What is Collaboration Software? Analysis of Features, Types, Benefits and Pricing

What is the definition of collaboration software?

Collaboration software was described in 1990 as “intentional group processes plus software to support them.” Today, collaboration software leverages existing technologies to enable groups to communicate, share, coordinate, cooperate, solve problems, negotiate, or even compete for the purpose of completing a task. Collaboration software, also known as collaborative software or groupware, allows the managing, sharing and processing of files, documents and other types of data among several users and systems anytime and anywhere.

What is the purpose of collaboration software?

What is collaboration software and what are its uses? The main purpose of collaboration software is to enhance productivity of individuals in a group or team within an organization in order to achieve a particular goal. With this type of program, users can coordinate tasks and create individual workspace then have workflows and data added to it. The primary user who created the workspace can allow others to access, view and make changes, and whatever modifications are made on data and files are synced across all users. This ensures that everyone involved is on the “same page” and has the latest version of the current project.

There are two dimensions to collaboration software technologies and they relate to time and location.

Time

  • Real-time or synchronous – users do tasks together at the same time.
  • Asynchronous – users work together at different times.

Location

  • Face-to-face or collocated – users do tasks together in one place.
  • Distance or non-collocated – users work together from various places.

There are many components and aspects to collaboration software. This article will go through the most significant areas such as:

  1. Examples of collaboration software
  2. Benefits of collaboration software
  3. Types of collaboration software
  4. Features of collaboration software
  5. Factors to consider when buying
  6. Pricing of collaboration software
  7. Potential issues
  8. Latest trends

What are examples of collaboration software?

  1. Wrike – Award-winning software designed to improve the speed and efficiency of work in both co-located and distributed groups. It enables multifunctional groups to collaborate and get things done effectively from a single location, allowing them to schedule, prioritize, discuss, and keep track of both work and progress in real. If you need a reliable Wrike alternative check out our other comparison articles.
  2. Asana – One of the most popular project management tools for team communication and collaboration. It can create projects and tasks within the projects, and follow the progress of those tasks from various browsers and devices. Among its advance features are task relating, searching public tasks, prioritizing completion, and change management. 
  3. Dapulse – A smart collaboration and communication app and a reliable Asana alternative that specializes in streamlining discussions and contributions, and keeping all team members in sync to ensure highest-level performance. Its comprehensive progress display feature and advanced scheduling tools for task management eliminates paperwork and reduces human error.
  4. Clarizen – An enterprise-grade solution that combines project management and high-quality social collaboration features to boost team performance. It can streamline and automatically prioritize budgets, projects, resources, portfolios, and tasks to make sure that critical information and resources are always managed properly.
  5. Slack – A messaging app that brings all your communication together in one place with its real-time messaging, archiving and search functions. It’s a great Clarizen alternative that offers built-in internal and external sharing options, and advanced search, filters and sorting to ensure you get and share the right files all the time.
  6. Beenote – An integrated meeting and wellness management software designed to make meeting more fun and its participants effective and productive. The system is built to help you prepare your meetings with ease and efficiency, enabling you to determine and focus on your agenda, monitor your team’s tasks, track the time allocated for each meeting, and document your meetings including tasks assigned and decisions made.
  7. Cliqtalk – A very flexible collaboration solution designed for project teams, student groups, communities, and organizations. The system enables users to follow, initiate and engage in conversations, and vote on topics. With Cliqtalk,  users can keep their media (photos, videos, documents) in their preferred cloud storage systems, like Google Drive, Dropbox, and Box, and share them in the topics they follow.
  8. ProofHub – a cloud–hosted project management solution that helps you to stay on top of deliverables and deadlines. It has scalable features and pay terms that match the requirements of any business size from small startups to large enterprise.

Wrike: one of the best collaboration apps for projects

These are not the only reliable collaboration platforms you should consider. There are several collaborative programs available in the market. For more alternatives and ideas, check out our top 10 list of collaboration software solutions.

Market share of top 10 collaboration software vendors as of 2015

Source: appsruntheworld.com

What are the benefits of collaboration software?

You now know what is collaboration software but what are its main benefits? There are a number of benefits of collaboration software that can result to a more efficient and effective completion of tasks and goals. Understanding what does a collaboration software do will help you justify its implementation in your organization and bolster its adoption with your employees. The successful execution of good collaboration software will afford you many advantages. Why use collaboration software? Here are four good reasons why.

  1. Save time – Time is gold, and in a business that is tantamount to money. The more you save time, the more you save on unwanted expenses, and the better it is for your organization. Collaboration among employees makes possible the quicker completion of end goals that wouldn’t otherwise be achievable in other ways. Embracing collaboration methods cuts disparate, uncoordinated work on a particular project from different contributing members and saves not only time but also resources and efforts. If you are looking to cut costs on projects, collaboration software can help in that respect.
  2. Enhance project management – Keeping a handle on a project, a team and its members and their progress is never easy work. Coordination and communication is of paramount importance if you want a project completed. Collaboration is one of the most optimal means to guarantee that you get the most out of your team. It opens lines of communication and makes sure everything is on track in order to avoid mistakes and confusion that can delay projects.
  3. Strengthen team relationships – One sure-fire way to build effective working relationships among employees is to have them work together to complete tasks and projects. Collaboration programs are designed to do that, making it easy for teams to work almost like a concerted unit with a singular purpose. This makes teams comfortable and confident in working with one another when it comes to completing common objectives.
  4. Improve organization – The process of keeping things and tasks in order has always been a problem for businesses. It is typical to lose track of what has been done and what needs to be done in project workflows simply because everything is a mess. Collaborative programs assist in maintaining order and managing the stages in workflows through open communication and coordination among concerned individuals and team.

What are the types of collaboration software?

We’ve answered the question what is collaboration software, let’s now take a look at what are its different types. There are three main categories of collaboration software based on their functional capabilities. Knowing how does collaboration software work can be gleaned from the tools employed.

  1. Communication – Helps in the exchange of communication between groups. The most common communication tools that are used are systems and applications for email hosting, file sharing, project management and a website or online platform that can be readily accessed. Research findings have shown that file sharing is the most common and needed feature in collaboration software. Example tools: email, voicemail, instant messaging, VoIP or video calls
  2. Conferencing – Allows real-time collaboration among members. Groupware software tools make possible real-time discussions among project members through a virtual meeting room with a moderator who oversees the sharing of information. These online meetings are helpful when there are important matters to be decided on by project members who are in various locations. Example tools: video conferencing, IM conferencing, online forums, social media group chats, community boards, application sharing
  3. Coordination – Assists in group activities, schedule and deliverables. Coordination software solutions are used for complex interdependent tasks to realize a common goal. Typical systems applied here are for time management, project management and online proofing so that team members are aware of deadlines, are properly coordinated, and can monitor the status of projects. Example tools: calendars, time trackers, spreadsheets, client portals, alerts and status updates

Slack: a popular collaboration and communication tool

What does collaboration software do?

We’ve defined what is collaboration software, but what is it used for? The office that we know of has evolved mostly because of leaps in technology. Business organizations are no longer limited by boundaries. Whereas before you had to be physically in the office to collaborate with co-employees to keep projects going. Now, you can be in another part of the globe or be right at home and still contribute to workflows, be in touch with team members, and keep track of how work is progressing. Technology has produced the telecommuting and mobile workforce, and collaboration software has much to do with it. Consider these statistics:

  • The number of regular work-at-home employees grew by 115% since 2005.
  • Half of the total US workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework.
  • 3.7 million US employees now work from home at least half of the time.
  • Surveys of Fortune 1000 companies show that employees are not at their desk 50-60% of the time, making these companies rethink their personnel spaces to accommodate an expanding mobile staff.

Just what does collaboration software do that has impacted the professional business setting? We go over some features of collaboration software that have made remote work the new normal.

  1. Internal Communication System -Teams need an efficient communication system to be able to stay on task and not miss crucial aspects of ongoing projects. With many tools built into collaborative apps that allow all forms of communication – email, IM, voice, video – as well as mechanisms to review and retrieve conversations and discussions, team members are assured of uninterrupted coordination and kept in sync.
  2. File Sharing – Like communication, the ability to share files, documents, data and all other forms of media is one of the most important features of collaboration software.  Many groupware now carry robust document management systems, providing you and your team members a convenient means to share, access, view and retrieve files.
  3. Content Creation – Several all-in-one collaboration platforms offer content creation functionality that allows producing and publishing content both for internal and external audiences. This is useful for inbound marketing activities like creating blogs and informative content to attract new audience and enhance your business’ online presence.
  4. Powerful Search – Finding old files, previous conversation or past blog post are facilitated by the robust search feature of collaboration software. What was previously a time-consuming process, now you can use tags and search filters to find what you’re looking for in quickly and efficiently.
  5. Personal and Group Calendars – Keeping track of numerous meetings, events and other important matters that need your attention is a sure headache-inducer. Personal as well as group calendars are integral features in most collaborative platforms to help you and your team members stay attuned, involved and present at all times, wherever they may be.

Size of collaboration software market worldwide 2015-2020

Source: Statista 2017

What should you consider when getting collaboration software?

Getting and implementing collaboration software is a critical business decision. It is important that you assess certain factors and requirement in relation to your business. You would not want to waste time and money on a full-featured collaboration package when, for all intents and purposes, all you need is a good internal communication system. But you also have to be forward-looking and anticipate the time when your business has boomed, the number of your employees has risen, and the multiple tasks at hand have grown to near unmanageable levels. Future-proofing your business now with scalable collaboration software will keep you ready for future challenges.

Here are some factors to keep in mind when getting collaboration software:

  1. Needs – Many collaboration platforms can provide that gratifying instant solution to many management and collaborative issues. But you have to gauge your specific needs before you jump right into a collaborative software environment. How will it address existing problems? What can the software actually do and how does it perform? Is it cloud-hosted or on-premise? Will your data and files be secure? Once you have determined the specifics based on your parameters and got a clearer picture, then you can move on to the next important factor.
  2. Features – The software should carry all the basic set of features that you require for it to be an effective productivity tool for your collaborating employees. The features must be easy to use, responsive, and robust enough to get things done. They must add efficiency and improve user performance, and not be a burden to users. To get a first-hand experience on how features work, you can avail of free trials usually offered by vendors. For additional information, you can also read actual customer feedback and the reviews by industry experts.
  3. Cost – This is always a major consideration since a purchasing decision will rely heavily on your budget. Your investment must be reasonable and must take into account the product’s long-term value and the appurtenant maintenance expenses. Likewise, will it need a hardware upgrade? Ultimately, the advantages of collaboration software should be worth the cost of acquiring it.
  4. Support – A reliable technical and vendor support is a must. Trainings, tutorials and a knowledge center should come with the software. There must be regular updates and improvements to keep the software always in top condition, and the user always having a peace of mind.

Asana: another tool for efficiently managing your projects

How much does collaboration software cost?

The cost of collaboration software varies from vendor to vendor and is usually based on capabilities and features it provides. Many offer free plans for a small team while others offer flexible pricing options depending on feature sets, number of collaborators, file storage capacity, customization, branding function, integration with other apps, and advanced security, among others.

Here’s a brief look at how leading collaboration software stack up when it comes to pricing.

Wrike

  • Free – for a team of 5 users
  • Professional – $9.80 per user/month
  • Business – $24.80 per user/month
  • For Marketers – $34.60 per user/month
  • Enterprise – by quote

Asana

  • Free – for a team of 15 members
  • Premium – $9.99 per member per month
  • Enterprise– by quote

Slack

  • Free – no limits on time or users
  • Standard – $6.67 per user/month
  • Plus – $12.50 per user/month
  • Enterprise – $49 to $99 per user/month

Dapulse

  • Basic – $5/month
  • Standard – $8/month
  • Pro – $12/month
  • Enterprise – $24/month

Clarizen

  • Enterprise Edition – $45 per user/month
  • Unlimited Edition – $60 per user/month

Trello

  • Free
  • Business Class – $9.99/month
  • Enterprise – by quote

What are the potential issues with collaboration software?

A couple of drawbacks have been noted with collaboration software. These should be given careful consideration when acquiring a collaborative solution for your company.

  1. Cost – As you may have noticed in the preceding section, collaborative solutions don’t come cheap. Unless you settle for a free plan that has fewer functionality and limited number of users, collaboration software is a major investment. Adding in the cost of setup, maintenance and possible hardware upgrade, then you are looking to set aside a sizeable budget for this type of system. Good thing there are pricing options offered that carry certain feature sets to meet your particular needs.
  2. Security – No data is ever secure from the best hacker. We assume you don’t own priceless data that everyone wants to get hands at, hence basic security for your files and documents would be enough. In any case, you can opt for more stringent security measures by talking with the product vendor or third-party security service providers to set up more authentications, permissions and other security protocols, although these may entail separate costs.

Tech-based solutions for companies are largely influenced by technological progress and data-driven business situation. The following are some of the directions that collaboration software is charting.

  1. Real-Time Collaboration. Although this is already one of the centerpiece features of collaboration platforms, there is a growing need for easier and more robust collaboration and communication tools in the light of the currently expanding remote workforce that are globally-dispersed. Collaboration software is evolving to include full-featured mobile capability, more powerful workflow management, and capacity to share bigger files. The idea is to eliminate potential roadblocks and allow teams to get together quickly anytime they need to, no matter what device they use, and wherever they may be.
  2. People-centric Collaboration. Software developers and vendors have come to realize that their product should work for people who use them and not for companies who buy them. After all, the net effect of productivity from the speedy completion of products through collaboration software benefits not only the team members who use it but ultimately the company they work for. Vendors will strive to keep improving their collaboration products to help people work even better.
  3. Handling Big Data. With big data comes the need for speed. Current collaboration solutions already offer large storage spaces for files, but they may need to amp up storage as company data accumulate day in and day in. Their platforms should also have the matching speed and capability to handle the sharing of large data.
  4. Collaboration Bots. They are presently used to automate messaging and chat software, but they may soon find their way to collaboration software to automate tasks and run areas in project workflows. This will make the collaboration process even less time-consuming.
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