The last two years have seen an accelerated change in the way we collaborate with our teams. The pandemic that began in 2020 brought with it profound transformations in the service industry and in the positions associated with knowledge work. That's why having the best tools for collaborative work is essential.
Transformation away from the office
The pandemic caused those changes that seemed far away to undergo a great acceleration. Themes such as "digital transformation", "telework" and "virtuality" are here to stay in such traditional industries as education, some health services and government management.
We saw entire nations at a standstill, governments working from home and ministers, parliamentarians and mayors working remotely with their closest teams.
This led many organizations to accept the inevitable reality: remote work and some hybrid models were here to stay. Work policies, collaboration tools, management of assets such as offices and even furniture were rethought from their core. 2022 is the year of the maturation of this major transformation in many industries.
Migration and travel time
For knowledge work, most of the work is done in front of a computer screen. And in the case of meetings - loved by some and hated by others - new technological tools have been developed to strengthen "telepresence".
And we discovered that, for many of us, it wasn't necessary to go to the office - not even a few days a week or month.
This "forced" awakening also accelerated a mass migration to cities that are less congested and more connected to nature. A beautiful, modular apartment seemed cramped in the face of forced confinement and a house far from the big city now seems an excellent option. To learn more about the phenomenon I invite you to read this interesting article about the migration out of the big cities.
However, as the months - and a couple of years - went by, something in society broke. We discovered, a little the hard way, that while going to the office was not our favorite thing to do, it was something we needed. Depression and other illnesses related to the state of our "mental health" took on relevance.
So, then the office, and in particular, interacting with others physically - and not virtually - turned out not to be so terrible. This has made us rethink not only cities, transit and even where we want to live, but what the office of this new post-pandemic era should be like - I want to think optimistically and assure that we are over the worst.
Types of interactions
If we talk about collaboration, we can assume many types of interactions, so, in order to have a proper list of the best tools for collaborative work, it is best to establish some basic categories:
- Communication tools - chats, calls, video calls and group conferences
- Coordination and follow-up tools
- Office suites - only those that promote collaboration
Since most of my work happens in the software industry, I've been used for several years (more than a decade) to the use of collaborative tools, from a simple chat program, to more complex collaboration applications like Slack or Teams and, of course, advanced project management tools - I invite you to read my article on the best project management tools.
Here are the best tools that have been consolidated since 2020 and are shaping up to be the key tools in the post-pandemic era.
1. Google G Suite
Without a doubt, the pioneer of collaborative tools is Google with its G Suite - formerly known as Google Docs. I've been using these products since early 2008 and it's amazing how simple and powerful they are.
Google Suite offers, in addition to the successful and powerful mail service, an office suite with document processor, spreadsheet, presentation system and dynamic forms - to name the most popular ones. The calendar management system is better than any other I've tried and its licensing scheme is simple.
Google Chat, Meet and...
Google offers basic collaboration systems - chat and videoconferencing - but it doesn't have a well developed collaborative workspace. Some years ago Google Sites already appeared as a kind of site manager in the style of Wikipedia or the famous - and unbearable - SharePoint from Microsoft. Today it is used in Google Classroom and can be adapted as a workspace - something that Microsoft Teams or Slack definitely do better.
Google G Suite is ideal for startups and virtual work teams. The persistence in Google G Suite tools will make you forget the old days of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Office 365
Well, no introduction required, most large companies have had Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office on their systems since almost the beginning of personal computing. Talk of Microsoft is synonymous with "familiar ground" and, therefore, Office 365 - a model equivalent to Google G Suite - is the decision to make.
Also being an excellent solution, Microsoft Office 365 is still not quite decided on being 100% Web or Cloud-based and has a mix of tools with "light" Web versions - something that, in my opinion, has only sapped their energy and opened the door for products like Google G Suite or ZoHo One to gain ground.
For companies with existing infrastructure under Microsoft there is no better option than to use Office 365 systems and leverage their existing configurations in the MS cloud.
Microsoft Teams, Planner and everything in between
Microsoft Teams has evolved a lot since the beginning of 2020. It has never been my favorite application, but I must admit that it has improved a lot since the beginning of the pandemic and today it has simple options to join meetings, share files and do something that teachers and facilitators need all the time "breakout rooms" or independent sessions within a meeting.
Teams is a tool that consolidates many of Microsoft's products and puts them at the click of a button. Teams will undoubtedly be the primary collaborative work tool for many teams in 2021.
3. ZoHo One
This is a big player in other latitudes, although it has little presence in Latin America. ZoHo is an alternative to Google G Suite. However, ZoHo has gone further to differentiate itself and offers CRM, talent management systems (HR), accounting applications, project management, collaborative spaces and an endless number of other applications. end of tools.
If you don't suffer from compatibility problems or file sharing in different formats - MS Office being the most incompatible of them all - ZoHo One is the best choice for price and features.
I have used ZoHo because of the price/quality ratio. It has many tools and in some countries even allows invoicing. ZoHo has really gone out of its way to differentiate itself from the big competitors. It has a full office suite - word processing, spreadsheet, presentations, calendar and much more.
It differs in my opinion in mobile applications, it has really advanced mobile applications to support the Web experience, the messaging and video conferencing system, despite not being so popular, is excellent.
If you, like me, enjoy integrating multiple applications and services - and have no problem learning and memorizing usernames and passwords for each of those services, then the two tools below may get your attention.
If you haven't used Zoom you probably don't know what, in my opinion, is by far the best video conferencing tool on the market. I know there were a lot of rumors and gossip about Zoom's mishandling of privacy, but I always thought it was more of a smear campaign by their competitors than anything else.
Zoom is not only the most flexible tool, it is also the easiest to use - and I have tried in my role as a lecturer and teacher to use many others.
Zoom is the ultimate solution for virtual meetings.
I don't quite know how to describe Slack, but we can say it's IRC on steroids - if you don't know what IRC is, don't worry, in another Internet era it was used for chatting - some dinosaurs still use it or its evolved offspring Discord.
Slack is an improved chat system that also integrates well with several tools. So it's like having a WhatsApp well organized and connected to different BOTS that notify you in your chat things like receiving an email, edit a document in some tool like Google Documents or even set up an alert system if a server in the cloud goes down or is offline.
Yes, I know. Franz doesn't classify as one of the collaborative work tools. Franz is more of a slimmed down version of the browser that allows you to integrate all your favorite messaging services and some online work systems. I am a total fan of Franz. If you suffer like me from having multiple messaging services and many collaborative work tools open at the same time for different contexts such as academia, consulting and projects, Franz does something simple and powerful: put everything inside a single window and unify notifications.
So you don't forget to log in to any service. It also reduces the "background noise" with so much "beep" that triggers the phone all the time with all these Apps. Franz is undoubtedly a great ally for those who suffer from "virtual deafness" and sometimes can't find their colleagues' messages.
You can even use Franz to access more comprehensive work systems such as Trello or Microsoft Teams or Teamwork
The chaos of collaboration
There are many collaborative work tools that can undoubtedly bring benefits to the management of remote or virtual teams, however, a common mistake is to fill up with tools, implement 50 services to share files, videoconferencing, edit documents online or make presentations.
In the end, people jump from one service to the other and waste time with the famous "I'm not a service".task switching". The less painful the process of collaborating and the more unified the scheme of work - as they occur in a physical office - the more productive we can be - as individuals and as team members.
What do you think of the list and would you like to mention any other tool?