If you’re running a small business, you’re probably on the look-out for collaboration tools. We don’t need to tell you how important being able to work efficiently as a team is. More and more people are realising that collaboration might actually be the most powerful business tool around, and when you’re embarking on a project as intensive and demanding as starting a small business, you’re almost guaranteed to realise that sharing the workload is a huge relief – if not a necessity.
And after you’ve passed the initial stages, collaboration doesn’t become any less important. In fact, keeping the team working steadily and together is one of a small business owner’s most important jobs! But given the rapid increase in flexible working it’s not always as straightforward as sitting down for a mid-morning coffee together every day or two. You might even have employees who live on opposite ends of the country, or outside the country altogether!
So how do you keep everything running cohesively and smoothly, and make sure everybody stays in the loop? These are not just really important aspects of being a good employer to remote staff, they’re crucial to running a successful enterprise. And even if everybody does work on-site, with so much work being carried out digitally, it makes sense to consider collaboration technology when you’re thinking about innovating your business.
Of course, there’s so much out there these days that picking what’s right for you can seem overwhelming. And as a small business, you probably don’t want to be spending exorbitant amounts on collaborative tools every month. That’s why we’ve put together a list of some of our top, low-cost picks for small business collaboration.
Basecamp is one of those apps which is more like a whole toolbelt in itself than just one tool – just have a scroll through its list of features. It’s a really great way to make sure everyone knows what’s happening, what their jobs are, and when they need to get stuff done. Each project has a dedicated schedule where you can fill in different deadlines and events to make sure everybody knows what’s coming up.
Users can also create to-do lists so that they have an easy-to-read summary of everything they should be getting on with . You can choose who to assign different tasks to, attach notes and files, and add comments to tasks. Best of all, you can track the work with Basecamp’s Hill Charts feature. These charts make it easy to see how a project is going, and whether people are struggling with any aspect of it. You get to see progress at a glance in an easy-to-understand graphic, which is really helpful for the project you’re working on, as well as for planning how to execute future projects. History snapshots show your progress over time, and you can add notes to each update, or respond with comments or Boosts to keep people on-track and motivated.
In fact, there are lots of communication options through Basecamp: email forwards, direct messages, check-in questions, real-time group chat, and message boards, as well as the ability to share work directly with file and document storage. You can even integrate client communication!
Basecamp is great in that it covers so much ground, but it is a pricier option at $99/month. But it includes pretty much everything, and an unlimited number of users! So if you think you’d use all these features, it might work out much cheaper than finding individual providers for each function.
It’s super simple to use. You create a board for each project you have in the works, and then invite everybody who’s working on it. Then you can add cards for different tasks which need to be completed, with three categories headed To Do, Doing, and Done – makes sense! Each card has to option to put in more details, due dates, checklists, comments and more. You can also create cards which just share information you want to organise.
It’s a really useful tool for making sure that nothing gets forgotten or delayed, and it lets you integrate different apps which your team might already be using, too.
If customisation is your thing, we know why you will like Mondays! From the outset, Monday is tailored to your specific needs and desires. You start by picking the template which is best suited to the project or work at hand. But don’t worry – you aren’t committing to a set format! First of all, you can use as many different templates as you need to address all your different workflows. And these are just starting points, anyway. You can customise the pre-designed templates however you see fit!
You can use visual features like columns to make it really easy to see and understand the relevant information quickly. Monday also lets you track how long different tasks take, who’s running which tasks, add comments, numbers, lines – whatever you might need.
By planning timelines, you’ll be able to map out project tasks and know that everybody knows what they’re expected to complete, and by when. You can also have peace of mind about your own progress with easy-to see deadlines and notifications about everything that needs to be done. The Overview feature is also a really great way to keep an eye on and boost productivity.
With this neat little tool, you’ll be able to keep all your conversations, files, sheets, checklists and briefs all together for quick, efficient access. For businesses with fewer than 5 users, you can opt for the Basic package for $25/month, while standard, pro and enterprise go up to $39, $59, and $118 respectively.
Another really great free option, Evernote is a gem of a tool for information organising, collating and sharing. On it, you can type up notes with relevant attachments, web pages, or audio memos. You can then merge, sort, and group your different notes from tasks or projects in different notebooks. There’s even the function to create indices or contents lists of the links in each book, so getting to the information you’re looking for, quickly, is easy. You could also search for specific keywords to find what you need, or add another level of grouping with the tag feature. And yes, Evernote can even search within handwritten notes which you’ve scanned!
The Spaces feature is where it really comes into its own for collaborative purposes. This is where you can keep all of the team’s ideas, notes, and inspiration. From here, everybody can easily access any information or resources they need, and upload what they’ve been working on. Plus, the to-do lists and reminders make planning meetings, setting deadlines and staying on-track simple.
You can get the Basic option totally free, or upgrade to Premium for as little as $7.99/month. Even Evernote Business comes in at just $14.99, which is a bargain when you think about how much Evernote could do for you.
It’s pretty much accepted wisdom at this point that conference calling can work wonders for most businesses, and in fact even non-businesses! It’s found its place across industries, from teleconferencing for legal firms to helping make medicine more accessible through telecommunications, to expanding the reach of educational materials, to promoting new musical endeavours and so many things in between!
At the end of the day, being able to have a straightforward conversation can be the easiest, quickest and best way to communicate. But with Call.Group, you can make a straightforward conversation even more powerful than a face-to-face meeting.
With features like HD video, live chat, file sharing and document presentation, you can very easily report back on tasks and projects and work through a document as a team in real-time, from different corners of the planet.
And after the meeting’s finished, you’ll really feel the benefits of web conferencing! Call.Group provides users with audio recordings of their meetings, as well as audio transcription so that you have records of your meetings that you can read and listen back to whenever you want to remind yourself of what was said. Even better, the smart search function means you can easily find the specific section you’re trying to refer back to, so you don’t need to go through the whole meeting!
Organisation is clean and simple too: you can import your contacts, integrate your calls to your calendar, and schedule recurring meetings ahead of time.