5 Collaboration Tools That Will Improve Team Synergy

Collaboration is the cornerstone upon which great team dynamics are built.  Technology has afforded us the opportunity to work remotely in a seamless fashion, which for small business owners is a huge win.  As paper piles shrink and the nebulous "cloud" expands, the need for a go-to solution that empowers and integrates teams has become paramount. 

Here are five tools that can improve your collaboration capability: 

1.  Asana

Fresh off of a user interface makeover, Asana is a great tool that enables users to converse, share files, and tackle tasks together.  A free account grants access to a pretty extensive suite of services.  Upon registration, users create Workspaces.  Workspaces are the highest level component of the tool. They are primarily used to reflect organizational entities.  Contributors are invited to the workspace by the workspace owner, which grants full access.  Within each workspace, users create projects to align with different bodies of work that they are delivering.  Projects are comprised of tasks, which can be organized by section (read: Project Phases).  Each task can be assigned an owner, due date, and a set of followers. 

2.  Google Apps

Google, a pioneer in the world of collaboration, offers a suite of services that is really blazing trails in their crossover from personal to business use.  

After the short lived glimpse of Google Wave, Google poured all of its marbles into building a full-service smorgasbord suitable for any need.  Google account owners have access to several tools that are conducive to team synergy. 

Google Hangouts is the chat/video messaging tool that is changing the way that we connect with each other.  In Hangouts, users can instant message each other or create a collaboration space on-demand.  Within the collaboration space, users can share screens, video chat, and transfer files.  For those that meet regularly, users can create a permalink to publish to users. 

Google Drive is Google's document repository.  In Drive, users can create, upload, and download spreadsheets amongst several other types of documents (e.g. - presentations, text files).  Drive offers real-time collaboration within documents and the ability to track revision history for each file.  Each user's inputs are color-coded to avoid overwrites. Document owners can organize documents by folder and share with contributors or reviewers.  Privacy is inherited from the parent directory, which assures that the right users have access to the right things. 

3.  Slack 

Slack is a web-based messaging application modeled to elevate the way that teams communicate.  The registration process is minimal and cost is FREE for an unlimited number of people.  A team is created by simply entering your organization name and the name of your "slack address" (unique URL used by contributors to connect). 

Once in, users are privy to "channels", which are essentially chat rooms geared towards a specific topic.  By default, "general" and "random" chat rooms are created within every organization.  From a security perspective, channels can be public or private.  Users are also able to send direct messages to one another.  Conversations in channels are amplified through use of the "files" and "posts" functions.  

Slack offers a powerful search function, which allows users to search not only for messages, but for documents as well. Search results can be narrowed through use of modifiers such as "before:", "from:", or "in:". Additionally, users are able to upload files (images, documents, etc.) or create posts (example: an written excerpt ready for proofreading) by clicking the '+' button at the message input window.  Programmers can tag-team coding efforts by using the Snippet function, which allows users to specify the code's native language and share code with others. 

With shortcuts and icons galore, Slack sets its users up for both seamless collaboration and improved productivity.  

4.  Evernote

Evernote is a great way to organize your thoughts and share them with others. Evernote's base unit is the user-created workspace, known as a note, where users "dump" any and everything that comes to mind.  By design, notes can have a "gumbo effect" as users drag/drop images, rich text, files, or tables into the same space.  Notes are organized into notebooks, which typically represent a project or topic or organizational entity.  The use of tags enables a much more granular level of indexing.  Information in Evernote can be shared at the note or notebook level.  Or, for those who are more inclined for social, Evernote offers a social sharing function that enables collaboration with Facebook users.  

On the collaborative front, the "Work Chat" function gives users the opportunity to share notes in an isolated window and converse.  From the chat window, users can make their edits or search for text in titles.  

Basic accounts are FREE.  Plus and Premium accounts offer more storage space and extended functionality for up to $50/year. 

5.  Wrike

Wrike, primarily marketed as a project management tool, also offers a lot in the way of collaboration.  There are two levels to consider when registering: professional and enterprise. The "Professional" level is tailored to small teams, whereas "Enterprise" is a much more intense, broad design.  

Work in Wrike is organized by projects.  Within projects, tasks are organized and assigned to project members.  Each task may have a panel for comments and multiple contributors. Contributors can also attach files for additional context.

Users, via the Activity Stream, can communicate directly by way of mentions, which trigger a notification.  All mentions, messages, and assignments are visible in both the "Mentions" window and/or a user's inbox.  The "Dashboard" view gives a more macro outlook on the overall progress of the team through its use of widgets, which are selected by the user based on the information desired.  

Wrike's service offering expands by way of the various integrations offered with third party applications.  Users can configure various mail clients and Google Apps to elevate their Wrike experience.