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Collaboration Tool Evaluation Checklist - How to choose a team collaboration app in 2020

October 14, 2020

Collaboration Tool Evaluation Checklist - How to choose a team collaboration app in 2020

Are you looking for a new collaboration tool for your team? We know that it's tough to wade through all of the different features. This article will help you evaluate the features a proper collaboration software should offer.

A quick checklist of what the best collaboration tools offer:

  1. Chat or other means of communication
  2. Audio and Video Calling
  3. File sharing
  4. Project Management (tasks and events)
  5. Document Collaboration
  6. Integrations
  7. Built to scale
  8. Trial Mode
  9. Support
  10. Security

Below we dive deeper into what you should expect in each category.

Communication

Check for Chat or Other Means of Communication

Collaboration is about communication, and there are multiple approaches to communication. Some companies have email conferences, and some companies use chat software where they create multiple channels. To make communication flawless, your collaboration software needs to allow you to follow these principles:

  • Make it relevant - if your message reaches a larger audience than it needs to, you're spamming and thus making other people less attentive to future messages.
  • Make it contextual - when talking about a particular document, your discussion should be attached to that document.
  • Have a private chat - some things should be discussed privately.
  • Have a group chat - either for work-related stuff or as a non-work chatter, which is important for a healthy environment.
Audio and Video Calling

Look into Audio and Video Calling

Not only do collaboration tools need a chat, but they also need a way for you to hop on a call. While it is perfectly okay to call via a third-party app, it is a much better experience if your collaboration tool offers a built-in audio and video calling. Why? Simply because you don't have to switch context. Switching an app every now and then might seem unimportant. Still, when you are switching more often and between more than one app, it's cumulative time you are spending going from one app to another and the lack of context that becomes an issue. Here's what a good audio and video calling feature should offer:

  • Add participants on the go - if you realize in the middle of the meeting you need an extra opinion, you need to be able to just add the person.
  • React silently - It's common best practice to keep the mic muted or turn off the camera on larger conferences. But when you need to react, it's a bit cumbersome to turn them on for just a second to say yes. That's where Emoji or Gifs work perfectly.
  • Pick up from another device - when you need to leave your desk, you need to seamlessly pick up the call from another device.
File Sharing

Try File Sharing the Tool Offers

Even though many applications offer online documents, we still need to share traditional files we store on our devices. Email already taught us that just attaching a file to a message could be really painful - as more and more messages pile up, you lose track of what is the right document. The same is mentioned in a Lifehacker article. Here's what a good collaboration software should offer for file sharing:

  • Chat attachments - simple contextual information in the form of file or image is great.
  • Cloud files - if you have files in some cloud repository already, it would be good to simply link them and keep them where they are. Nobody likes migrations.
  • Online preview - you should not need to download common file types to your device just to see what's inside.
  • File versioning - when you're discussing a particular file and create a new version, you should be able to upload a new version to keep the information building where it belongs.
Project Management

Examine the Project Management Aspect (tasks and events)

Project management is a hard one. There are many different approaches to it, and everyone has their own opinion on which approach is best. The truth is we're all different, and each company has its unique needs. So let's break this down by tasks first, and then events:

What should you demand from a task management perspective?

  • Assignable tasks - a task without an assignee is worth nothing.
  • Recurring tasks - creating the same task over and over is a waste of your precious time.
  • Create tasks "everywhere" - it's good to create and attach the task right in your work context.
  • Chat about tasks - a task without its own conversation is only half of the story.
  • My tasks - each user should be able to quickly see what tasks they need to work on
  • Task dashboards - dashboards allow you to focus and give you an overview of a given project or team.

Events are as vital as tasks to mark your important meetings or milestones. Here are things you should consider when picking a collaboration software:

  • Recurring events - important for a daily meeting or other repeating events.
  • Auto-call - when the event starts, all attendees are automatically added to a video call.
  • Shared calendars - while you don't need everyone to participate in all your company events, you still want them to see what is planned.
  • Subscribe - users should be able to subscribe to a shared calendar and add it to their personal calendar.
  • My calendar - seeing all events I need to attend is a pretty obvious yet sometimes overlooked feature.
Document Collaboration

Document Collaboration Helps You Be More Effective

Being able to get together on a document while working remotely is becoming more and more important. An added benefit to working collaboratively is seeing what other people are editing and updating in real-time. Good collaborative software should offer these features when it comes to document collaboration:

  • Real-time editing - your changes need to visible to everyone as they happen. After all, you want to on the same page, right?
  • Rich document - we're all familiar with single purpose documents like a spreadsheet. Still, you also need a rich media that allows you to combine text, files, videos, surveys, tables, and much more into a single canvas for modern remote collaboration.
  • Document chat - we already mentioned that communication is at the core of collaboration. It should be contextual, so each document should have its own chat.
  • Document tasks and events - attach tasks and events to each document for contextual project management.
  • Document history - never miss a keystroke. Being able to roll back in the edits history and have an audit trail is vital for remote collaboration.
Integrations

Explore Available Integrations

If it's meant to be one tool to rule them all, you need to pull in data from other services. Integrations are then essential. The best way for it to work is to directly integrate with other services. But similar results can be achieved with integration services like Zapier. Does the software support webhooks? Webhooks are another type of integration, one that allows 3rd party services to send data to the app of your choice.

Scalability

Make Sure it's Built To Scale

The software should serve a team of 5 just as well as it would a company of 500. You should not worry about how the system keeps up with your growing company. The software should be flexible and be able to grow and change right alongside your company.

Try Before Buy

Jump into Trial Mode

An application hidden behind a paywall without any means of trial or demo mode might be difficult to use, be inflexible, and require a big onboarding effort. These days, it's quite common for you to trial service for at least 14 days before you need to decide whether or not to upgrade to the paid service. Some software can even be used free forever with limited functionality, perfect for tiny teams or garage startups.

Support

Learn about Support

While the software should be easy enough to use by your whole team, you still may want to check the quality of the support it offers. Are you just a number, or do you get some personalized attention? How easy is it for you to speak to a person, or can you only communicate with the support team via email? To get an idea about the support the software offers, try visiting comparison sites such as Capterra or G2, where you can find customer reviews and comments about the support they received.

Security

Examine the App Security

The collaboration software should speak openly about its security measures. It should transparently inform it's users about any incident if something happens. Going beyond that, what Admin powers does the software offer? The software should have an Admin role, and ideally, a content manager role to remove harmful content or inadvertent postings of private information like passwords, etc. Ideally, the software should also offer options like two-factor authentication or single sign-on.

Conclusion

Our Conclusion for Finding the Best Collaboration App

Choosing the right collaboration software is not an easy task. We can recommend, though, get your hands dirty and try a variety of different tools. Reading other people's reviews is nice (and we're delighted we get great reviews), but your experience is unique to you. What other people like might not work for you and your team, but you may also learn something you had not thought about or considered previously. We love the Samepage, and we use our own product daily to run our business, and we invite you to try it. We actively encourage feedback from our community, and we invite you to let us know how it works for you on our Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook.