Evaluating team collaboration tools can be stressful; the cost of failed implementation is high, and finding a tool that solves your unique problems is easier said than done. Before you know it, you can spend countless hours trying to find the right fit.

To help you on your search, we’ve put together a list of must-haves for team collaboration tools to help bring your team together, foster meaningful collaboration and remove friction. Let’s dive in.

1. Open, visible communication

Imagine trying to solve a puzzle with a group of friends, but you can only communicate in silos and no one can see the entire puzzle. In this scenario, keeping track of communications and ensuring everyone has access to the information they need, when they need it, quickly becomes a challenge — especially if the puzzle is large or takes considerable time to complete. This is exactly what happens when you use team collaboration tools that don’t support open, visible communication.

Strong communication breaks down silos and allows teams to build off each other’s ideas — without it, collaboration can grind to a halt. In fact, according to Salesforce, 86% of employees and executives cite ineffective communication and lack of collaboration as the main sources of workplace failures.

When evaluating team collaboration tools on the basis of communication, keep in mind:

  • How organized the communication is: Is engagement categorized, sorted and searchable? Are communications easy to find and preserved within the tool?
  • How visible the communication is: Does the tool break down communication silos and increase visibility for everyone? Are feedback loops clear and consistent?

Great communication saves valuable time and ensures everyone has the information they need to drive collaboration forward.

2. Repeatable, process-driven workflows

Communication fosters collaboration, but the true value of a collaboration tool lies in its ability to support repeatable, process-driven workflows. The effectiveness of your collaboration workflows determines how well — or not — your collaboration projects will move forward, so you'll want to find a tool that makes workflows easy to define, evaluate, experiment with and improve over time. Some key criteria to look out for include:

  • The ability to break down projects into repeatable and clear deadline-driven sprints
  • The ability to easily understand project status and progression
  • The ability to manage engagement and project life cycles with agile tools
  • The ability to measure success and continuously improve the workflows over time

Without this rigidity, teams risk creating projects that never reach the finish line — which happens more often than you think. Harvard Business Review found that 75% of cross-functional teams were dysfunctional, failing to deliver on crucial KPIs for their projects. At the same time, you’ll want to find a tool that is flexible enough to accommodate your organization's unique workflows, and evolve alongside your collaboration processes.

3. Simple, efficient administration

While it’s easy to get drawn into the features and experience for end-users, remember that your team collaboration tools should also make it easy to administer collaboration projects. This includes the ability to:

  • Quickly design and modify projects
  • Coordinate and view participants
  • Outline and update clear deliverables and expectations
  • Respond to and incorporate changes with agility
  • Manage communications and feedback loops
  • Administer and conduct evaluations
  • View, sort and export data for reporting and analytics

These features save administrators countless hours on manual tasks and project management, allowing them to spend more time evaluating the success of their projects and workflows. The time saved from automated, streamlined workflows can be significant; a 2018 study by Formstack found that nearly 60% of managers spend 10 or more hours each week on unstructured, manual data entry such as email and spreadsheet updates.

Moreover, these features allow administrators to see which projects and contributors are out-performing the rest, discovering why and improving collaboration over time. For example, you might notice that when your sales and marketing departments collaborate, you see an increase in high-fit leads. Consistent results like this signal administrators to increase the number of collaboration touchpoints between those departments in the long term.

Improved collaboration starts with the right tools

Choosing the right tools can make or break your collaboration processes. Tools that are too difficult to use or too rigid will reduce collaboration and stunt your progress; tools that are too unstructured or disorganized will stall your projects, costing you valuable time and money.

Ultimately, you want to choose a tool that makes collaboration easy for both end-users and administrators by fostering transparency, clear communication, repeatable workflows and simplified oversight. Ideally, this tool should be all-encompassing, reducing blind spots between multiple applications or solutions.

Want to learn how to drive real results with your team collaboration tools? Our free playbook shows you How to Drive New Ideas Forward, creating impactful, data-driven solutions for your biggest problems.

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Topic(s): Collaboration

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