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How do companies choose a collaboration tool?

How do you choose a collaboration tool when everyone has a favorite? Read this expert answer to find out.

Not all collaboration tools are useful for all teams. There's no silver bullet when it comes to team communication, especially when you're operating with remote workers. The best solution I've found is to not limit yourself to just one collaboration tool; allow each independent team to decide what is best for them.

In my company, our technology group uses FlowDock for daily communication, Dropbox for documentation and Asana for task management. For meetings, we all use an OnSip conference bridge. Our customer support team uses FreshDesk for customer communication and task management, Google Docs for documentation and Google Hangouts for meetings. Our sales team also uses Asana for task management and Nimble for customer contact. Everyone uses email as the glue for the company, because it's the only solution everyone can agree on. We try to make sure all of our communication tools support forwarding or emailing directly to the tools to create new tasks. We also all use Toggl to track our time spent on any given task. Because Toggl supports integration with many other services, this gives us a unified way for management to see how much time is spent on any given task, and it allows everyone in our company to use the tools they're most comfortable with.

Within an individual team, it's important to find a common feature set everyone needs, and then find the tool that has the most of those features. Find out why someone has a favorite tool for a given task. Is it because it's what they're familiar with, or is it because the collaboration tool has an extra feature that is important to the person? Is there a new tool better than anyone's favorite that everyone can agree on? Would everyone be willing to try out new tools for a few weeks to see what they like?

My technology group has gone through at least a dozen different task management tools. The one constant tool we've had is FlowDock, which we've been using for the past few years. When we find a new task management tool, our team jokes that "it must be the end of a quarter; time to find a new tool." The point is to not tie yourself to one tool. It's impossible to truly evaluate a new tool without using it in production for at least a month. Just remember that no tool solves every problem for everyone.

Next Steps

Collaboration that goes beyond email

The evolving collaboration software industry

This was last published in December 2014

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