We've all experienced the pitfalls of collaborating through email alone, with endless threads where important information gets buried or even lost. What's more, email does nothing to get us out of our departmental silos, so we miss out on opportunities to collaborate across teams.
In this article, we'll take a look at why businesses should use dedicated collaboration software instead of email, and why it's so important to find the right platform for your business.
Then, we'll compare two popular platforms—Slack and Google Hangouts—around some crucial collaboration functionalities.
Over a third of employees (39 percent) feel that their organizations don't collaborate well enough, while three out of four employers rate teamwork and collaboration as "very important."
If you're using email as your primary method of collaboration, keep this in mind: A study by the Danwood Group found that it takes an average of 64 seconds to recover from an interruption due to an email and return to the previous rate of work. That's over a minute per email. How many emails do your employees get per day? Think about the impact that's having on productivity.
Here are some of the ways collaboration software can help your business get away from email overload and improve operations while increasing collaboration:
Improved communication: Collaboration tools facilitate quick communication among multiple stakeholders through group chats, videoconferencing, and messages (via web or mobile apps) no matter where they are or which device they're using.
Better accuracy when sharing information: Real-time chats, messaging, and private channels give users immediate and firsthand knowledge sharing, so the chance of losing or diluting information is lower.
Strengthens employee relationships: Flexibility in communication channels increases dialogue among workers, leading to stronger relationships among employees. This can cultivate a better company culture. It also allows employees to find more opportunities to collaborate, which ensures better optimization of resources and better output as opposed to a more siloed environment.
Boosts productivity and individual performance: Software saves users time and speeds up communication, as people can work directly from the platform with chat rooms and direct messaging or through strategic integrations with the tools they already use. Look for scalable software that integrates well with existing tools, ensuring better value for money. A consolidated communications solution also minimizes administration and infrastructure costs.
According to a report by Alfresco, 59 percent of workers experience challenges with their collaboration tools. That number jumps to 71 percent when looking at millennials only (adults born after 1980).
These challenges could be due to a number of factors, including lack of necessary features or difficulty of use.
To ensure success with your team's collaboration tool, look for platforms that offer the following key features:
Audio and video calling/conferencing: Lets users collaborate with more than one colleague at a time across several locations.
Real-time chat functionality and messaging: Allows users to send messages to multiple users at a time, as well as private messages.
File sharing: Users can share PDF, JPEG, Excel, and other types of files with remote colleagues to collaborate from a central location.
Both Slack and Google Hangouts offer these three key functionalities, albeit with some variation between them. Below, we'll compare the two platforms around these three key collaboration functions.
Audio and video calling with Slack
With Slack's free plan, you can open the direct messaging window and click on the phone icon (or camera icon if it's a video call) to start a one-on-one call (group calls are not available with the free version). A "Do Not Disturb" feature silences notifications during calls.
With the paid plan, you can start a group call by opening a Slack channel and clicking on the phone icon. You can also share your screen and invite others to interact on the content that is being shared. Up to 15 members can join the call using Mac, Windows, and Linux by clicking on the link for the call, or you can use the slash command (/call) to start a call instantly.
Slack also allows users to call other apps such as Google Hangouts, Skype, WebEx, and appear.in. Users must have one of those apps installed for a Slack user to be able to call them.
Caption: Video calling in Slack (Source: slackhq.com)
Audio and video calling with Google Hangouts
In Google Hangouts, voice calls from Hangouts to Hangouts are free. You can start a call by typing the name of the person you want to contact and clicking on the phone receiver icon.
Up to 10 people can participate in a video call for free. Even if recipients don't have a Google account, they can still attend video calls by clicking on the shared URL for the meeting.
Making voice calls from Android and iOS phones is also possible with the Hangouts mobile app, but some charges may apply depending on the country you're calling. If you want to use Hangouts to call landlines or mobile phones from your computer, you need a Google Voice or Project Fi account. Both are only available in the United States.
Caption: Video calling in Google Hangouts (Source: GetApp.com)
Chat and text messaging with Slack
Slack lets you to send real-time messages to one person or a group of people (up to 9 people including you). You can also create private channels for direct messaging another user.
To participate in a group conversation, log in to Slack and choose the colleague you want to chat with, and start typing your message at the bottom of the screen. You can tag specific colleagues within a channel using the @ symbol. You can also add emojis or "react" to other users' messages with an emoji to let them know you've read it.
By integrating Slack with tools such as Zapier's SMS tool, users can send SMS messages directly from Slack to non-Slack users as well. Users can also star messages and send them via SMS.
Caption: Instant messaging to a group in a Slack channel (Source: slack.com)
Chat and text messaging with Google Hangouts
In Google Hangouts, you can send one-to-one messages or start a group chat with up to 150 participants.
Google Hangouts allows users to continue chats across devices. Sending text messages through Google Hangouts is not free, but you can send and receive SMS with a Google Voice account. Unlike Slack, Google Hangouts does not offer chat rooms or threads for discussions.
Caption: Start a Google Hangouts chat from your inbox (Source: gsuite.google.com)
File sharing and storage in Slack
On the desktop version, Slack lets you drag and drop files directly into the chat window to share them. To share images, you can copy and paste them into the message box, or to upload any file type, you can click on the plus icon and select the file from your computer.
On the Android and iOS mobile apps, you can click on the paperclip icon and share files through a direct message or chat, or by creating a public link.
Feedback from colleagues can be consolidated in the comments section of a shared file as a document goes through the internal review process, and you can mark files as "important" by starring them to keep them handy for future reference.
Slack offers three pricing plans, each with a different storage capacity. The free plan offers 5GB in total, the Standard plan offers 10GB per team member, and the Plus plan offers 20GB per team member.
Caption: File sharing in Slack (Source: Slack.com)
File sharing and storage in Google Hangouts
Users of Google Hangouts can share image files directly in a chat window. However, to share Word, Excel, and other file types, users must use Google Drive, which offers 15GB of cloud storage included in the free version. You can upload files on Google Drive by dragging and dropping them onto your Drive or a specific folder, and share them with selected users or with everyone by creating a shareable link.
You can also allow your colleagues to work on the shared documents by giving them editing permission, or you can limit access to "view only." Drive also offers a "suggesting" mode, where anybody with permission can suggest changes to the document.
G Suite offers 30GB storage space in Google Drive with its Basic pricing plan. With the Business and Enterprise plans, Google Drive offers unlimited cloud storage (or 1TB per user for fewer than five users).
Caption: File sharing and editing in Google Drive (Source: GetApp.com)
Here we've gone in depth about two widely used collaboration tools. For more details on these platforms or to learn more about collaborations tools in general, check out the following GetApp resources: