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Workplace Collaboration Technologies: Comparing the Best of Best.

Organizations of all sizes have turned to online collaboration and communication tools to get their employees out of their inbox and back to work. Collaboration software has a variety of meanings, and it covers a broad category of apps and services. Every client you service will have different needs.

In order to figure out what will work best for each customer, you must dive deep into their office culture and try to understand their collaboration needs.

Is their team located in one office or spread out across offices all over the world—or is their entire team is remote? Discovering the right collaboration technology for the company to adopt will help employees and CIO's can be stronger and more productive. Plus, there are as many uses for online collaboration software as there are benefits.

The Benefits of Collaboration Technology

In today’s digital world, most offices are likely already using some tools for collaboration. Right now, they may feel that Dropbox or Google Apps are working fine for their needs, but if you ask the right questions—and present the right solutions—you can help them run a more productive space.

Having the right collaboration tools should be top priority for companies as they strive to become more efficient. Collaboration tools not only make it easier for teams to communicate in the office but they also make it easy for clients too. Not to mention that they can remove the lag of relying on email for communication and provide a space for real-time communication.

Collaboration technology also acts as the 'water cooler,' where the team can gather, no matter where they are and exchange jokes, life events, and banter. Having these tools facilitates teamwork and cohesion within the team, which all leads to greater productivity.

The Investment

When your client is ready to invest in new collaboration tools, they can get an all-in-one system—which might be a company intranet or work management platform—or they can pick and choose what will work best for them and mix and match.

Most tools can be customized for your clients and can also be integrated with apps they may already use, such as Google apps.

It’s important to stress to your client the investment in communication and collaboration tools doesn't necessarily require a huge upfront cost. Many collaboration systems offer a free level of service, but free versions of collaboration tools, like most other software, typically have some limitations.

Remember, it's important you understand what your client's needs are so you can offer them the best package for their company.

Types of Collaboration Tools

· Communication Apps. Communication apps or group messaging apps, include all types of modern communication. This includes instant messaging and forums and puts them all in one space.

· Task and Workflow Management Apps. To do lists, assignments for the team, calendars, project management. All of these things can be included in task and workflow. The key to these apps to have them achieve everything you want and update automatically.

· All-In-One Collaboration Apps. All-in-one collaboration tools offer a little bit of everything, from project management and social network for employees to video chats. They are often targeted at enterprise companies, but some fit the bill for smaller groups, too.

Comparison of Collaboration Technology

The list of collaboration tools on the market today is exhaustive. But, if your clients are looking to choose communication, task and workflow or all in one, read on to see how these stack up against each other.

Slack and Cisco Spark. These apps are real-time communication systems where teammates can message one another, but they're much more sophisticated than a simple text exchange. For example, both store and archive messages, meaning you can search and find an old conversation if you need to reference it. You can use hashtags to mark keywords in conversations so that other teammates, who might not be in on the conversation now, can quickly look up relevant chat histories later.

The best team messaging apps also have sophisticated alert systems, so the right people's ears will prick up when an important conversation is happening on a topic that's central to their work.

Slack and Cisco Spark both allow users to meet, message, or call from the cloud. Users can easily and quickly move from one type of communication to another—turning a phone call into a video meeting with content sharing, or switching from a room system to a mobile phone. Its ability to connect local calendar servers to the cloud also allows users to start meetings or join from mobile devices automatically.

Both Slack and Cisco Spark enable you to be on several teams within one interface, making it easy to jump back and forth between accounts. Both communication tools are user-friendly and have easy to use dashboards. They are also free to download and can be utilized on a desktop, online or a mobile device.

One of the best collaboration tools, Asana, might be more accurately classified as a task management or workflow management tool. While project management platforms usually have tools to manage work at the assignment level, Asana is a little different and can be used to manage calendars, and track projects from start to finish. Asana is easy to use and is used with a browser on the internet, but like many other collaboration tools can be integrated with other tools your clients use already.

The beauty of collaboration is everyone in the meeting can be seen, heard, and participate. Barco ClickShare is a solution that doesn’t reside on a network, can host up to 64 users at one time, provides high-quality video and audio, and doesn't affect bandwidth or connectivity of existing wireless networks. End users can share content from a computer, laptop, or mobile device over a Wi-Fi signal. The content is then projected onto a TV, projector, or monitor in high definition, all with just a click of a button.

Polycom's RealPresence Centro is designed as a collaboration and content-sharing hub for local and remote work teams. The camera captures everyone in the room, even if you’re moving around and the microphones and powered speakers provide high-quality audio. Content sharing capabilities allow local and remote teams to share, annotate, and save content. Integration with Microsoft Outlook also makes it easy to start collaborating with one touch. The RealPresence Centro is so easy to use it requires very little training, and it can be integrated with remote teams to communicate and be seen, making the meetings more interactive and easier for content sharing.

Culture is the Key to Collaboration

Throwing a new tool at a bunch of people and telling them to use it instead of email will never work. To start using a collaboration tool successfully, all the key players on the team need to buy into it—and it has to be integrated into the corporate culture. Remind your clients that when everything clicks, they can expect to see a much greater sense of teamwork.

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