16 leading software solutions for 2021.

    Let’s do this.

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    Before we start: what is collaboration software?

    Collaboration software is any kind of software or app designed to help teams brainstorm, communicate and work together more effectively to get work done more efficiently.

    Of course, this casts the net pretty wide, and there are a lot of different kinds of team collaboration software.

    And, you know what?

    This is a good thing.

    There are literally thousands of different teams out there working on countless different types of projects. As a result, competition is fierce.

    But, luckily, that means the world of collaboration software is a buyer’s market.

    How does collaboration software work?

    The way in which a given collaboration software platform ultimately depends on the tool itself.

    That said, there are a few common features you’ll find (and need) in an online collaboration tool:

    1. Instant messaging

    Being able to instantly message anyone on your team has become an expectation in modern-day teams. Even email communications are considered dated.

    Collaboration tools generally give you group and one-on-one messaging, as well as specific channel or tag-based messaging.

    For instance, monday.com, alongside messaging, offers in-context notifications to cut down on emails and intranet reliance:

    Screenshot of monday UI - followup message

    2. Video conferencing

    Whether you’re scheduling a virtual meeting, or need to quickly chat with a team member on the fly, video conferencing is a must-have.

    3. Document sharing

    Some platforms allow document uploads, and many give you the ability to add links to cloud-based files such as Google Docs.

    4. Project planning and tracking tools

    Some platforms focus entirely on communication, others focus on planning. You’ll probably want some form of both, with project planning and tracking tools such as different views including:

    • Kanban boards
    • Gantt charts
    • Timelines
    • Calendars
    • Tables

    (monday.com has all of these, and also three more).

    dashboard in monday.com showing multiple views

    5. Reporting and dashboards

    You’ll want to be able to quickly check in on project progress, and create weekly or monthly reports for senior management teams, so look for a collaboration tool that can make these processes simple.

    6. Sharing permissions

    Great team collaboration tools allow you to individually adjust sharing and access permissions, enabling you to loop in stakeholders and employees without sacrificing sensitive data.

    What are the benefits of collaboration software?

    Though collaboration comes in all shapes and sizes, the overall benefits that each platform aims to achieve tend to be fairly similar.

    Typically, collaboration software tools offer project managers these benefits:

    • Better communication with their team, clients, stakeholders, and managers
    • A single source of truth will all documents and relevant notes
    • The ability to share information with external stakeholders without putting sensitive data at risk
    • Projects that wrap up on time and on budget
    • A high-level view of whether or not your team is on track
    • Consistency of work production

    You can see why project collaboration software is such a huge field then.

    So, what are examples of collaboration software?

    1. monday.com

    monday.com is a fully-fledged Work OS, powering teams to plan and implement projects, create smarter workflows, and connect collaboratively.

    It’s all about making teamwork work, and making manual grunt work a thing of the past.

    With monday.com, users can build custom work apps (without needing to be a coding expert) that work for your individual operational requirements.

    Our software integrates with all the apps you use on a daily basis, features multiple project views, and offers an in-depth suite of reporting capabilities.

    Primary features and advantages:

    • Over 70 integrations enable you to collaborate with the tools you already use
    • Eight project views including Kanban, Gantt charts, boards, calendars, and more
    • The ability to design your own automation and notification rules
    • Time-tracking and file-sharing capabilities
    • Resource management functionality
    • Ability to share boards with guests and stakeholders with user-specific restrictions
    • Apps for iOS and Android devices enable collaboration no matter where you are

    Best for:

    monday.com is ideal for teams of any size, from one-man bands to full-sized corporate enterprises.

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    2. Slack

    What it is:

    The only reason you don’t know what Slack is is if you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years.

    For those of you who have, Slack is a workplace communication tool that allows teams to connect in the way they’re used to: instantly.

    It’s by no means a full-on project management software package, but it’s without a doubt the most commonly-used app for workplace chat, speeding up all kinds of workplace communications.

    Features & advantages:

    • Instant messaging – private or groups
    • Hashtags
    • GIFs and memes
    • Video conferencing
    • Integrations with Google products like Docs
    • iOS and Android
    • Get out of email jail
    • Workflow automation capabilities
    • Enterprise-grade security

    Best for:

    Workplaces who need to be able to communicate and share files with each other instantly, with context, and with memes.

    3. Asana

    What it is:

    Asana is a project management app designed primarily around Kanban boards.

    There are other views as well (timeline, lists), as well as the ability to create automation rules, integrate with your favorite apps, and build customer-facing forms that link directly to your Asana boards.

    Features & advantages:

    • Multiple different board views
    • iOS and Android apps for fingertip-ready editing
    • Automation capabilities
    • Customer-facing rules
    • Portfolio project management tools
    • Resourcing planning
    • Integration with the likes of Slack, Gmail, and Dropbox
    • Pre-built templates
    • Custom-designed fields

    Best for:

    Asana is a decent collaborative tool for teams of all sizes, thanks to enterprise-grade security and privacy, deep admin controls, and scalable pricing. You do have to work within Kanban almost exclusively, though.

    4. Flock

    What it is:

    Flock is a project management tool designed with two features in mind: workplace communication and online collaboration.

    With a 30-day free trial, and familiar green and white livery (Evernote, anybody?), getting started with Flock is simple.

    Features & advantages:

    • Instant messaging
    • Video conferencing
    • Strong ability to search and retrieve documents and conversations
    • 30-day free trial
    • Private and group chats
    • Flock user can send voice notes instead of typing out long messages
    • To-do lists and reminders
    • File sharing from your computer or Google Drive
    • Programmable authorization and authentication
    • Store contact information to create a company directory

    Best for:

    Flock is a good option for sales and marketing teams looking for a simple way to manage contacts, project teams in need of easy workplace communication, and HR managers looking to improve their hiring and onboarding processes.

    5. Airtable

    What it is:

    Airtable is a low-code app building platform and enterprise collaboration software.

    It offers a familiar spreadsheet-style interface, with customizable column modules that allow you to display your data in whatever way works best for your team.

    Features & advantages:

    • Build apps with minimal technical coding knowledge
    • Pre-built templates for the likes of event planning and content calendars
    • Integrates with tools like Slack and Drive, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter
    • Customize columns with text, currencies, images, links, dates, and attachments
    • Multiple project views: grid, Kanban, Calendar, Gallery
    • 50+ pre-built Airtable-based apps, such as a Gantt chart creator, SendGrid API, and website page designer
    • Easy to create automations to improve workflows and integrate with your other PM tools
    • Mobile and desktop apps

    Best for:

    Teams who want something more than Microsoft Excel but not a complete collaboration or project management tool.

    6. Zoom

    What it is:

    Without a doubt, Zoom is the most popular collaboration platform for workplace video conferencing. Whether you’re coordinating a weekly virtual team meeting, conducting remote interviews, or running sales demos, Zoom just works.

    Features & advantages:

    • Enterprise-level conferencing
    • Up to 1000 video participants per call
    • HD video and audio
    • Forward-thinking features like polls, hand-raising, filters, and reactions, for a modern video conferencing experience
    • Integrates with calendar tools like Gmail, Outlook, and iCal
    • Ability to join by voice only
    • Customizable backgrounds
    • Instant messaging can be used standalone or within a video conference
    • Extensions for Chrome and Safari and add-ons for Gmail
    • Zoom also offers an enterprise-grade VoIP calling solution for sales and support teams with BYO carrier options

    Best for:

    Zoom is a good option for teams who need to connect and collaborate virtually for regular meetings or quick project update conversations.

    7. Toggl Track

    What it is:

    If you’re working with remote workers and need a solution to track how much time they’re spending on tasks, Toggl Track is it.

    Toggl actually offers three different products: Track, Plan, and Hire, designed for time-tracking, project management, and HR needs, respectively.

    For distributed teams and remote work, Toggl Track is the tool you want. It allows project managers to ensure they are being invoiced accurately, and to better manage project costs and resource allocation.

    Features & advantages:

    • Calendar-based workspace
    • Web-platform plus desktop and mobile apps available
    • Simple browser extensions allow you to track time spend with just one click
    • Background tracking allows you to automatically log time spent in any app when you spend more than 10 seconds in it
    • Ability to set reminders and auto-tracking
    • Integrates with whichever calendar tool you like to use
    • More than 100 app integrations available
    • Scheduled reports to your email inbox

    Best for:

    Teams with remote workers who need to track time spent on projects, as well as any companies charging by the hour looking for a transparent way to bill their clients.

    8. Basecamp

    What it is:

    Basecamp has been around for about as long as team collaboration software has even existed, offering all of the basic features of project management you’d expect from a tool of its tenure.

    Features & advantages:

    • Catch-all notification center
    • Individual or group based messaging
    • Separate boards for each project you’re working on
    • Document and file sharing
    • Schedule automatic check-in messages
    • Create a scheduler that integrates with your calendar tool
    • Ability to set your work hours so team members know when others are online
    • Simple, easy to grasp interface
    • Custom-branded workspaces with your company logo

    Best for:

    Basecamp is ideal for creative teams who need a simple space to store all of their project information without getting too complex with visuals.

    9. Evernote

    What it is:

    Put simply, Evernote is a note-taking app.

    The interface is simple and sleek, and gives teams the ability to jot down meeting notes and project ideas on the fly, from a desktop or mobile app, or in their browser.

    Features & advantages:

    • Backup important documents with Evernote’s document scanning features
    • Strong integration set
    • Web Clipper allows you to save webpages straight to a note
    • Rich text editing features such as bolding and italics, color, bullet points, tables and images
    • Auto-syncs across all devices
    • If you’re using Evernote on a touch-sensitive device, you can scrawl in notes by hand
    • Evernote’s search function can even read your handwritten notes and pull up results
    • Create and save note templates, or choose from a variety of pre-designed templates

    Best for:

    Anyone who needs to take notes on the go, and needs more than just simple text editing found in stock note-taking apps.

    10. Wrike

    What it is:

    Wrike is a project management and enterprise collaboration tool centered on flexibility and customization.

    This includes workflows, dashboards, request forms, and basically any other feature found in Wrike.

    Features & advantages:

    • Resource planning tool for team workload management
    • Easy to understand reporting dashboard which you can customize to your needs
    • Integrates with all of your favorite apps, and includes some great automation features
    • Enterprise-grade security with full control over your data encryption
    • Automated risk projection
    • AI-powered insights all you to work smarter, not harder
    • Kanban boards and Gantt charts
    • Design custom client-facing request forms
    • Time-tracking functionality allows you to control costs more effectively

    Best for:

    Project managers who need a high level of flexibility from their collaboration tool.

    11. Jira

    What it is:

    Jira is an issue and project tracking tool from SaaS giant Atlassian. It’s primarily designed for collaborative software development teams operating on an Agile framework, enabling constant product iterations through top quality collaboration and communication.

    Features & advantages:

    • Kanban and Scrum boards
    • Roadmaps for product development
    • Agile-specific reports such as Burnup and Velocity charts and Sprint Reports
    • Integrates with your code flagging tools to bring everything into one place
    • Simple drag and drop functionality
    • Over 3000 Jira apps available
    • Enterprise-grade security
    • Robust set of APIs for building automation rules
    • Build your own workflows to improve team collaboration, or use a predesigned one
    • Complete issue tracking capabilities including helpdesk, bug tracking, and ticket workflows

    Best for:

    Agile teams and software development teams.

    12. Podio

    What it is:

    Podio is a work management platform from Citrix, and it’s all about getting team members to work together efficiently. With integrated chat functions, calendars and meeting schedulers, and personalized dashboards, it’s a customizable tool for modern team collaboration.

    Features & advantages:

    • Web and mobile apps
    • Unlimited data storage
    • Project and task management
    • Connected CRM
    • Granular access for enhanced security
    • Calendar and meeting scheduler
    • Build and structure your own workflows based on how your team works, and automate them to save everyone time
    • Stable platform – 99.99% uptime
    • Personal dashboards and reporting

    Best for:

    Teams who need a project management tool and CRM in one.

    13. Google Drive

    What it is:

    Google Drive is one of the biggest cloud storage platforms on the market, allowing users to store virtually any kind of file, and open many of them using Google’s Suite of cloud-based tools such as Sheets, Docs, and Slides.

    Features & advantages:

    • Super simple to set up
    • Free plan available, which should be enough for many users
    • Pretty much any other tool you use has a Google Drive integration
    • Sharing permissions are easy to set when sharing with external stakeholders
    • Move all of your word editing and spreadsheet tools into the cloud by switching to Google’s other tools, and have everything in one place
    • Mobile apps for on the go collaboration
    • Best rated cloud storage tool around

    Best for:

    Teams of any size that need to store and share documents, files, audio, and video.

    14. Trello

    What it is:

    Trello is a project management tool designed around the popular Kanban board. It’s simple to use, has a great mobile app for touch-responsive editing, and allows for workflow automation too.

    Features & advantages:

    • Color-code and add images to each card
    • Free version is pretty decent
    • Smart workflow automation – Trello even tells you which rules to create based on actions your team takes regularly
    • Pre-built Team Playbooks for easy set up
    • Tonnes of visual customization options
    • Integrates with apps like Slack and Evernote
    • Checklists, notes, labels, attachments, and due dates keep all your info in one place

    Best for:

    Teams who need a simple project management tool and are comfortable working only in Kanban view.

    15. Smartsheet

    What it is:

    Smartsheet is a work and collaboration tool designed around, you guessed, spreadsheets.

    Think of it as Excel on steroids, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what it does. Smartsheet allows you to import spreadsheets or create one from scratch, and then visualize it in whatever manner you’d like to: Card, Gantt, Calendar, or Grid.

    Features & advantages:

    • Powerful automation, with the Bridge tool allowing you to link different software platforms together and automate across them
    • Content collaboration and commenting, including polls
    • Dashboards and reporting for upper management
    • No-code app building platform
    • Resource and project portfolio management with Smartsheet’s 10,000ft
    • Four different project views
    • Collect customer information easily with forms
    • Mobile apps
    • Extensive integrations

    Best for:

    Teams who are sick of the confines of working in spreadsheet-land and need a more complex and configurable collaboration solution.

    16. Hypercontext

    Hypercontext is a solution that empowers over 100,000 managers and their teams to be high-performing by combining quarterly priorities, weekly meetings, and engagement measures, all in one place.

    Features & advantages:

    • Collaborative meeting agendas that ensure everyone shows up to meetings prepared
    • Real-time employee feedback
    • Zapier integration to connect Hypercontext to 2000+ apps, including monday.com

    Best for:

    Hypercontext is great for remote, onsite, and distributed teams looking to have real-time or asynchronous meetings.

    Get started with collaboration software now

    There is no escaping the fact that effective team collaboration is difficult, requiring the focus of the entire team, and a strong project manager who has the ability to pull a team together and get everyone working together nicely.

    The biggest and quickest win, though, is implementing a collaboration app to improve team communication, speed up workflows, and provide one source of truth.

    Ready to get started with the best team collaboration software out there?

    Check out monday.com’s team task management template, and get going today.

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