Since the pandemic has started, there has been an increase in the use of online collaboration tools. According to a survey conducted by Gartner, almost 80% of workers used online collaboration tools in 2021!
We use them a lot at Lounjee because as you may know, we have a fully remote team. Thanks to online collaboration tools, it’s easy to communicate and work together even if we are not side-by-side and work from different countries. Let me share my all-time favorites with you.
What are the different types of online collaboration tools?
Before giving you tool names, let’s define what are the different types of online collaboration tools and what they are used for.
- Video conferencing tools: They allow you to jump on a video call with your coworkers. You can use them for online meetings or gatherings. They allow you to share your screen and enable or disable your camera and microphone. There is usually an area to type messages and send files. Some solutions also integrate backgrounds, and webinar features such as a “raise hand” option, Q&A section, polls and so on.
- File sharing and editing tools: These tools are great because they can handle multiple users editing the same file at the same time. You no longer need to send your Word doc back and forth a thousand times to your colleagues so that they can review your changes. Changes history is available: you can see who edited which part and you can easily restore the previous version in one click. You will no longer be confused about whether or not you have the latest version because everything is updated live everywhere. Some tools allow you to assign different roles to your collaborators. That way, you can restrict editing and commenting to a few designated people.
- Online storage: Storage is an important topic when collaborating online because you want to make sure that all your files are safely stored and accessible by everyone in your team. It would be a shame if the hours spent working as a team on a project were to go up in smoke because of a backup issue.
- Whiteboards: As the name suggests, whiteboard tools improve collaboration by allowing you to take notes on a large, interactive board. These tools are usually very visual, with post it notes, shapes, colors and many other elements that facilitate the exchange of ideas and brainstorming. Most whiteboard solutions offer pre-configured templates to organize and facilitate team meetings and workshops.
- Communication: This is a delicate subject, especially when you don’t have the opportunity to meet face to face. Indeed, communication is mainly non-verbal. According to a study conducted by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, 55% of our personal communication comes from our body language, 38% from our voice and its tone and only 7% from the words we speak. This is why it is important to use tools that will facilitate remote communication, whether synchronous or asynchronous.
- Design: When it comes to design, we all know Photoshop and the Adobe suite, which does a fantastic job. However, there are online tools dedicated to design that are designed to be used by multiple collaborators at the same time, just like office tools. You can use them to create simple visuals but also create more complex prototypes. Whether it’s to test a new idea or to give better guidelines to the people you work with, design tools will be of great help.
- Project management: Finally, we must not forget the more general project management tools. Especially if you are working with a large team or on a large project. Online project management tools will allow you to follow the progress of the project and the team members themselves. Everyone will be able to see what others are working on and better manage their own work. These tools help you gain productivity.
In summary, online collaboration tools allow you to:
- Distribute tasks among all team members
- Increase productivity
- Optimize your files storage and archives
- Work easily from different countries and time zones
Now that you know the different types of collaboration tools, I am going to give you my top 3 tools for each category.
Video conferencing tools
The video conferencing tools below are quite similar in terms of features. The important criterias to differentiates them are:
- Audio and video quality
- Ease if use
- Data security
- Access time for host and guests
File sharing and editing
While Google Docs and Dropbox Paper have really clean and professional interfaces, Notion is a great tool to add some fun to document editing when collaborating online.
If you have a Gmail account, you’re probably familiar with Google Drive and their storage facilitates collaboration within an organization. But because it’s so easy to create and share a new Google doc, I have the feeling that Google Drive can quickly be messy. Whereas Dropbox and OneDrive tend to be more organized and it’s easier to keep control of your files there.
If you’re looking for a basic whiteboard that is incredibly easy to use, I would recommend Jamboard. Otherwise, Miro and Mural are better options because they offer a full set of features for collaboration.
There are plenty of communication tools online so it wasn’t easy to pick only three. Each tool below has a specific role and all of them complement one another.
I couldn’t talk about collaboration tools without mentioning design tools. Even if Adobe has an amazing suite of design tools, in some cases online collaboration tools are just as good and a lot easier to use.
Last but not least, let’s talk about project management tools. When working with a remote team, it’s not always easy to keep track of the work in progress. This is why you need a project management tool so that everyone on the team can see where others are at.
All tools have their pros and cons. In the end, what matters most is to pick the right tool for you and your collaborators. There’s no need to choose an over complicated tool for your team if you are working on a small project and your colleagues are not tech-savvy. Choose tools that can be easily used by everyone. Before introducing a new tool, you should also make sure that your team actually needs it. Using online collaboration tools will help you save a lot of time and be more productive as a team.