Equip your remote teams with the tools they need to thrive
Remote work is one of the pandemic era’s most recognizable calling cards.
Effective collaboration now requires a sophisticated technological environment. Employees, managers, and executives in every industry understand the need for robust communication infrastructure. Software vendors have been working hard to meet their needs.
Many business leaders and IT professionals have spent their pandemic focused on enabling collaboration between remote employees. Organizations with distributed groups of remote employees will continue to thrive well through the greater post-pandemic recovery period.
This is because many of the tools remote workers rely on have demonstrated core business value. The best of these tools do more than enable remote work, they make online team collaboration more productive than any alternative.
What Does Online Team Collaboration Mean?
Every organization has multiple levels of collaboration. These broadly map to the three levels of management, except with a reduced focus on hierarchy. In a collaborative environment, communication takes precedence over authority. This is one of the reasons why employees increasingly value collaborative company cultures over strict top-down institutions.
The three main categories of collaboration are:
- Team Collaboration. Teams are small, self-governing groups of individuals who share a common goal. These goals are usually short-term objectives that generate immediate business value. Ideally, they are the building blocks of a greater long-term strategy. Supervisory managers lead teams and oversee daily operations.
- Community Collaboration. Community collaboration involves communication with multiple teams and business departments. It reflects the level where cross-collaboration, reporting, and communication between teams is crucial to success. Mid-level managers will usually lead these initiatives and gather data on their progress through reports.
- Network Collaboration. The network includes the organization itself as well as its customers and third-party partners. Network collaboration broadly includes every individual who has any kind of stake in the organization itself. It is typically led by top-level executives, but also includes marketing and social media branding.
The technologies this article describes are firmly in the Team Collaboration category. That means we’re looking for tools that help employees work, give and receive guidance, and achieve operational excellence.
These online collaboration tools will help managers assign tasks to workers, oversee the quality of production, and maintain productive relationships with team members regardless of their location. Leaders should understand these tools are remote-friendly, but they offer value to on-premises office teams too.
At its core, next-generation collaboration happens neither “remotely” nor “in the office”. A more accurate approach is a location-agnostic one. Team members at every level of the organization will increasingly empower themselves to be productive whether they’re physically present in the office or not. Organizations that wish to achieve this goal will need to invest in the right tools.
Introducing the Best Business Collaboration Tools
Online team collaboration is becoming an increasingly important part of operational excellence. Organizations that wish to capitalize on this trend and enable their employees to do their best work will need to focus on the six main segments of the online collaboration environment.
- Slack. One of the most popular professional communication tools around, Slack enables teams to self-organize, create topic-related threads, and automate communications using bots. It integrates well with virtually any tech stack and enables companies of all sizes to optimize communication seamlessly.
- Zoom. Zoom is one of the pandemic era’s biggest winners. Enabling video and audio conferencing at a distance is one of the bottom line functionalities that employees now expect of employers. Zoom has come out on top as one of the most popular business collaboration software around.
- Microsoft Teams. Slack’s primary competitor comes in the form of Microsoft Teams. The biggest benefit remote teams earn from Teams is the ability to integrate Microsoft’s wide-ranging suite of productivity tools. This makes it an attractive option for companies that use Microsoft Office 365.
- Google Drive. Google Drive is automatically part of the Google Workspace (formerly G-Suite). It’s free, secure, fast, and simple to use. For small-scale storage needs, it’s hard to beat the convenience that Google Drive offers. As business needs grow, however, it becomes increasingly complicated to manage permissions and security.
- DropBox. DropBox is one of the first cloud storage platforms to attain widespread success. It integrates well with a broad variety of productivity suites and platforms. Users praise it for its ease of use and excellent security. DropBox is as useful for small businesses as it is for large enterprises.
- OneDrive. OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to small business cloud storage. Being part of the Microsoft environment means users can enjoy readymade integration with Microsoft’s entire product portfolio. OneDrive works as well for small businesses as it does for large enterprises, making it a great choice for long-term growth.
- Asana. Asana makes it easy for teams to prioritize their goals and stay focused on their most important tasks which is the reason it is one of the most popular project management tool. It enables cross-collaboration across multiple departments and encourages communication through easy integration and in-app messaging. Asana’s listing, calendar, and accomplishment views allow managers to analyze performance in real-time.
- Trello. Trello’s take on project management is a digitized Kanban board made up of cards. Each card represents an assigned task. Every card is part of a dashboard that represents a larger project. Trello’s highly visual experience and valuable in-app integrations make it a useful tool for small business and enterprise collaboration.
- Monday. Monday enables managers to simplify complex projects with large teams. This might make it sound like enterprise technology, but many of its users are small businesses that use it to connect with remote freelancers. It’s customization-friendly interface makes it easy to map Monday to your workflow processes.
Digital Asset Management
- Cincopa. Cincopa adds value to traditional digital asset management in a major way. It enables asset managers to collect and analyze behavioral user data on an individual level. This means that managers can gather user engagement data from everyone who watched a certain video or accessed a certain folder. It then makes this data available as automation datapoints for marketing and research.
- Cloudinary. Cloudinary is a digital asset management platform with convenient features and an intuitive interface. It’s well-suited to online work with remote teams, thanks to its module-based functionality. Since Cloudinary modules require individual configuration, it doesn’t scale well for companies that plan on undergoing growth.
- Brandfolder. This digital asset management platform is designed for marketers and creatives. Its powerful AI-powered smart search function makes it easy for users to find assets without relying on navigation, though some users have noted room for improvement.
- Google Workspace. With Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, and more, the Google productivity environment offers just about everything a small business needs to get going. The main difference between Google and its competitors is that Google’s file editing apps are entirely browser-based. That means they work the same way on any platform or system.
- Microsoft Office 365. Microsoft’s Office 365 is one of the most popular and enduring productivity suites in the world. This collection of file editing tools represents the gold standard in almost every industry, but expensive licensing means many organizations are looking for alternatives.
- Evernote. Some businesses are turning towards Evernote for their productivity and file editing needs. Evernote integrates with customer relationship management software like SalesForce, making it easy for users to keep all their customer data in a single place. It’s a lightweight collaboration tool that works well with highly integrated workflows.
- Google Calendar. Google Calendar is simple, flexible, and easy to use. It has proven itself remarkably well-suited to complex schedules and workplace integrations, too. Thanks to a ecosystem of third-party add-ons, it’s possible for Google Calendar to integrate with nearly any organization, large or small.
- Calendly. Calendly is an excellent choice for organizations that need to schedule calls, conferences, and interviews on a regular basis. Anyone with your Calendly link can schedule time with you, even if they don’t have an account of their own.
- Doodle. Doodle is a team-oriented calendar management app. This remote collaboration tool makes it easy for large teams to agree on event times. For remote teams that operate without clear, top-down micromanagement, Doodle offers a democratic way to get things done on-time.
Our Top Recommended Tech Stack for Remote Work
Every entrant on the list has its advantages and drawbacks, and each one is suited to a particular use case. Here are our top recommendations for enabling remote work in a small and mid-sized business environment:
- Slack has everything a small business needs for internal communications and online team collaboration, and it scales perfectly for long-term growth.
- DropBox outperforms its competitors in security, privacy, and scalability, making it our top pick for general cloud storage.
- Trello makes Kanban-style productivity and management available to everyone. It’s simplicity and value give it an edge over other options.
- Cincopa earns its place over competitors thanks to its analytics. Being able to see individual user engagement with digital assets streamlines everything from training and production to sales and marketing.
- Microsoft Office 365 comes with costs, but delivers mission-critical value in return. Integrating all of your productivity and file editing apps in this stack is a significant time-saver.
- Calendly makes it easy to schedule one-on-one calls, interviews, and events. It integrates well and is easier to use than other calendar apps.
If you are looking for an easy entrance to the world of online remote collaboration, these six technologies offer a great place to start. Scalable cloud-enabled technology ensures your organization can handle its responsibilities while flourishing well into the future.