Collaboration Articles

Collaboration Tools – Purpose-Built or Integrated, What’s Best?

by Hadley Jones
Published on 22 July 2014

WMF_Mobile_Apps_539_413Two heads have always been better than one. With the possibilities of communication over the web, those heads can be separated by thousands of miles - but that's OK if they're connected via good collaboration tools. Those tools have come a long way from the office conference calls and messaging of yesterday. Now with mobile and cloud computing, collaboration doesn't even need fixed locations or times anymore. Collaboration tool functionality may include:

  • Messaging via video, voice and text (keyboard) chat.
  • Blogging and microblogging (micro blogs allow users to exchange small pieces of content such as a sentence, an images, or a link.)
  • Wiki or Question and Answer spaces.
  • Forums for discussions and expression of ideas and opinions.
  • Social networking features to build and manage relationship-linked groups of people.

The Stand-Alone-to-Integrated Continuum

So should collaboration apps be stand-alone, specialized software applications - or integrated into other applications for project management for instance? Some app vendors have added features to allow users to cross over from one category to the other more easily.

  • Standalone collaboration tools often provide a full range of collaboration options including all those listed above and possibly others such as gamification (adding elements of fun or competition to collaborative activities.)
  • Standalone collaboration tools may have interfaces to other applications such as office productivity software (word-processing or spreadsheet programs, for instance.)
  • Collaboration tool modules can be used by themselves, and are also part of a family of several applications that may include task management, document management, or others. When these apps are made by the same vendor, they should fit together easily and effectively.
  • Integrated collaboration tools form an inseparable part of other applications. You can expect these tools to be exact fits and give you seamless collaboration possibilities from customer service management, contract management, etc.

Standalone for Everyone, Integrated for Functional Experts?

As you'd guess, there are pros and cons to each approach. Integrated collaboration tools encourage users of specific applications to share and construct together. But they don't necessarily attract the managers and executives who should set the example for good collaboration. It's here that standalone collaboration tools may have the advantage. They require little or no specialist or expert functional skills, and can be used by all roles in an organization, whether senior management, team leaders, team members or external participants.

Top Collaboration Tools

Atlassian Confluence

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Confluence collaborative software and wiki comes from Atlassian, the company that's busy doing for software what Apple has done for design. It's wiki software (collaborative addition, modification and deletion of content) that is popular with users for key wiki aspects such as administration, editing and document conversions. Individual wikis can be created on an unlimited basis, making it suitable for company-wide use. User and group permissions are granular for teams and departments to define for themselves. Blogs are available for each wiki created, pages created can be saved as templates, and content can be ported into Microsoft Word. Sharing with team members, status updates and content change alerts are also part of the app.

eXo

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eXo social platform positions itself as an enterprise social platform with bias towards content management. The social graph (map of relationships between users) and activity streams (list of recent user activities) are integral parts of eXo, which is also secure, robust and standards based. Users can benefit from wikis, forums, calendars and shared documents that leverage a common social networking capability. These can be used as internal tools for streamlining publication processes, and also offered to engage external web visitors. The wikis feature templates, searching and cross-linking among other functions, while the forum capabilities include for moderation, polls, locking and pruning. Document management, portal creation, calendaring, mobile access and ease of localization are also available.

Project Bubble

Project Bubble project management and collaboration tool focuses not only on making it easy for you, but a simple experience for your client to use - it's so simple that it touts a five-minute learning curve. Like all good project management software, Project Bubble allows you to create tasks and subtasks, assign to various team members, and then drag-and-drop to prioritize. It allows you to not only budget time but money as well. Plus it allows you to customize your collaboration with Gantt Charts, and to automate recurring task. It then turns all this data into easy-to-read charts. It also includes secure file sharing for you scattered team or client base.

Redbooth

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Virtual teams are the target for Redbooth's collaboration functionality. These activities and projects of these distributed teams with their potential and their challenges can be organized by using the communications and task management capabilities of Redbooth business collaboration software. Task creation, visibility and reporting are complemented by file and content management, while team communication allows for immediate conversion of discussions to tasks. HD video conferencing, screen sharing and group chat facilitate real time interactions, while users can also create and respond to tasks and conversations in Redbooth via their email interfaces. Gmail and Outlook become handy tools for staying in sync with the rest of the team and making quick checks on the status and progress of different projects.

Communifire (Axero)

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With its app Communifire enterprise social collaboration software, Axero has integrated collaboration tools, social networking and knowledge sharing into one platform with built-in scalability and flexibility. Locational, organizational and time-zone barriers can be broken down to leverage collective talent and expertise to improve solutions, decisions and innovation. The team collaboration module lets users manage their projects, tasks, teams and people, using the power of a social intranet and community management. Blogging and intuitive file management functionality, content management, photo and video sharing, polls, job boards, and gamification all go to enhance collaboration. The social media capability includes the use of tags, #hashtags, and 'Likes'. A customer service module lets users build and maintain customer relationships. The platform can also be customized to fit particular enterprise profiles.

TallyFox Cluster

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Bringing knowledge and expert resources together with intelligent collaboration is what TallyFox is designed to do. TallyFox Cluster integrated knowledge, content and project management's mission is to create knowledge networks around important sectors. Collaborative features include the possibility to build libraries of valuable material, run expert searches, socialize and work with colleagues and team members on the same projects and issues. TallyFox is in fact three apps using a common platform: Networks, for communities and large organizations; Clusters, for project managers across multiple departments; and Event Fox, for event managers. A new network from event attendance built with Event Fox can be then managed within Clusters and scaled as membership increases to reach Network level. Each Cluster has dedicated chat, voice and web conference meeting spaces and blogs, microblogs, discussions, messaging and status updates are also included.

Ready to try a collaboration tool for your own enterprise? Try these collaboration tool user reviews to see how other people liked them, or see which web collaboration apps could suit you. Then see how they can work for you in real life, for example by choosing a few to try out from vendors offering free trial collaboration software versions.


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