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Practical Application: Choosing the Best Collaboration Tool for Business

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

Online collaboration tools allow co-workers to do everything from videoconferencing to sharing files to managing projects. In this activity, you'll find two scenarios where you need to pick the best collaboration tool.

Working Together

Collaboration is an important characteristic in a healthy workplace. Co-workers need to be able to communicate with colleagues in different departments and other offices. They need to know where each other person on a project stands with their tasks or assignments. And, they need to be able to share files seamlessly between devices no matter where they are.

Choosing which collaboration tool is the best fit for your organization depends on what you want to do with it.

  • Project management software tools, like Basecamp, Capterra and Flow, allow workers to chat about tasks, share files and keep up-to-date on project deadlines, all inside of a single program.
  • Document tools, like Google Docs, help teams create, share, upload, download, and edit Word-like documents and Excel-like spreadsheets.
  • Communication tools, like Yammer or Slack, let you video conference, chat or follow important topics or leaders in your company.
  • Presentation tools, like PowerPoint, Slideshare, Prezi, Vcasmo, and Google Drive, help you deliver online presentations and provide team members with visual aids, printable handouts and other supplemental materials for pitches and meetings.
  • Cloud-based collaborative mind mapping programs, like Coggle or MindMeister, help teams conduct virtual creativity sessions.

So, how do you know which is the best fit when you're collaborating across time and space? Take a look at these scenarios and, using what you know about collaboration tools, decide what program would be the best fit. Write down your responses to the questions posed at the end of each scenario.

Scenario #1

Tracy and Dave are working on coordinating their company's big annual event coming up in September. There's only one problem: Tracy and Dave work in their company's San Francisco and Denver offices, respectively. Since they don't get to sit down and hash out details face to face, they're looking for a collaboration tool that will let communicate with each other day-to-day and as problems arise.

Practical Application

  • How can Tracy and Dave benefit from collaborative tools?
  • What capabilities do Tracy and Dave need to work together as a team?
  • What type of collaboration tool do you think would be the best fit for Tracy and Dave?
  • Are there any drawbacks to consider?

Assessing Your Answers

Collaborative tools can benefit Tracy and Dave by helping them stay connected on a day-to-day basis, even though they work in separate offices. Although traditional communication methods, such as phone and email, work well for general communications, other collaboration tools, such as video conferencing, can allow them to see each other's facial expressions and body language as they communicate about the upcoming event. Project management software tools, like Basecamp, Capterra and Flow, can also help Tracy and Dave chat daily about tasks, share files and keep up-to-date on event planning milestones. And presentation tools may help them conduct meetings with other team members about the upcoming event.

There are some drawbacks to consider. If Tracy and Dave are not familiar with these tools, they may have trouble using them, which will slow them down and make the event planning more time consuming. Technical issues, such as slow Internet connections and compatibility issues, could also create problems for Tracy and Dave as they try to communicate with video conferencing tools.

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