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  • JT Ripton

7 Great Collaboration Tools for Your Business

There’s a reason why Silicon Valley firms fret so much about talent: the best business ideas in the world have no chance of being successful without the right team behind them to execute.

But hiring the right people is only part of the story; businesses also need employees to be able to work seamlessly together. Collaboration is arguably the secret sauce of successful businesses. A collaborative culture attracts the best team members and inspires the best within them -- and helps a team get more done on a higher level at a faster pace. A Stanford University study found that those companies that promote collaborative workplaces were five times as likely to be high-performing.

Here are seven solutions to empower collaboration at your organization.

1. Project management: Quire

Good project management creates a sturdy foundation for increased creativity, improved brand messaging, enhanced employee confidence and supports operational innovation. Current technologies help maximize project team performance in all of these areas by optimizing workflow and promoting productivity.

Quire is a collaborative project management software, a simple, straightforward yet powerful tool that facilitates good project management.

Pros: While teams can lose control and focus while tackling endless to-do lists, Quire spurs dynamic workflow by organizing action items into a nested task list that breaks ideas down from big goals to digestible tasks. A Kanban board gets team members focused on crucial tasks of the day and its visualization functionality makes for simplified task supervision. Teams can view tasks either in list view or the Kanban board, making it easier to manage tasks.

In addition to streamlining to-do lists, Quire’s sync feature delivers real-time collaboration by allowing team members to work anytime, anywhere and track progress instantly.

Cons: Quire lacks private chat, which limits its use as a full-fledged project management solution for some teams. It also would be useful for the service to have more theme options for custom branding and a visual layout more customized to the needs of a given team.

2. Communication: Slack

From business as usual to special project management, startup teams must communicate to get work done. When you’re a very small startup  --  just two or three people  -- ad-hoc communication can work. Still, it’s never too early to be proactive and organize the way your team handles communications. 

Slack provides teams with a single location for all their communication needs.

Pros: Offering real-time messaging, searching and archiving capabilities, the platform also integrates with several external services and third-party apps including MailChimp, Google Drive and Zendesk. Slack also comes with native Android and iOS applications allowing users on-the-go access to direct and group messaging. Being able to access team members anywhere, anytime cuts the need for endless meetings and emails.

Cons: At times, the platform encourages real-time interaction when more asynchronous solutions such as email might actually be better. While Slack has created a whole new category of collaboration software, its focus as a chat board can sometimes create false urgency.

3. Collaborative funding: CoBudget

Perhaps the most difficult thing to discuss, startup or otherwise, is money. Typically, the chief financial officer bears the burden of gathering and validating information from multiple sources. Then it’s onto piecing together a spreadsheet and applying formulas and macros to make projections.

Budgeting can be a much better and more collaborative process, however. The open-source online tool, CoBudget, turns budgetary decision-making into a participatory activity for all members of a startup.

Pros: It works like an internal crowdfunding app that uses shared resources. Members can propose ideas for funding, and discuss and improve upon those ideas before they’re approved. Each member can then receive a portion of the funds from the shared resources and allocate to the projects that support the startup’s mission and goals.

Cons: This participatory budgeting isn’t right for every team -- sometimes airing out budgets to all members of a team is a little too transparent and collegial.

4. Content creation: Creativity 365

Every business is in the media business now. Customers want businesses that tell a story. And even if storytelling is not a high priority for a company, standing out among the competition certainly is important. That means content -- and lots of it.

But coming up with content on a consistent basis can be hard. Designed to produce and cultivate team-generated ideas, Creativity 365 offers a wide range of content solutions, whether you are creating original video or making interactive marketing presentations. There are so many options and capabilities, playing around with it will invariably spark new ideas.

Pros: Easy to use, tons of creativity-sparking options to play with, and supports iPhone, Android and iPad as well as machines operating on Windows and Mac.

Cons: Some creatives might hesitate at using a platform they aren’t familiar with if they've worked with more well-established video editing platforms.

5. Crowdsourced decision-making: Loomio

Creativity means nothing without action, and action is fueled by effective decision making. Collaborative decision-making is about arriving at the best possible solution -- and those don’t always come from the boss.

Pros: The Loomio app democratizes decision making by displaying a discussion with deliberation and conclusion presented side by side. Any disagreement is visualized with a pie chart that can not be ignored so that concerns can be addressed and resolved.

Cons: While this tool gives everyone a voice in decisions that affect them by recognizing the unique value and significance in every perspective, it also gives a clear picture of when your opinions or ideas are not being used.

6. Writing together: Google Docs

Hands down, the best tool for document collaboration is Google Docs. This free app makes it easy to create and share documents in real-time whether those documents are notes, spreadsheets or presentations.

Pros: The app allows your team to access documents from anywhere, and control the version of the document on which your team is working. Collaborators can be added and removed at will with all users being able to access and edit the same document simultaneously. Users also can see who else is in the document and making changes.

Cons: Google Docs struggles with document management; it lacks meaningful tagging, which help with search, and its file organization is peculiarly weak. Some teams also avoid Google Docs because file ownership can become an issue when team members leave.

7. Collective Knowledge: ProProfs

Whether your startup is focused on internal improvement or customer care, actionable knowledge is key. As a centralized platform that gathers, organizes and stores information, ProProfs knowledge base software makes information accessible to anyone.

Pros: The knowledge management software employs a comprehensive approach to constructing and managing private wikis. In just a few clicks, everything your team members need to know is available. Organizations also can use ProProfs to develop FAQs, manuals, and self-service knowledge bases for customer access.

Cons: The downside of ProProfs is that it doesn’t always play nice with certain business systems. While it is great for internal teams, you’ll want to check its integration with your existing business systems before using it with customer-facing interactions.

The power of collaboration

For any business -- whether a startup or multinational mainstay -- collaboration is the key to sustainable growth and longevity. Connections formed with others, especially among team members with a shared vision, will help your business operate like the global corporations do. Thanks to modern tools and technology, creating these powerful connections within your organization doesn’t have to take forever. And it doesn’t require a global corporation’s budget. That should be plenty of motivation to get in the team spirit and check out these tools today.

Courtesy : Entrepreneur

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