While there are certainly benefits of in-person collaboration—recent research says that four out of six of the “most important attributes of building a relationship” are impossible without it—the emergence of digital collaboration tools has challenged its absolute necessity.
For starters, collaboration tools—most of which generally include features like group chat, instant messaging and document sharing—have proven to increase productivity while simultaneously reducing costs.
Thanks to the power of the Internet, workers can access these tools from any connected device at any time, no matter where they happen to be. This allows them to be productive on their own schedules, whether that means sitting at the airport waiting for a flight, working in the office or lounging on the couch while watching a movie at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night.
Collaboration tools empower employees to be productive the moment inspiration strikes. No two workers are exactly alike, so this functionality allows all workers to do their job at the most appropriate times: when they’re most focused.
If you’re considering equipping your team with a collaboration tool—like 75 percent of other businesses—you’ll quickly realize that you have your work cut out for you.
Many people interpret collaboration differently, so it makes sense that there are lots of different tools on the market. And more are being built every day. For now, let’s take a look at five of the most prominent ones:
Slack. One of the more popular apps in the space, Slack allows users to separate their teams into different channels. Businesses can have a marketing channel, a sales channel, an ops channel and a channel for happy hours, among whatever else tickles their fancy, for example.
With Slack, you can upload documents to any of the channels you’ve created. So if you want a few pairs of extra eyes in your marketing department to take a look at the white paper you just wrote or glance at the slide deck for the presentation you’re set to give later in the week, Slack has you covered.
But what really sets Slack apart from its competitors is how the tool integrates with other applications, like MailChimp, Github and Twitter, among countless others. Slack says you’ll be less busy, and they’re probably right.
Hall. Offering users both group and private chat settings, Hall sells itself as a tool that allows workers to enjoy a seamless experience as they migrate across their devices over the course of the day. In other words, what you do on your laptop can be instantly accessed on your tablet and smartphone too, as devices sync in real time.
Hall serves as a centralized hub for all your communications, and the tool also integrates with a variety of other services, like Dropbox, Github and Box.
Quip. Before Quip, founder Bret Taylor served as Facebook’s CTO.
The collaboration tool he helped create—which has over 10,000 business users—allows team members to edit the same documents and spreadsheets in real time, across multiple devices. With Quip, users can say goodbye to never-ending email chains and enigmatically labeled documents.
While the collaboration tool allows you to easily manage tasks on a project-by-project basis, it also enhances meeting productivity. At least that’s what executives who use Quip are saying.
“People just comment back and forth during the meetings,” explains Rick Smith, CEO of Taser International. “So the meetings are cut in half—or more.”
HipChat. A chat room that’s accessible via any connected device, HipChat notifies team members of everything from blog comments to instant messages to support emails in real time.
Rather than having direct one-on-one meetings in person, HipChat allows users to meet virtually with ease. This functionality enhances productivity, as employees don’t have to waste each other’s time trying to figure out when the other is available: the tool’s presence feature takes care of that coordination.
HipChat also offers video calling and screen sharing, so you can collaborate whichever way works best for you.
The genius of Asana is in its simplicity: Teams have workspaces, workspaces have projects and projects have tasks. An intuitive, Web-based tool, Asana lets remote workers collaborate in real time.
If a manager is a 9 to 5 type of guy, for example, and a copywriter is more of a night owl, the two are still able to easily track the other’s progress as projects move closer to completion. Even when they work completely different schedules.
With Asana, users get an inbox and centralized dashboard, so they’re able to easily see what’s expected of them.
So which tool is right for you?
At the end of the day, you’ve got to do your due diligence and examine a host of different collaboration tools before deciding which one makes the most sense for your team.
Today’s workers might have more on their plates than ever before. And their stacks of responsibilities keep getting higher.
Luckily, by using these kinds of collaboration tools, work can become a whole lot easier.