The Best Collaboration Tools to Boost Your Business’s Productivity
A remote office has many time- and money-saving benefits.
You keep $1,200 in your pocket that would usually go towards paying for transportation, and you save over 200 hours each year by skipping the dreaded rush-hour commute.
Remote working can boost your team’s productivity like never before.
So what exactly do you need to support your team to work from outside the office?
Collaboration Tools: The Key to Unlocking an Agile Business
Effective remote working depends on two factors: the right collaboration tools and workflows.
Many know that systemizing a company’s operations goes a long way toward creating a hands-off business.
You probably use business collaboration tools on a regular basis without realizing it.
Collaboration tools are Software as a Service (SaaS) products designed to increase productivity and efficiency by giving employees access to essential data stored in the cloud.
These tools remove the need for single-user licenses or to install and update software across an organization’s computers.
The right tools keep your team in contact across different time zones, so they can work together on a project without losing any information.
However, of the many SaaS products on the market, which do you actually need?
In this article, we separate collaboration tools into different categories to suit your business’s needs.
Effective communication is key to your business’s success.
The best business collaboration tools marry email’s functionality with the speed of instant messaging.
Software dedicated to keeping your team in contact minimizes the information lost in translation.
It can be tricky to generate ideas between colleagues who live anywhere from Ho Chi Minh to Houston.
Mindmeister is a virtual whiteboard dedicated to mind-mapping. It’s simple to operate and can map relevant topics surrounding a core idea.
Price: Mindmeister is free for up to three mind maps. Various paid options are available from $4.99 a month if you want to expand and create multiple mind maps for different projects.
Over half of the world’s population is on social media.
Your team might prefer a platform with the layout and feel of social media to communicate with each other.
Microsoft’s Yammer creates a private social network for your business’s employees.
Teams can work together without external interruptions and with the ability to find members of different departments quickly.
Yammer allows people to join only with an email address from the company domain, keeping the network tight.
Yammer lets you avoid clutter by tailoring your news feed to contain information from certain teams or individuals.
Price: There are no free plans for Yammer; it comes in a bundle with Microsoft’s web-based Office apps, starting at $3 per user each month.
Slack accommodates businesses that prefer synchronous or asynchronous communication.
This popular app provides instant messaging services and caters to people who prefer email.
Use it to create channels reserved for specific topics to keep conversations on point.
To communicate freely with individuals or with a group, you can create private conversations outside of the channels.
Price: You can subscribe to a free plan that will stay free for a while and is perfect for small teams. Larger enterprises will need to subscribe to a paid plan to benefit from more features.
Skype is one of the most popular collaboration tools because it’s been free since its inception.
Its voice, video, and messaging functionalities are simple to use.
You can sign up with even a Gmail account.
If you own a bootstrapped business and hold many one-on-one conversations, Skype may fulfil your requirements for a communication tool without additional features.
Price: If you use Skype only to make Skype calls, it’s completely free. Skype credit is available for those who want Skype to be their primary method of communication, as it can be used to call handphones, leave voicemail, and send text messages.
By now, everyone and their grandma has heard about and probably used Zoom.
If by some miracle, you haven’t heard of Zoom, it’s a video-conferencing app that supports large groups of people on a single call.
It’s simple to use and commitment-free; you don’t need a login to host or attend a meeting. However, using a login and a meeting password is recommended because people have discovered how to bypass the app’s security.
Price: It’s indefinitely free to make one-on-one calls or 40-minute group calls supporting up to 100 attendees. Plans with additional features, such as bumping the 40-minute limit up to 24 hours (but we doubt you’ll be meeting that long!), begin from $14.99.
Project Management Tools
The right project management software lays the groundwork for efficient workflows and for you to oversee multiple projects’ progress.
Thankfully, popular project management tools don’t require any coding knowledge to create automations and workflows.
Good project management software allows team members to collaborate on projects while keeping track of budget and time.
Owned by Atlassian, Trello uses an intuitive drag-and-drop system.
You can create boards for different projects or themes and create checklists, called “cards”.
Cards can be updated through comments to notify your team of progress or setbacks.
Important features, such as customized deadline reminders, are easy to use. A major bonus is the option to integrate multiple apps to create seamless workflows among business collaboration tools.
Price: It’s free to sign up as an individual user and create an unlimited number of cards and personal boards. Subscribing to a business plan unlocks useful features, such as an increased attachment-size limit and the ability to vote on cards.
For reasons similar to Trello, Asana is another popular project management tool. Users praise its simple interface and drag-and-drop functionality that make it easy to create to-do lists.
The clean layout allows business owners to oversee ongoing projects and monitor their progress.
Take advantage of Asana’s custom templates to document and track a workflow and save the time of creating one from scratch.
Extensive customization means you can assign tasks to team members, note their due dates, and color code them to mark whose responsibility they are.
Asana can also be integrated with many popular SaaS tools, such as Google Drive, Zapier, and Evernote.
Price: The free plan is sufficient for small teams, accommodating up to 15 teammates. Larger organizations can access the same features and additional support form $10.99 per month.
Teams that frequently work from their mobiles might appreciate this collaboration tool the most, As Podio is renowned for its mobile-optimized app.
Its integrated communication system makes Podio distinctive from other project management tools.
However, the app’s blank-canvas interface can be overwhelming. While some might appreciate the level of customization, others may prefer a ready-made system that’s immediately usable.
Price: The free plan supports up to five teammates with limited usage. Access richer features, such as automated workflows and the ability to assign different permissions levels, from $14 per month.
Monday is one of the most popular collaboration tools among online businesses, operating similarly to Asana.
Drag-and-drop systems are preferred, which accounts for Monday’s ease-of-use. You can create boards to house different projects and note different tasks through “pulses”. Within each pulse, you can assign team members, set deadlines, and provide updates.
It’s simple to create automations without any knowledge of coding because you assign instructions based on status changes (e.g. changing a pulse’s status from “in progress” to “done”).
The integrations feature can sync data from multiple apps and platforms, minimizing data loss when you transition from your phone to the laptop.
Price: After a 14-day trial period, you’ll need to subscribe to one of their tiered pricing plans; these plans accommodate different numbers of users.
We can’t discuss project management software without mentioning Basecamp.
This is an entry-level project management tool with certain limitations rather than something you’d stick with in the long run.
Within the tool, a “Basecamp” is a shared space with six boards with to-do list functionality; each board serves a specific purpose.
It’s a simple plug-and-play tool you can use as soon as you subscribe.
However, the limited reporting tools can make it difficult to track a project’s progress.
Users also complain of its limited functionality. For example, you can’t prioritize tasks within to-do lists or change the layout.
Price: The free option is suitable for small teams, freelancers, or solopreneurs. If you need support for more than 20 users, you’ll need to subscribe to their monthly plan at a flat rate of $99 per month.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Tools
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” the old adage goes.
Avoid bad first impressions by addressing any potential problems before they arise.
Your business needs a way to keep track of customer interactions and real-time data to provide the best possible customer experience.
Customer relationship management (CRM) tools help you manage a customer’s life cycle.
Common features of the best CRM tools include lead management, data analysis and reporting, forecasting, and workflow automation.
You may have come across HubSpot’s extensive library of free training on inbound marketing.
HubSpot’s CRM tools illustrate the impact of your content by presenting analytics and data in an easily digestible format for you to act on and nurture the right leads.
Its dashboard has a clean interface that is simple to use and the software integrates well with Google tools.
However, customizing HubSpot can be difficult, which is an issue for businesses with more sophisticated sales processes that need a tailored approach.
Price: The core features of HubSpot’s CRM are free to use indefinitely. An all-inclusive package containing the additional Sales Hub, Service Hub, and Marketing Hub software starts from $50 per month. You might consider upgrading to a paid plan if you need advanced features, such as notifications of email opens and clicks or the ability to synchronize meetings.
Salesforce’s main advantage is its scalability; its tools are equally useful for small and large businesses.
The CRM software’s automation and streamlined workflows are among its standout features.
Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics automates data processing, so you can track leads and forecast revenue with ease.
If you can overcome the interface’s steep learning curve to master it and maximize its utility, Salesforce’s CRM is as close to a one-stop shop of online collaboration tools as you can get.
Price: There’s a free trial period, after which you’ll need to sign up to a paid plan to continue to benefit from all these features. It starts from $25 per user on a monthly basis.
Insightly, another powerful CRM software with native integrations to popular apps, is a great collaboration tool with a fluid design that’s simple to use.
Its customer information system gives you a holistic view of each lead’s interactions and customer journey.
Users have reported trouble with automated reporting and with integrating other apps.
Price: Similar to Salesforce, Insightly has a free 14-day trial, after which you need to subscribe to a paid plan from $29 per month.
File Sharing Tools
You’ll need to store important, shared data so that it’s easily accessible to your remote working team.
Many file sharing tools have intuitive interfaces that make retrieving information simple, and they are secure to prevent unwarranted visitors from venturing into your storage system.
These types of collaboration tools differ in upload and download speeds and pricing.
This cloud-based storage software needs no introduction. Many individuals already use this tool for personal storage.
Download speeds are quick and, for further convenience, you can download an app to sync files to your desktop and vice versa.
Price: It’s free to sign up as an individual and receive 15 GB of storage. If you need more, a monthly subscription starts at $1.99 for 100 GB.
Google’s competitor Microsoft has an equally competitive storage system in OneDrive.
As would be expected, OneDrive has excellent integration with Windows and runs well alongside Office 365 tools.
However, this storage software isn’t as useful on iOS devices. There may be better options if you don’t need to use Microsoft Office.
Price: Free users receive only 5 GB of storage. For $1.99 per month, 100 GB is available, and if you sign up to an Office 365 subscription plan, you automatically receive 100 GB of storage space.
Geared more toward enterprises and companies than individuals, this simple tool has a variety of individual and team plans.
It integrates with many other collaboration tools, so files can be quickly sent and received between platforms.
Price: A free account provides 2 GB of storage space. A fee of $12.50 per month provides 5 TB of space, while the $20 monthly subscription provides unlimited space.
Creative teams need a secure way to share their work between team members and clients so that designs are seen as they were originally intended.
Valuable design tools can automate processes to help you create new projects even if you have little design skill.
Experienced designers will appreciate and be able to utilize the more complex tools fully.
Many digital designers praise InVision highly.
This collaborative tool is known for its ability to turn designs into highly responsive prototypes with smooth interactive interfaces.
The InVision Studio tool adapts your projects to suit different resolutions on various devices, so you don’t have to create multiple boards to adjust for screen layouts.
Users have noted the app can be cumbersome due to the software’s size.
Price: You can create one prototype for free using the core features. If you need more artboards and or to make prototypes of several projects, monthly paid plans start from $15.
Many use Visme for graphics-related projects because of its simple interface and large template library.
Visme is particularly useful for building professional presentations because you can input raw data, which the software displays in understandable graphics.
However, large presentations can take a long time to download, and the software’s editing capabilities are inferior to those of other design collaboration tools.
Price: If you plan to use it as an individual, the free plan allows you to work on five projects and has a 100 MB storage limit. Teams may benefit from the $75-monthly paid subscription option, which allows project-sharing between team members.
This tool is more niche, but you might benefit from GoVisually if your review process is stringent.
With this design collaboration tool, you can annotate creative designs on any area of the file without affecting the image.
You can also keep client instructions and feedback in one place for ease of reference.
Price: Only monthly paid plans are available for GoVisually, starting from $20 for individuals or $10 per user on a team.
When most people think of graphic design, Adobe comes to mind.
However, a pain of using Adobe was having purchasing individual licenses for each machine.
Now, your team can leverage Adobe’s UX and UI design tools while working from anywhere in the world.
Designers familiar with the Adobe suite will feel right at home with this software.
Adobe XD features new tools that allow you to co-edit a project at the same time as other designers.
Some users have commented that it’s clunky to use and prone to crashing when handling bigger projects, such as those that use vector graphics heavily.
Price: It’s free to sign up with storage up to 2 GB. For unlimited designs and more storage space, individual plans start from $9.99 per month for each user and business plans at $25 for each user.
Need a brainstorming tool?
Mural is a virtual whiteboard to which you can tack your ideas. Teams can edit and collaborate on designs, from text to uploaded images, via a HTML5 drawing board.
This software is optimized for iPad and accommodates gestures.
Price: The starter plan costs $12 per month. Larger enterprises can speak to the team for customized plans.
Businesses that require the quick delivery of feedback can benefit greatly from the unique tool that is Red Pen.
Teammates can see each other work on a project in real-time and provide constructive feedback simultaneously.
This can be effective for online businesses, such as Merch by Amazon, for which you might need to churn out as many t-shirt designs as possible in a short time.
Price: After a 14-day free trial, paid plans start at $20.
Software Development and Open-Source Collaboration Tools
Developers will need a source code editor, a debugger, and build automation tools to create customized tools for your business.
It’s important to have an integrated development environment (IDE) that supports different coding languages and cross-platform use.
This popular tool for programmers and developers allows people to copy your project and build new features onto it or iron out its bugs.
Github is a file depository platform with an excellent documentation system that’s great for working through problems and expanding projects.
Price: Github is free for both teams and individuals. To access more sophisticated features, such as user authentication and the ability to assign code owners, you can sign up to Github Team from $4 per user each month.
It takes time and effort to create stable software.
CodePen is a development environment in which coders and developers can experiment with and test projects.
Many software developers learned how to code through CodePen’s free academy.
Price: You can create a free account to test your projects; just be aware that they will be accessible to the public. Private “pens” require an upgraded plan, starting from $8 per month.
Not to be confused with Github, this is another web-based repository service where users can collaborate in code on certain projects.
The difference between these two repositories is the ability to change users’ permissions levels according to their role in Gitlab; in Github, you can only allow users to read or write code.
One benefit of Gitlab is the embedded Continuous Integration feature, meaning that code is automatically integrated into the project as several people work on it.
Price: Teams can start on a free plan, but a paid plan enables team leaders or owners to approve merge requests; plans start at $4 per user each month.
Choosing the Right Online Collaboration Tools for Your Business
You need the right combination of collaboration tools to take your business’s operations to the cloud.
This article covered just some of the popular tools used by startups and entrepreneurs. It is by no means an exhaustive list, but it can be exhausting to choose between too many software options.
When comparing collaboration tools, think about their pricing and their features. You might not need all the sophisticated features offered by a paid plan, so the free option will often meet your brand’s needs. You always have the option to upgrade later.
It’s important to get a feel for these tools. A unique feature of SaaS products is that they all offer a free trial period. Use that time to understand whether the software meets your business goals and, importantly, whether it makes managing the business easier.
Another factor is a collaboration tool’s compatibility with other applications. If a SaaS product integrates with software you are familiar with or plan to use, you can create seamless workflows and synergies to supercharge your productivity.
A hands-off business requires little input from you, so you can focus on growing the business: standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the right collaboration tools help you achieve that end.
Visit our marketplace to find an example of a turnkey business. You’ll discover that profitable businesses are ones on which the owners work less than 10 hours a week.