How to Select the Best Business Collaboration Software – Advice from Experts

Teamwork collaboration

Whether it be from their desk or on their mobile devices, busi­nesses today are constantly colla­bo­ra­ting. The magni­tude of ways in which we can commu­ni­cate and share infor­ma­tion has created new poten­tials for greater produc­ti­vity. For compa­nies today, the importance of opti­mi­zing busi­ness processes and finding effi­ci­en­cies via colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware is unquestionable.

However simply adop­ting the first piece of new tech­no­logy you see, will not guarantee instant results. There is no “one-size fits all” model for colla­bo­ra­tion software.

The big ques­tion is – how do you decide which soft­ware solu­tion is the best for your needs? We asked the execu­tives of ten colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware compa­nies for their input and advice on how to select the best solu­tion for any business.

Selecting Collaboration Software – What You Need to Know

All busi­nesses are diffe­rent, which means decision making revolves comple­tely around what works best for you. Selec­ting colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware is no diffe­rent. Busi­nesses are required to consider many factors specific to the needs of their team in order to find a colla­bo­ra­tion solu­tion that will solve their problems and ensure employees work to their potential.

This article includes advice directly from the execu­tives and experts of diffe­rent colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware compa­nies. It will give you a compre­hen­sive over­view of the top ten diffe­rent factors to consider when purcha­sing colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware, and help you make the best decision for your business.

1. Evaluate How You Work & Set Goals

By Andrew Filev – Wrike

When choo­sing a colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware to help your team, you need to first make sure you under­stand how your team works on projects. Do you mainly handle struc­tured work (regular projects and stan­dar­dized work­flows), or unstruc­tured work (lots of ad hoc tasks, assign­ments, and last-minute opportunities)?

Once you under­stand how your team curr­ently works, then you need to set goals for what you want to improve. With a new tool, do you want to:

  • Increase your team’s velocity?
  • Improve visi­bi­lity and colla­bo­ra­tion between teams?
  • Stan­dar­dize your workflows?
  • Be able to gene­rate reports on completed work?
  • Create, edit, and work on shared docu­ments with colleagues?
  • Inte­grate with other tools?

Setting clearly defined goals BEFORE you purchase soft­ware allows you to measure whether or not the tool is actually working for your team. You can gauge if the addi­tion of the tool has contri­buted to your overall success. And having the tangible “before” bench­mark helps you prove your new tool’s worth to upper management.

Andrew Filev

About Andrew Filev and Wrike:
Andrew Filev is the CEO and founder of Wrike, a leading cloud-based colla­bo­ra­tion tool for teams of any size. Thou­sands of custo­mers use Wrike to colla­bo­rate, manage tasks, plan projects and to make teams more efficient.

2. Hosting On-Premise or in the Cloud

By Spencer Frasher – Atlassian

Choo­sing a deploy­ment option is an important compo­nent in the decision-making process for colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware. In talking with custo­mers we find that cloud is a popular option, but there are reasons why they would choose on-premise versions.

The answer to these ques­tions can help guide your decision.

  • How are your budgets struc­tured?
    Typi­cally on-premise and cloud products have diffe­rent pricing models. Cloud can provide flexi­bi­lity in mana­ging expenses while on-premise provides more certainty. The way your budgets are struc­tured, and the time frame you have to spend the budget, may guide your decision.
  • Do you want to get started, like, now?
    Cloud soft­ware is easy to get up and running for you and your team, while on-premise versions take more time to down­load, set-up and run.
  • Do you have rest­ric­tions?
    Depen­ding on your industry or the country in which you do busi­ness, you may have certain rest­ric­tions on how you handle, store and audit data. Some cloud provi­ders may not be able to meet your criteria.
  • Does your orga­niza­tion have the IT capa­bi­lity and capa­city to run on-premise soft­ware?
    Any company with an internet connec­tion can sign up and start using cloud based soft­ware. On-premise soft­ware requires an IT orga­niza­tion that can manage the hard­ware, data backup, band­width, etc. that is required to deliver a great experience.
  • Are you a control freak?
    Regard­less of the deploy­ment option you choose, outages will happen. The diffe­rence is who gets paged to solve the problem: your team or the cloud provider’s ops team.

There are a few other conside­ra­tions like LDAP compa­ti­bi­lity that may also sway you to choose one over another, but the good news is that most vendors make it easy to move from an on-premise version to a cloud version and vice versa if your needs change.


About Spencer Frasher and Atlas­sian:
Spencer Frasher is the Head of Marke­ting for Confluence at Atlas­sian. Over 50,000 custo­mers, inclu­ding Face­book, Netflix and NASA use Atlas­sian tools to commu­ni­cate and colla­bo­rate more effectively.

3. Foster Engaged and Collaborative Employees through Impactful Onboarding and Training

By Carolyn Beal – SAP Jam

Strong employee enga­ge­ment is an impe­ra­tive to a successful orga­niza­tion, and social colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware is a key ingre­dient. How can you ensure that your employees have a posi­tive, enga­ging, and valuable expe­ri­ence with your social soft­ware, starting on Day 1?

A best prac­tice approach is to partner with your HR orga­niza­tion to create a group focused on new employees, as a way to help onboard them to your company. This group should contain all of the needed docu­ments, infor­ma­tion, and also provide a colla­bo­ra­tive envi­ron­ment to interact with peers. By guiding new hires to your social colla­bo­ra­tion site, it will help pave the way for future use in their daily work.

Trai­ning and ongoing support, both formal and informal, are an essen­tial element to ensu­ring that adop­tion is achieved. In your docu­men­ta­tion, bring the diffe­rent colla­bo­ra­tion use cases to life to spark usage, provide both func­tional and best prac­tice examples, offer in-depth and quick start guides, and film short video tuto­rials. Offer a dedi­cated group in your social site to provide support, solicit ideas, and collect feedback.

Software Training

McKinsey reports that social tech­no­lo­gies unlock $1.3B in annual value, double the value from improved commu­ni­ca­tion and colla­bo­ra­tion, and improve customer inter­ac­tions by 40–60%. By inclu­ding your social colla­bo­ra­tion solu­tion in your new hire onboar­ding process and ensu­ring that they can leverage the solu­tion in an impactful way, you deliver trans­for­ma­tive value to your business.

Carolyn Beal

About Carolyn Beal and SAP Jam:
Carolyn Beal is the Senior Director of Product Marke­ting for SAP Jam, a social colla­bo­ra­tion solu­tion that drives busi­ness results.

4. Team Buy-In

By Scott Schreiman – Samepage

A recent survey by Same­page and ORC Inter­na­tional states that while 73% encou­rage employees to use colla­bo­ra­tion apps, only 40% actually use them widely within their orga­niza­tions. Why? Accor­ding to the survey, adop­tion of colla­bo­ra­tion apps is being prima­rily driven by indi­vi­dual employees, not execu­tives. While the use of email was initi­ally adopted by 55% of the compa­nies, other colla­bo­ra­tion apps adopted by indi­vi­dual employees actually ranked higher than tools adopted by the entire company: social tools for busi­ness (71%), instant messa­ging (68%) and file sharing (61%). From this we can assert: When new processes are imposed on employees by manage­ment, they are less likely to actually be used; colla­bo­ra­tion apps are gene­rally pulled into an orga­niza­tion by the employees and not the employer.

If a busi­ness wants to imple­ment a new tool, team buy-in is critical to its success in the company. With small busi­nesses placing a high value on colla­bo­ra­tion apps, getting an employee engaged early on is just as (if not more) critical.

Scott Schreiman

About Scott Schreiman and Same­page:
Scott Schreiman is the founder and chief execu­tive officer of Same­page, a startup that enables small busi­nesses and their teams to get more done.

5. Integrations with other tools

By Michael Hollauf – MeisterLabs

When buying colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware, make sure to choose one that is as open and flexible as possible. The last thing you want is to set up an isolated silo of infor­ma­tion. Your colla­bo­ra­tion tool can and should func­tion more like a hub that connects with other plat­forms and tools you’re using and thereby enables a seam­less flow of infor­ma­tion. In the long run this can really save you tons of time.

There are four diffe­rent types of inte­gra­tions – of incre­asing comple­xity – that you should consider:

  1. Inte­gra­tions with file sharing plat­forms such as Dropbox or Google Drive allow you to upload files directly from them.
  2. Sign in-inte­gra­tions allow you to sign up or sign in to the tool using for instance an exis­ting social media account.
  3. Inte­gra­tions with tools such as Face­book, Google+ or Twitter allow you to share content from the soft­ware directly via those social media platforms.
  4. Work­flow inte­gra­tions enable you to build a custo­mized work­flow between your colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware and other tools such as calen­dars, time tracking‑, task‑, meeting‑, deve­lo­p­ment- or chat tools.

If the colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware you’re looking at doesn’t come readily inte­grated with your favo­rite apps, check if there are IFTTT recipes or auto­ma­tions through Zapier (“Zaps”) available.

If you’re working with your own custo­mized soft­ware solu­tion and want to inte­grate the new colla­bo­ra­tion tool with it, look for its API, which is often available on the tool’s website.

Michael Hollauf

About Michael Hollauf and Meis­terLabs:
Michael Hollauf is the CEO at Meis­terLabs, the company behind Mind­Meister & Meis­ter­Task. The tools form a colla­bo­ra­tive produc­ti­vity suite that lets teams turn their crea­tive ideas directly into actionable tasks.

6. Trial the Software

By Mark Zondler – Mikogo

Soft­ware is not the sum of its features. Equally important is its perfor­mance, simpli­city and ease-of-use, all very hard to evaluate based on some marke­ting colla­teral. To judge these soft factors, you need to expe­ri­ence the soft­ware by working with it in a real-world scenario.

Most SaaS provi­ders offer free trial accounts that you can set up all by yourself. Some SaaS provi­ders even offer free versions of their product (usually feature-limited) which you can use to expe­ri­ence the product before upgrading to a full-featured Premium plan.

In most cases, trialing the soft­ware is very quick and easy to set up; you typi­cally just need a user account and a browser or a simple app down­load. Trialing an on-premise solu­tion is a bit more compli­cated and requires instal­la­tion and confi­gu­ra­tion on one of your servers, but on-premise soft­ware provi­ders usually offer a demo system that you can use.

Who should trial the soft­ware? Usually there’s a buyer (the person assi­gned to rese­arch and select the new soft­ware) and the real end-users (the people who will actually use the soft­ware for their work). Be sure that the real users get involved and that more than just one user trials the soft­ware – by defi­ni­tion, colla­bo­ra­tion involves several people. Assemble a small team of people, ideally a mix repre­sen­ting typical users within your orga­niza­tion, with diffe­rent levels of affi­nity for IT and soft­ware. The ulti­mate success of any new soft­ware roll out is user adop­tion and you should not only base your decision on early adop­ters’ feed­back but also involve your average user. A simpler solu­tion that is used and loved by your entire team is worth far more than the full-featured specia­list program, which your end-users reject because it’s simply too complicated.

Mark Zondler

About Mark Zondler and Mikogo:
Mark Zondler is the Co-Founder of Mikogo, a free screen sharing and colla­bo­ra­tion solu­tion, used by over a million people world­wide for online meetings and web presentations.

7. Access and Day-to-Day Usage

By John Eiken­berry – SugarSync

When revie­wing colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware you should look for key features that will make a diffe­rence to your day-to-day work flow. There may be a range of great-sounding options but if you would rarely use them, they aren’t a key reason for buying the product. We have listed some of the key things to consider below:

  1. Apps for your devices: What systems do you and your staff curr­ently use? If you’re out of the office checking your tablet or phone a lot, make sure you choose a solu­tion that gives you full control on those devices. You wouldn’t want a really cut down colla­bo­ra­tion expe­ri­ence on your main device.
  2. Reco­very options: To make sure files aren’t acci­dently edited or deleted, be sure your solu­tion keeps previous versions of each file and has a reco­very option.
  3. Permis­sions: To make sure you and your colle­agues can colla­bo­rate effort­lessly you are likely to need diffe­rent levels of permis­sion. A manager may want to be able to colla­bo­rate on a file with only one other user, so you would want the ability to do that. Also you may want some employees to be able to edit a docu­ment while others have a read-only permis­sion. Make sure your solu­tion offers you the flexi­bi­lity to colla­bo­rate the ways you will need.
Smartphone in Hand
John Eikenberry

About John Eiken­berry and SugarSync:
John Eiken­berry is the COO of SugarSync, a cloud sync solu­tion that simpli­fies colla­bo­ra­tion by keeping files in the same folder struc­ture as your devices.

8. Security

By Stuart Barr – HighQ

Cloud tech­no­lo­gies have matured signi­fi­cantly in recent years to allow greater control and flexi­bi­lity over the secu­rity of your data. The best enter­prise colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware offers secu­rity features such as hybrid storage, encryp­tion key manage­ment (EKM) and flexible deploy­ment options inclu­ding a choice of data centre loca­tions and single-tenancy, private cloud hosting.

Consider a supplier that deploys your own dedi­cated instance of the product, in the region of your choice, giving you control over where your data resides, when it’s upgraded, custom bran­ding and how it’s configured.

For secure docu­ment colla­bo­ra­tion, hybrid storage gives custo­mers the ability to choose where they want their data stored, with the flexi­bi­lity to store files in diffe­rent global data centres or on-premise storage, parti­cu­larly bene­fi­cial for enter­prises who have specific requi­re­ments about where their data is stored for regu­la­tory and compli­ance reasons.

Simi­larly, EKM places the encryp­tion keys for your data in your control, sepa­rate from the data itself. Not only does this tighten secu­rity gene­rally, redu­cing the proba­bi­lity of any third parties being able to decrypt the data, cruci­ally it means that if a govern­ment body or agency were to seize the cloud vendor’s servers, they could not decrypt the data without obtai­ning the decryp­tion keys from the customer directly.

Stuart Barr

About Stuart Barr and HighQ:
Stuart Barr is the Chief Stra­tegy Officer for HighQ, a leading provider of cloud-based enter­prise colla­bo­ra­tion and publi­shing soft­ware for some of the world’s leading law firms, invest­ment banks and corporations.

9. Understanding the Collaboration Ecosystem

By Marriott Murdock MBA, PMP – NetDocuments

The impli­ca­tions of intro­du­cing a colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware, service, or vendor into your organization’s tech­no­logy land­scape should be analyzed across depart­ments, industry-specific regu­la­tion and compli­ance, the specific colla­bo­ra­tion needs, and ulti­m­ately how it will increase produc­ti­vity, usabi­lity, and your broader infor­ma­tion gover­nance initia­tives. Here are several key areas to consider:

  1. Secu­rity and compli­ance when selec­ting a vendor – Data (docu­ments, email, etc.) being shared and colla­bo­rated on with clients and internal teams may fall under certain rest­ric­tions and regu­la­tion either imposed by a parti­cular industry, or required by your client’s orga­niza­tion (e.g. HIPAA, SEC, FINRA, DOD, etc.). Knowing the speci­fics of poten­tial regu­la­tion and compli­ance requi­re­ments will help guide the evalua­tion of poten­tial products, and may rule some out altogether.
  2. Centra­lized vs. decen­tra­lized colla­bo­ra­tion – Colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware will typi­cally either be decen­tra­lized or centra­lized. Centra­lized colla­bo­ra­tion means that as a default, content placed in the system will be acces­sible to ever­yone unless indi­vi­duals are speci­fi­cally rest­ricted. Decen­tra­lized colla­bo­ra­tion means by default, any contents added to the system will only be acces­sible to you – the author – and shared with others only when specific access is granted.
  3. Infor­ma­tion gover­nance and ECM impli­ca­tions – Enter­prise Content Manage­ment (ECM) encom­passes a broad range of internal and external acti­vi­ties as it relates to content of all types across the firm. Most ECM systems or services will have built-in colla­bo­ra­tion compon­ents in order to faci­li­tate colla­bo­ra­tion without the need to pull infor­ma­tion out of the organization’s ECM land­scape. Content outside the firm’s defined infor­ma­tion gover­nance infra­struc­ture (poli­cies, proce­dures, and tech­no­logy), intro­duces liabi­lity, noncom­pli­ance, data leakage, reten­tion poli­cies, and poten­tial know­ledge loss by not having a centra­lized loca­tion for data.
Marriott Murdock

About Marriott Murdock MBA, PMP, and NetDo­cu­ments:
Marriott Murdock is the Marke­ting Director at NetDo­cu­ments, the leading cloud-based docu­ment and email manage­ment service, helping firms decrease cost and increase produc­ti­vity through anytime, anywhere, any device access.

10. Understand the Pricing Model

By Sandeep Kashyap – ProofHub

Pricing is one of the most important criteria to be looked at when selec­ting colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware for your team. You need to have a clear under­stan­ding of how the pricing works before actually inves­ting your time and money in it.

Here is a look at some of the aspects that you must keep in mind when conside­ring to invest in online colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware for your business:

  • Does it fit within your busi­ness needs?
    Change is the only thing that’s constant when it comes to any busi­ness. But, if you want to keep pace with the evol­ving needs of your busi­ness, you ought to have a tool that offers lucra­tive plans to suffice teams of all sizes. No matter if you have a team of 50 or 5000, you must get the flexi­bi­lity to switch between diffe­rent plans as per the chan­ging size and requi­re­ments of your team.
  • Does it paint a clear picture of what you will get?
    Compli­cated pricing plans are a big turn off, no matter how good the tool is. The pricing plan of the tool should clearly reflect the features you will be getting and the cost that will be incurred, so that you can easily compare the bene­fits of various plans.
  • Does it offer value for money?
    Pay heed to the ques­tion ‘Is the tool worth the money you will be spen­ding on it?’ Having a clear under­stan­ding of your busi­ness process and how the tool can fit within your busi­ness needs becomes critical here. Rather than going for a plan stuffed with features, you need to look for a tool with plans that suffices your busi­ness and offers value for the money.
  • Do you get a free trial?
    Another important thing to keep in mind is that you should always give prefe­rence to a soft­ware that offers free trial. During the free trial, you can take the soft­ware for a spin and can get to know how quickly and how well your team can adapt to it.
Sandeep Kashyap

About Sandeep Kashyap and ProofHub:
Founder and CEO of ProofHub, a project manage­ment tool that helps you plan, colla­bo­rate, orga­nize and deliver projects successfully.

In Summary:

Before inves­ting time and money into new tech­no­logy, it pays to consider the above factors. A given colla­bo­ra­tion solu­tion will bring certain strengths and bene­fits to your busi­ness, which may differ to the next busi­ness. We hope the above insights from colla­bo­ra­tion soft­ware provi­ders has answered some of the ques­tions you will have when looking for the right solu­tion for your company.

Nehmen Sie Kontakt mit uns auf und sprechen Sie mit einem unserer Experten.

© 2021 Snapview GmbH