Online collaboration is the future of your business. Why? It ensures teams can work more efficiently and be more organized on tasks and projects.
What is online collaboration?
Online collaboration describes the way people collaborate in real time or asynchronously over the internet, using specific tools and platforms. That means they can collaborate, even when they are not in the same room, country, or time zone.
Online collaboration can work on all elements of a project – including the ability to plan projects, discuss topics, create, review and approve content. Sophisticated tools help teams make all of these processes faster, easier, and more transparent.
Types of online collaboration
Whether your team is working in an office or remotely across different time zones, you can choose between synchronous and asynchronous online collaboration to meet your specific needs. The type can vary for every task and project, depending on your team’s requirements, their availability, and the structure of your workflow.
Synchronous collaboration happens in real time. This type of online collaboration is commonly used for meetings, to discuss projects, or to enable multiple team members to simultaneously view, edit, or leave comments on a shared file. Synchronous collaboration makes sense when you need feedback or decisions immediately or when you need to discuss topics that are too complex or comprehensive for an informal chat.
The benefits of synchronous communication are:
- You receive clear, direct, and immediate feedback on your work.
- It keeps processes as efficient and fast as possible.
- It successfully replicates live collaboration and interchanges, as they would happen in person.
Asynchronous collaboration (as the name suggests) does not happen in real time. The primary benefit of collaborating online asynchronously is that it enables multiple people to be involved in the collaboration process, without needing to arrange a specific meeting time that fits everyone’s schedules.
The benefits of asynchronous communication are:
- People can structure their day more flexibly and complete tasks when it best suits their schedule.
- Teams can use collaboration tools to share, view, and comment on documents, ask for support or manage the project’s progress – all within a given time period.
- You can record a video to explain your ideas for the project, so your colleagues can watch it before the next live meeting.
Why is online collaboration important?
Did you know that 97% of employees and executives say, if a team has a lack of alignment, then this will impact the outcome of a project?
Fostering a system of strong team collaboration can strengthen your team’s alignment and dynamic working. Collaborative working also ensures your work is consistent of the best quality.
Achieve more transparency and visibility
Online collaboration tools enable teams to see the status, progress, and due date of tasks. Plus, everyone knows who’s responsible for which tasks and what the next steps are.
Work more effectively
By using online collaboration tools, all discussions about the project can be kept in one convenient, cloud-based location. This ensures no information is lost, and that all comments are acted upon.
Improve the quality of your work
By improving your online collaboration and feedback management, you can utilize all of the expertise within your team. By establishing a clear review and approval process, you can ensure all of your work is mistake-free, on-brand, and top quality.
Better time management
Asynchronous working enables your teams to complete work at a time that suits their work schedule. They will be fully informed about what is happening right now, and whether they are working to the deadline.
According to a report published by TeamStage, a third of HR professionals say that poor collaboration within a team will negatively impact employee morale. Online collaboration helps your team to work closer together while fostering a supportive workplace and culture. This will also have a positive impact on your employee satisfaction.
The five best online collaboration tools of 2022
Online collaboration tools are digital platforms, that enable businesses to improve communication, increase transparency and ensure efficient business processes. These tools can be accessed by the entire team, plus clients or invested parties, through a secure login.
Filestage for content collaboration
Filestage helps marketing and creative teams to collaborate on multiple file types, on a centralized platform. The cloud-based review software includes tools to share, comment, and approve files. Plus, you can automate manual tasks and set up custom workflows to streamline your processes.
- Users can leave comments and annotations directly on the file
- Create a structured, consistent review and approval process
- Discuss feedback and changes in real time
- Automatic to-do lists and due date reminders
- One-click approval, enabling faster approvals
“The interface is very straightforward, the annotation tool is simple to use, and the customizable settings allow us to be flexible from project to project.” – Robert M
Nifty for project collaboration
Nifty is designed to provide a complete online collaboration platform. This project collaboration tool acts as a centralized portal, allowing users to create group chat messages, build roadmaps, create calendars, and complete tasks, in one location.
- Includes project management software, such as Gantt chart milestones
- Provides time-tracking tools
- Allows users to create a system of folders, organized by their choice of criteria
- Easy to use, intuitive interface
- Some users have difficulties with Nifty’s storage
- Some users have issues using the Nifty docs feature
“Besides the great UI/UX that Nifty offers, I like how fluent the communication is with a client. You can invite your collaborators as guests to any projects, where they can join the discussions, complete or create tasks, but they have limited privileges, so the project management is all yours.” – Arpad S
Chanty for communication
Chanty is a communication software including a video conferencing tool, context-based discussions, task cards – including labeling for task priority and status– and a dedicated messaging tool. Alongside its computer platform, Chanty also offers a phone and tablet application, with a full range of features.
- Kanban layout for the project dashboard
- Apps for mobile devices are also available
- Designed to be very easy to use
- Gather feedback seamlessly, with instant messaging
- Filter tasks and messages by selected criteria
- Set up online audio or video calls
- Limited organization and customization options with the calendar
- There isn’t the option to create different communication channels within the software
“Chanty is easy to use and its user-friendliness makes it one of my favorites tools that I use on my day-to-day, since I can chat with my team, private message, create video calls or only audio calls, and much more.” – Carlos B
Figma for design collaboration
Figma is a design collaboration tool that is specifically geared towards design and graphics work. The software contains a range of tools – including Vector Networks, OpenType and Auto Layout – designed to help creative teams digitally collaborate on visual assets, including posters, illustrations, and website page designs.
- A wide range of fonts
- Digital whiteboarding tools
- Pre-made file templates for a variety of design projects
- Sticky note comment functions
- Create interactive prototypes
- Usability testing and UX tools
- Figma’s creative software is large, so can take some time to load
- Its tools have a very high level of sensitivity
- No software for creating flowcharts or hierarchical team structures
“Figma is an effective tool that has a wide range of uses, and it is very beginner-friendly so that even new collaborators can share their ideas through it.” – Sakib S
Google Docs for document collaboration
Google Docs is a cloud-based document collaboration tool integrated into the Google Workspace that gives users the full experience of using tools, similar to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. To start online collaboration with other team members, all the creator needs to do is copy and paste a link or add their email address.
- Ability to create different access and edit rights
- Easy file sharing service, with one-link sharing
- Leave comments and assign tasks, by tagging different users in the comments
- Files accessible through a mobile device
- Live view of different users and what they are doing
- Turn on the suggestion mode to approve changes
- The documents cannot be accessed without an internet connection
- Although there is a free version of Google Docs, there is only a small amount of free storage provided.
“Google Workspace Apps are perfect for the hybrid/remote work environment as it’s lightweight and syncs instantly over devices and accounts.” – Amr M
Tips to choose the best online collaboration tool for your needs
There are a lot of great remote work tools on the market, so we’ve provided a list of tips and best practices, to help you find the perfect online collaboration tool for your specific business needs.
Some online collaboration tools offer free accounts for small teams. Other collaboration tools are specifically geared towards enterprise businesses and offer specialist features for teams of 20+. So, check first the number of people in your team or organization that would need access to the tool before you make a decision.
Main bottlenecks to solve
What is your main reason for introducing digital collaboration software to your business processes? Are you trying to boost your workflow efficiency? Before you choose your software, identify what you want your online collaboration to achieve. Then, find the tools best geared towards meeting these needs.
Take note, that it’s very unlikely that there is one tool that includes all the needed features, so you might want to use multiple online collaboration tools in combination to address each of your bottlenecks.
Ease of use
We highly recommend that you prioritize the ease of use of your tool. The easier the tool is to implement, the more likely your team members will be to use it. It will also save you a lot of time and costs for training all your team and external parties such as clients or business partners.
If you are dealing with sensitive information or personal data, then you need to be certain your online collaboration tool offers high-security standards. This way, you can manage data safely and securely. We would also recommend that you choose a cloud-based collaboration tool, as this will safely back up your work.
Best practices to improve online collaboration within your team
Now that you’ve chosen your pieces of online collaboration software, the next step is to implement them. To ensure your new tools are used as effectively as possible, check out our top tips to make online collaboration more effective.
Have a comprehensive tool stack
Your online collaboration software will include a wide range of different tools. So, ensure you have the right collaboration tools in place for each area. For example, find tools for remote teams, content review, and approval, team communication, etc. Then, integrate them fully, to automate as many manual tasks as possible.
Communicate openly and regularly
According to TeamStage, 99.1% of employees want their organization to foster honest communication. So, encourage clear, open, detailed, and regular communication. Discuss ideas and ensure everyone in the team feels supported throughout the online collaboration project. This will increase transparency and create high-quality projects, while promoting continuous, shared learning.
Give your team members complete clarity, so they have all the information they need to help the project progress. This includes showing them where to access different files, how to create and save different versions, how to give precise feedback, and setting up clear workflows. By investing this time early on, you’ll significantly boost the speed of online collaboration uptake.
Set clear deadlines
Use deadlines within your collaboration tools, as this is the best way to keep your workflow operating at full efficiency. These should include, for example, setting deadlines for tasks, reviews, approvals, and the final project deadline.
Ensure all feedback on new assets, documents, or project elements is kept as clear as possible. You can do this by using annotation tools to highlight the exact area you are referring to, and by using comments to leave detailed notes. This will make the feedback clear, accurate, and actionable.
The future of online collaboration
In the digital age, online collaboration is more important than ever before. Remote working and group collaboration taken online are becoming the “new normal”. After the rapid learning curve necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are now adopting permanently hybrid teams.
According to research by Findstack, 85% of managers surveyed predict that having a team that includes a hybrid of in-house teams and remote workers will soon be completely normal. Online collaboration is essential to ensuring the success of this shift. By adopting digital collaboration, teams can continue collaborating just as effectively as before, regardless of whether they’re in the same room or in different cities.
Furthermore, businesses are becoming increasingly globalized. The rise of remote working opportunities, the speed of digital communication, and today’s global marketplace mean that many organizations have employees located all over the world.
As you can imagine, without online collaboration, it is extremely difficult to manage projects and keep global teams on the same page. With their intuitive collaboration features, online collaboration tools enable distributed teams to seamlessly work on projects and share files, feedback, and information.
With online collaboration software, your business can use innovative, specialist technology to its full potential. So, be sure to use online collaboration tools to their full advantage.
By adopting a digital approach to collaboration, you can improve the efficiency of your workflow and create higher quality work, while ensuring everyone in your team feels supported, valued, and most importantly, happy.