Collaboration Tools Save the Day

This post was originally published in the Sunday, May 10, 2020 edition of Foster's and Seacoast Sunday.

As businesses continue to work remotely or in new ways due to the pandemic, collaboration tools have really saved the day. Many companies were already using collaboration tools before the current situation took hold and, since, many more have adopted them for good reason.

Collaboration tools like Slack and Teams keep people connected regardless of geography, time zone, etc. They have been a staple of larger organizations for years in many different forms. With so many employees now working from home, these tools have become critical to maintaining productivity and real-time communication across teams of people.

Some people think of these tools as chat applications, but they are so much more. Yes, chat is a key piece of functionality that collaboration platforms deliver. There is no doubt that it is incredibly useful to be able to message and talk with a colleague in real time. It can also be more than a one-on-one conversation. You can create chats with more than one person or create what are known as channels in Slack or Teams in Teams to bring groups of individuals together to collaborate on their work.

Another very useful capability is the ability to bring in people from outside your organization to these chats. If you are part of a working group that includes outside parties, you can invite the outside parties in as quests to your collaboration platform. In doing so, you can include them in more than just simple chat. You can share files and collaborate on them in real time, right from within the collaboration tool.

Video is also a key part of these tools. You are able to have video chats, with makes the communication more personal and not as sterile as a text chat. I know some organizations that have given all of their remote employees webcams and some of their teams maintain an open video chat throughout the day so they can talk with one another in real time and see one another to maintain a more personal connection like they do when working from the office.

In addition to one-to-one or one-to-many communication, these tools also allow many more capabilities that are very useful during these times and will likely remain so when people come back to the office. You can use these tools for voice calls and in the case of Teams, Microsoft has built in complete phone system capabilities so that you can actually use Teams as your phone system, extending your capabilities from the office to any connected employee, wherever they may be.

These tools also integrate with many popular third party tools that people use. Popular tools like Zoom, Cisco’s WebEx, Asana and Trello to name a few, all integrate with these collaboration tools, making them a true central hub of productivity for your business.

If you have not explored these tools, I encourage you to do so. If you have implemented them, especially if you are relying on them to keep your business productive during the pandemic shutdown, be thinking about how to maintain this productivity as your business returns to your traditional office-based operations. Look at all of the available integrations and make your selected collaboration tool the one productivity hub for your business.