Essential Collaboration and Communication Software for SMEs – Business 2 Community

Collaboration and communication software is the lifeblood of business in 2021. With millions of people working remotely worldwide, collaboration tools have become a game-changer for small and medium-sized enterprises.

Why should you consider splurging on Collaboration Tools?

There are many benefits to using collaboration tools in your workplace. Unlike other tools, collaboration tools allow teams to communicate from anywhere and at any time – removing the need for office-based work. Collaboration tools can also:

  • Eliminate meetings and focus resources elsewhere.

Collaboration tools allow you to eliminate team constant team update meetings, as they provide your team members with real-time updates when changes are made to shared projects.

  • Connect when working remotely.

Collaboration tools are tools that help teams work towards common goals and projects digitally. In an age of remote work and decentralized business structures, collaboration tools allow teams to work together online.

  • Increase efficiency with automation

Collaboration tools also allow employees to use their time more effectively, as digital collaboration tools automate many project management, communication, and administration tasks.

NOTE: I have personally got in touch with users and representatives of brands to give you my ultimate verdict.

What are the essential collaboration and communication tools?

No doubt that every business has its own needs. While you may be deploying industry-specific CRM or resource management software, there are some tools on this list that you cannot miss out on.

To help you find the right tools for your team, I’ve compiled some popular options for every type of essential collaboration tool.

Must-Have Writing Aid: Grammarly Business

Before we could dive deep into collab and communication software, we need to make sure we have aid with the backbone of the whole operation… Writing words.

Image Source Grammarly Business

Grammarly Business is my preferred choice since I have been using their B2C product for the longest, and in addition to the features of Grammarly, the business software has…

Key Features:

  • Goal-based suggestions to have consistency amongst all teams when it comes to internal or external communication.
  • Admin panel to monitor communication impact among teams and identity-related security integrations.
Pros Cons
  • Plug and play. No training required.
  • Easy to unlock the true potential of the tool.
  • Integrates with literally every other tool
  • Not niche specific. All words which are field-specific will have to be added to the dictionary manually.
  • Glitches when correcting millennial’s English.

1. Project Management Tools

Project management tools allow your team to map out each project visually. This gives you a permanent, digital record of your project’s process: making project management faster and easier than ever before.

Project management tools are ‘live’ tools, meaning they show project updates in real-time.

There are many advantages to this, as it allows you to see other people’s workloads, track your tasks, and spot any project bottle-necks before they delay the entire project.

Popular project management tools in 2021 include:

Trello

Whether you’re a project-newbie or an experienced manager, Trello is an excellent tool for people who love visual planning. They have recently rolled out updates that help a new user get better acquainted with the software.

Image Source Trello

Key Features:

  • Trello is a corkboard-like tracking tool that sorts projects onto digital ‘boards.’
  • Inside each board, users can move cards into different categories. This is great for tracking the progress of multi-stage projects.
Pros Cons
  • It can be set up in less than 10 minutes.
  • Includes accessibility tools like ‘colorblind friendly mode.’
  • An excellent notification system that makes it easy to see recent changes on boards.
  • Limited storage of 10MB per upload on the free version.
  • It is difficult to manage large-scale projects on Trello.
  • It relies on the Kanban framework, which does not suit many projects.

Nifty

Nifty is an award-winning project management solution used by thousands of forward-thinking teams to help automate workflow processes throughout day-to-day activities.

Image Source Nifty

Key Features:

  • Nifty is a cross-departmental workflow solution that lets teams create milestones, manage tasks, collaborate and create docs + files
  • The tool also includes resource, management, overviews, and time tracking leading to a very scalable way to manage multiple projects.
Pros Cons
  • Very easy to use
  • Guests work for free
  • All in one project management solution
  • Relies on Zapier for many integrations
  • No free plan

Monday

Monday is one of the fastest-growing PMS out there. Small small to large organizations, Monday is equipped to handle it all.

Image Source: Monday.com

Key Features:

  • Monday.com is a visual tool that tracks projects from colorful and interactive spreadsheets, simplifying task management and communication.
  • The tool also includes calendars, maps, timelines, and charts – making it great for large projects.
Pros Cons
  • Very easy to manage data.
  • Quick to set-up, and easy to add new users.
  • Clean, simple design that is easy to learn.
  • Not fully customizable, meaning it isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea.
  • Formulas in spreadsheets can be tricky to use.

BONUS: Asana

Asana is a project management tool that breaks each project down into sections of individual tasks. This is great for businesses with multiple small teams.

Image source Asana

Pros Cons
  • Creates fantastic Gantt charts, making Asana great for project management.
  • Great calendar tool.
  • The file storage system is visually-driven, which does not suit everyone.
  • The mobile app is not as easy to use as the desktop app.

2. Social Media Management

Social media management tools allow teams to manage all brand-owned social media accounts in a central location.

This includes scheduling, posting, and assessing the success of posts. Popular social media management options include:

Sprout Social

Image via Sprout Social

Sprout Social is a multi-platform social media marketing tool. It includes keyword marketing and monitoring tools, customer service, and data analytics tools.

Pros Cons
  • The dashboard gives real-time data and is easy to use.
  • Social media monitoring tools are comprehensive.
  • You can respond to comments through the platform instead of on social media.
  • Integration with Instagram and LinkedIn is sometimes buggy.
  • The platform is geared towards managing a small number of social media accounts, so it isn’t suitable for social media marketing agencies.

Hootsuite

Image via Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a social media management tool built for marketing teams. It includes a content calendar, customizable reports, and data analytics.

Pros Cons
  • Easy to schedule social media posts.
  • Well suited for smaller businesses and teams.
  • Great customer service.
  • Limited keyword functions on the free version.
  • Some users dislike the aesthetic design.
  • Instagram integration can be buggy.

3. Instant Messaging Tools

Instant messaging tools are tools that allow you to chat with team members as a group or one-on-one.

These tools are designed for everyday communication between group members, as they allow you to send images, files, videos, and text-based messages. Popular instant messaging tools include:

Slack

Slack allows teams to communicate on shared boards. Inside each panel, members can communicate one-on-one or through shared ‘threads.’ Slack integrates over 1,500 other programs, making it a popular choice for many small businesses.

Image via Slack

Pros Cons
  • The free version includes a vast number of features.
  • Integrates with over 2,000 apps.
  • Great notification system.
  • Better suited to smaller teams, as chats become crowded quickly.
  • Tracking responses to individual comments can be tricky on mobile.

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams is an instant chat program designed for corporate teams. It is great for businesses that already use other Microsoft programs.

Image via Microsoft

Pros Cons
  • Great for large groups and meetings.
  • Easy to host video and audio calls through the platform.
  • Highly compatible with other Microsoft software.
  • It’s an expensive investment if you don’t already use the Microsoft suite.
  • Best suited to medium-to-large organizations.

JookSMS

As you can guess from the name, JookSMS is an SMS API software that lets you connect with your team and/or clients even when they are offline.

Image source JookSMS

In a time where digital detoxes are getting popular by the day, SMS communication is gaining popularity. Here is a guide you can read about with regards to SMS communication.

Pros Cons
  • Multiple plans to choose from excluding customizable plans.
  • Offline marketing has a higher open rate.
  • Industry-leading legal and technical support.
  • Contact building can be considered intrusive by some as telephone numbers have to be given out.

Arctic Swarm

An Instant Messaging Tool for internal company collaborations. Arctic Swarm takes team collaboration to the next level with an encrypted secure messaging option.

Image source Arctic

  • The rich UI, along with group messaging features, among others, make Aritic Swarm a go-to-platform for teams that rely on the ‘work together’ motto.
Pros Cons
  • Engage in interactive messaging with text formatting, emojis, sharing, and internal team collaboration
  • Update your status messages for your teammates to see
  • Create message rooms or groups as well as engage in one-on-one messaging
  • IOS not available
  • Video Calling is under improvement

Workast

Workast is a task and project management solution for Slack users. Rated the best project management solution by Slack itself, Workast helps teams get more done faster.

Image via Workast

Pros Cons
  • Easy UI and integrations.
  • Free and paid versions.
  • Customization and plenty of features.
  • Must be a Slack user.

4. Video Collaboration Tools

Video collaboration tools allow businesses to hold virtual meetings, conferences, and events over video chat.

While video collaboration tools have been around for a long time, the technology is continuously improving – making video collaboration accessible for teams globally. Popular video collaboration tools include:

Zoom

Zoom is a straightforward video collaboration tool that is easy for everyone to use. It is great for small meetings and brief encounters. It also has a range of free features.

Image via Zoom

Pros Cons
  • It takes seconds to connect to a group call.
  • It’s easy to set up a virtual meeting, as Zoom sends out invites for you
  • Good screen sharing features.
  • Limited recording features on the free version.
  • Privacy is an issue for some users, as group calls are accessible to anyone with a link.

BlueJeans

BlueJeans is a video conferencing software that allows you to video chat, share screens, and map out ideas on a whiteboard. It uses directional audio – making it perfect for longer meetings and events.

Image via BlueJeans

Pros Cons
  • Fantastic audio quality.
  • Accessible to schedule meetings on your calendar.
  • All meetings are recorded.
  • Video quality is not as good as the audio quality.
  • You can’t change the background (like in Zoom).

BONUS: MeetFox

MeetFox is an online meeting tool used by over 10,000 consultants and freelancers to book meetings, video conferences, and accept payments. MeetFox provides a secure and reliable way to speak with clients and monetize meeting time.

Image via MeetFox

Pros Cons
  • Highly responsive software with great user reviews.
  • Integrated payments enabler.
  • Integrates with almost any other PMS.
  • Will take time to get used to the UI elements.

5. Mind Mapping and Brainstorming Tools

Mind mapping and brainstorming tools allow teams to collaborate creatively as if they were in a stable, in-office environment.

These tools allow users to create maps with digital design tools, templates, and free-hand drawing. This is great for small teams, managers, and marketing professionals. Popular mind mapping tools include:

ClickUp

ClickUp is a project management tool that allows you to map out tasks and projects with a drag-and-drop mindmap. This makes it great for businesses that use mind maps as a project management tool.

Image via ClickUp

Pros Cons
  • Mapping tools make it easy to monitor the progress of projects.
  • Great Gantt charts.
  • Each task has extensive features, giving you lots of flexibility.
  • The layout can take a while to get used to.
  • It is suited for visual-thinkers.

Ayoa

Ayoa is a collaborative mind mapping tool that allows you to create colorful maps and wheels with text, images, and symbols. Ayoa is great for small teams collaborating on ongoing projects together.

Image via Ayoa

Pros Cons
  • The whiteboard is very easy to use.
  • Ayoa tracks changes so that you can see recent changes easily.
  • The interface is unique and takes time to learn.
  • Not suited for project management.

Creately

Creately is a flexible mapping tool that allows you to create a wide range of charts, maps, and images. Creately has a wide range of design options, making it great for presentations and infographics development.

Image via Creately

Pros Cons
  • The platform can be customized to your preferences.
  • Extensive image-editing options.
  • There are plenty of templates available.
  • There is a document limit on the free version.
  • Creately no longer uses Flash.

6. Secure File Sharing

File sharing tools allow you to store files in a digital location that anyone within your team can access. This is great for collaborative groups, as file sharing tools are fast, cyber-secure, and remove the hassle of sending files through email.

Popular file-sharing options include:

Google Drive

Google Drive is a web-based file-sharing platform that allows you to share Google documents quickly and easily. Google Drive gives you complete control over your documents and who can edit them.

Image via Google

Pros Cons
  • Easy to share documents between people.
  • Suggesting edits is quick-and-easy.
  • Extensive free storage is available.
  • Text editing options are less extensive than the Microsoft suite.
  • Long documents sometimes become buggy.

Dropbox

Dropbox is both desktop-based and web-based and allows you to store files in the cloud. Dropbox files can be easily downloaded by anyone with access, making Dropbox a great way to record team resources.

Pros Cons
  • Dropbox is very secure.
  • Easy way to share folders with large groups of people.
  • Storage space on the free version is limited.
  • Best suited for small teams.

7. Contract & Legal Collaboration Tools

SwiftCloud eSign with Doc Collaboration

SwiftCloud joins the field of electronic signature apps, but with some unique features as part of a growing holistic suite.

Their “Smart Doc” system allows for embedding of images, uploading of files, if-then conditional logic, “snippet assembly”, and real-time sales collaboration designed for a one-call-close.

Multiple signers can be chained into automation strings based on role, and the system stores all signed docs, along with any corresponding uploads or payment info, in a shared collaboration workroom.

Pros Cons
  • Powerful. Excellent support.
  • Has unique features we’ve not seen in any other eSign / Document Automation platform
  • Excellent choice for all-in-one eDocs platform with dozens of document types.
  • Can be somewhat complex to set up if the doc logic or live workflow itself is complex, although done-for-you support is available.
  • Some integrations may require an “API Bridge” like Zapier

Conclusion: Find a cocktail of software that best suits your needs.

While it may seem like there is an overwhelming number of collaboration software options, choosing the right software for you is as simple as one, two, three.

  1. Establish why you need the software and what problem you want it to solve.
  2. Identify potential software options.
  3. Choose the option that is most compatible with your team culture, your budget, and your existing business processes.

Hope this article gives you an insight into the industry and all the software out there you could use to communicate and collaborate efficiently.