Step By Step Guide To Using Online Collaboration Tools For Business

According to a study published by McKinsey, the use of social tools to improve internal collaboration could raise the productivity levels of interactions by as much as 20-25 percent. This is not entirely surprising. The internet has made it possible for organizations to work with vendors and contractors from across the world regardless of their geographic proximity. This allows businesses to hire the best people for the job at the most competitive prices. On the flip side however, the lack of traditional face-to-face meetings has made collaboration challenging.

Online collaboration tools have helped organizations bridge the gap between employees and have made collaborating on projects much smoother. But how do you go about picking the right tool for your business and making the maximum use of it? This step by step guide shall help.

Picking the right tool

The first step in effective online collaboration is picking the right tool for your business. There are various parameters to look at. A small two member team might be happy to engage over email. But things can get messy when you have a dozen members in your team. The ideal collaboration software tool should make project management simple even when you are handling dozens of projects simultaneously.

Another important factor to consider is the file sharing ability. A content marketing agency, for instance, is most likely to share MS Word or PDF documents that are not more than a few MBs in size. However, if you are a creative agency that works on high quality multimedia files, you may need to find a service that is generous with its file size and storage limits.

Finally, the ideal tool must also fit your budgets. A lot of collaboration tools charge businesses by the number of users they have in the team. The numbers could thus easily scale up if you have dozens of dormant participants in your team. Tools like Hubbion are free with no limits on the number of users, projects or file sizes and can come in handy for regular collaboration. Alternately, tools like Wrike are paid and come with limited file storage limits. However, they have several third party integration features that you may need depending on the industry you operate in.

There are a number of completely free collaboration tools to choose. However, if your analysis finds a paid tool to be the most apt for your needs, then you must take this investment into account while evaluating the cost-benefit of your collaboration tools. As a matter of fact, unless you are a bootstrapped startup, the cost of a collaboration tool (that might cost your business not more than a few hundred dollars a month) may not be the most critical component while evaluating the cost-benefits.

Task collaboration tools come with high switching costs. It may sometimes be infeasible to switch to a new collaboration software once your team has settled with one. So it is a good idea to pick a service that comes with an easy task exporting feature.

Establishing the right protocols

Picking the right tool is only half the battle. The effectiveness of the product ultimately depends on how you use it. No matter how good your online collaboration tool is, things can get messy if it is left unchecked. For instance, some teams let individual project creators pick the categories and status messages for their projects. This results in a number of duplicate project categories and statuses that undo the benefits online collaboration tools provide.

Before you start using a collaboration tool for your organization, it is recommended to sit down as a team and lay out some ground rules. Build a master list of categories and status messages that fit the needs of all your team members. Also, it is important to lay out other rules such as the role of the project creator, assignee and other participants in a group, who owns the right to change the assignee in a group, who owns the right to modify project status and who can mark the project as complete. This way, one could prevent an over-zealous participant from archiving or marking a project as complete even before it has been agreed to by other stakeholders in a project.

File storage

Document sharing and storage is a critical component of online collaboration. Most online collaboration tools have a limit on the size of the files that collaborators could upload. Others have a limit on the overall storage capacity for a team. In either case, teams need to establish a protocol for handling file storage. One way to do this is to backup the final approved copy of any file on a third party file storing service like Google Drive or Dropbox. Teams can also choose to delete all files from a project upon completion of the task. This clears the space for future collaborations. Some collaboration tools take the onus of deleting files from completed projects so that teams do not have to worry about this.


Online task collaboration tools do not always contain all the features that a team needs to execute their projects successfully. No matter how good your tool is, nothing can substitute a real-world face-to-face meeting. It is hence important to identify areas of engagement that your collaboration tool does not cater to and identify alternate tools that can get things done. The most common tools here are video conferencing tools (like Skype) and VoIP based calling tools if you are also dealing with external stakeholders who are not part of the collaboration tool system.

Collaboration can be a lot of work and it is very easy to clutter your system. It takes an organized approach with involvement from all your team members to make sure you have a collaboration platform that not only organizes your projects better, but also ensures seamless engagement and improvement in productivity.

Stephanie Seymour

By Stephanie Seymour

Stephanie Seymour is a senior business analyst and one of the crucial members of the FinancesOnline research team. She is a leading expert in the field of business intelligence and data science. She specializes in visual data discovery, cloud-based BI solutions, and big data analytics. She’s fascinated by how companies dealing with big data are increasingly embracing cloud business intelligence. In her software reviews, she always focuses on the aspects that let users share analytics and enhance findings with context.

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