You need more than a shared to-do list to get great results on team projects. Explore five different types of tools you need to simplify collaborative work.
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Eduardo left home at 23 when he moved from Colombia to North Carolina to work as a developer. He was excited to live alone for the first time. That is, of course, until he had to build his first flat-pack table that came with 15 different screws and nails—and the only tools he had to help him were a knife and a pair of shoes.
Up for the challenge, he began to screw the table legs with the knife and hit the nails using the heel of a shoe as a hammer. Three hours later, Eduardo managed to get the table standing on its four legs, but his hands were sore and he had a couple of cuts and bruises. It would’ve been much faster—and more painless—if he’d had the right tools.
Just like Eduardo, your team needs the right tools for the job. In your case, though, that probably means tools to efficiently share information and work together. But you shouldn’t just go for any old app that takes up space in your toolbox without being worth the investment—you need the right tools at the right time for the right job.
That means choosing a lean tech stack of the right online collaboration tools that suit both your projects and your team’s working and communication styles. This way, you’ll get them to cooperate more efficiently and keep everyone in the loop regarding ongoing projects.
This article will show you how online collaboration tools help in project management and which platforms are right for your businesses. Plus we’ll explore the key considerations for project management.
Make it easy for your team to collaborate on projects
Add sticky notes, brainstorm on a whiteboard, and have all relevant information at hand in Switchboard’s persistent rooms.
How different online collaboration tools benefit project management
“Group collaboration can bring in new ideas, perspectives, and approaches to solving problems. It allows the team to build upon one another to create an end result better than the sum of its parts,” explain Alex Melone and Andrei Marin, co-founders of CodeCrew.
When your team works together beautifully, you’ll know exactly how collaboration is beneficial for your business. On top of that, the right tools can help encourage teamwork in every aspect of your project.
Here are five different types of software to consider:
1. Real-time collaboration software
Real-time collaboration platforms, like digital workspaces or video conferencing software, make it easy for two or more people to have a conversation or work simultaneously on a document or project—regardless of their location.
Giving them the tools to work synchronously online means everyone gets to share their input and see those outcomes unfold in real time. All teams should have and use at least one of these tools to connect internally and with external stakeholders—e.g. clients, freelancers, vendors, or candidates.
Real-time collaboration tools help:
- Align teams. When you talk to your team on a video call, you open the door for them to ask questions, get clarification on project goals, and have everyone on the same page.
- Simplify knowledge and idea sharing. Share insights, findings, and materials with other team members so everyone can learn from each other. You can also use these tools to brainstorm and workshop ideas in a group.
- Team bonding. Collaborating with others in real time allows you to get to know your team members better and reach agreements faster—you can clarify everything there instead of having a back-and-forth of information through email or chat.
Examples of real-time collaboration software
- Switchboard. A collaborative digital workspace where you and your team can work together on browser-based files, documents, or apps inside a virtual room—without having to share your screen or delegate control. Switchboard lets you communicate in real-time with video, audio, chat—and even polls. For example, if you’re running out of meeting time but still have two agenda items, you can ask people to vote on what they want to discuss first. However, if you use the meeting timer to keep people on track, this shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.
- Google Meet. This video conferencing tool allows teams to connect in meetings with up to 500 participants (depending on the plan you’re on). You can record meetings and get an AI-powered transcription. On Meet, everyone with a Google account can use it and create polls, brainstorm on a virtual whiteboard, raise their hand to get permission to speak, and react using emojis.
2. Project management software
To get your team to collaborate on projects online (and offline), be on top of their task list, and do project planning, you need project management software. Project management tools are essentially a more powerful online work agenda—and are handy to have in your business’s toolbox. These help you plan, schedule, track, and report a project’s workload.
Depending on the platform you choose, you can also use it for task management, building Gantt charts or Kanban boards, commenting on tasks, creating and storing documents, and managing your team schedules.
Project management tools help businesses:
- Stay on top of project deliverables. With a project management tool like Asana or Trello, you can easily review which tasks are pending, in progress, or done. For example, if the priorities change, you can always review the pending tasks and adjust deadlines to match stakeholders' expectations.
- Equitably assign responsibilities and organize team workload. A big part of project management is properly allocating work so you can achieve results and drive collaboration without burnout.
- Delegate tasks easily. For example, if you need to ask for help, you can assign tasks to someone else from your project team and leave a comment with an explanation instead of waiting to get on a call with the person.
Examples of project management software
- Asana. This online project management tool enables teams to organize, manage, and track progress for tasks and projects. Asana offers multiple features which make it appealing both to individuals and large enterprises: You can create to-do lists, meeting agendas, Gantt charts, calendars, and project portfolios. It includes integrations with other internal collaboration tools like Slack, Google Drive, or Dropbox—and you can add project to-do lists to your Switchboard room via a link.
- Trello. Trello is a simple yet powerful task management tool that uses the Kanban method to organize workload in lists, cards, and boards. This tool allows teams to add all pending tasks to a board, assign members to tasks, add short and long descriptions to each task, labels, due dates, and reminders, and comment and collaborate with each other. Trello is mostly used by development and customer service teams to keep track of tickets.
3. Async communication tools
You don’t need a meeting for everything but sometimes an email or a comment on files isn’t enough. In some cases, the best way to share a point of view, give feedback, or simply ask for clarification is with async tools.
For example, imagine you just met with one of your clients and you need your team to make adjustments to the new campaign ASAP. Sharing an email can feel too impersonal or long; instead, record a short video or leave sticky notes on a board with actionable changes. This feels friendlier and will leave people much clearer on what you’re expecting.
Asynchronous communication tools allow people to leave messages—in text, audio, or video—for their colleagues to see and answer when they have time. These platforms are very common across geographically dispersed teams, especially when they’re in different time zones. But they’re also useful for non-remote teams who need a way to chat and share updates quickly without finding a time for everyone to meet in person.
Using asynchronous communication software can help:
- Bring distributed teams together. Asynchronous tools make you mindful of everyone’s working hours and get your team talking to each other despite different working locations.
- Reduce meeting overload and dependency. When you spend less time on meetings, you have more space to plan your schedule and focus on tasks. For example, rather than attending another Monday update meeting, you could just review the actions on a sticky note in Switchboard—and use the time won to actually work on the project.
- Better time management. Allowing team members to check notifications and answer questions when it suits them gives them more ownership over their schedule. This means they can focus on deep work when they’re most productive, and avoid getting distracted by constant interruptions.
Pro tip: Asynchronous doesn’t mean impersonal. On the contrary, asynchronous tools enable everyone to participate despite their working hours or location. But keeping all communication async can make it harder for teams to understand each other’s work and communication styles.
“Developing a team playbook that compares each member’s communication styles and motivators is a game changer,” explains Ashely Russo, Founder and President, ASR Media Productions.
You can keep track of the playbook in Switchboard’s persistent project rooms. That way, anyone that joins or participates in the project can know what’s the best way to talk to one or many colleagues asynchronously.
Examples of asynchronous communication tools
- Switchboard. With Switchboard, you can create virtual rooms for asynchronous brainstorming, working on tasks, and planning future projects. These project rooms save your work and meeting history, keeping all relevant files in the room with a record of your previous meetings or project work sessions. Best of all, Switchboard works with any browser-based app so you can make any file editable in there—Notion docs, a Google spreadsheet, a Loom video, etc.
- Loom. This video messaging tool lets remote and hybrid teams record and share videos with others to review asynchronously. With Loom, you can record videos while you share your screen. Every video is stored in one easy-to-access library so nothing gets lost. People can comment and react to these videos and share them via a link. Since Loom shares browser-based videos, you could add them to your Switchboard room and make them available to anyone who joins.
4. Knowledge and document management platforms
Remember Eduardo? He finished building his table and now he’s thinking about where to put those shoes. He could keep them all upstairs under the bed, but it’s much quicker to have them on a neat shoe rack right by the door for when he’s ready to leave the apartment.
Similarly, at work, you could pin key documents to your Slack channel but the pins will just keep building up and be difficult to organize. The best place to store all your project data is in a dedicated knowledge and document management tool.
Knowledge and document management platforms help businesses organize, save, review, and manage relevant documents and workflows—e.g. a doc with collaboration strategies, the project’s Gantt chart, or a file with team member’s information. These tools offer an easy-to-access repository of information that’s accessible by all team members.
Knowledge and document storing software should make it easy for teams to review and update project data. It also helps teams:
- Keep relevant information organized and safely stored. Your team needs to be able to find project data fast because spending too much time searching for answers can make people skip or delay the process. Security is also crucial on these tools as you can’t risk having any project information leaked or damaged.
- Ensure everyone is working on the most updated version of a file. Projects are likely to change over time, if you ensure that your knowledge base is always up to date, you make sure your team is aligned and on track.
- Improve compliance and document control. As you may know, you need to be on top of the data you’re storing. Depending on what it contains, you might need to run periodic checks or delete user personal information after a couple of years. These tools simplify compliance checks.
Examples of knowledge and document management platforms
- Switchboard. As a virtual collaboration tool with room memory, you can use dedicated project rooms and add sections to store documents and keep the space organized. With Switchboard, your team can update those files directly in the platform. You can also add any browser-based applications to the room, no matter which app you used to create your project files. This is particularly helpful for distributed teams working on multiple projects at the same time. That way, they get access to relevant documents such as standard operating procedures (SOPs), deadlines, or deliverables easily.
- Dropbox. This tool lets you store your files securely on the cloud for safekeeping so you can access them from different devices. You can download the app on your computer and allow it to sync certain folders and files with the cloud automatically—and skip doing manual backups. Dropbox also offers version history which means you can review previous versions of the same file. Individuals, freelancers, families, and small to large businesses can save and share files using Dropbox.
5. Visual collaboration tools
Just like a hammer, a visual collaboration platform is always a great tool to have in your toolbox. It brings all your team members' opinions together in the same place and lets you come up with solutions on the spot.
Visual collaboration tools enable teams to work together from different locations and collaborate online on visual ideation. These make it easy to mimic real-life team collaboration activities like writing ideas on a blackboard. For example, you can use a virtual whiteboard to build a mind map, sketch a prototype, or visualize your team’s weekly workload. Visual collaboration tools help businesses:
- Improve problem-solving and idea generation. Two heads think better than one, so collaborate visually to plan, brainstorm, and create in groups using these collaboration tools.
- Make meetings more interactive and engaging. You can use some visual collaboration tools async, but when you pull them up during meetings it can make them more engaging.
- Simplify remote collaboration. When your team works remotely, you can make the tools available for async collaboration and collect insights regardless of their time zones.
Examples of visual collaboration tools
- Switchboard. This is a virtual collaboration tool for visual thinkers. It comes with visual collaboration features like an integrated whiteboard and sticky notes that you use in the room. You can add documents or apps to rooms, host virtual conferences, and work together without sharing your screen—if it contains visuals, it can happen in Switchboard. Plus, you can add up to 10 browser-based tools or files to the board and move around the space by grabbing and moving the background with your mouse.
- FigJam. This collaborative online whiteboard tool was built by Figma. While it was created mostly for product and design teams, it can be helpful for all hybrid and remote teams. FigJam is a highly powerful virtual whiteboard where creative teams can use a blank space to collaborate or use one of their templates. In it, you can add text, video, audio, or pictures, and react to other’s data using emojis. If you’re already using FigJam, you can bring your panel to Switchboard and edit it live with others.
Online project collaboration software: The key to better teamwork
Attempting to build a flatpack table with a knife and a shoe can leave you exhausted and physically hurt—Eduardo will tell you all about it. Just like him, you need the right tools for the job at hand.
If you don’t think carefully about your goals and team setup, you’ll end up spending your whole budget on project management tools that don’t have the features you need. For instance, you might want to create a workload visibility dashboard but the platform only lets you organize work in Kanban boards. Your team will end up spending all their time looking for workarounds instead of simply getting access to suitable, user-friendly apps.
To ensure everyone is on the same page and working with the most updated information, you should have online project collaboration tools to cover different purposes. For instance, you could have at least one app for real-time and async communication and one for task management or visual collaboration.
If you’re looking for a tool that lets your team collaborate async, host meetings in real time, and keep all the necessary information stored in persistent rooms, try Switchboard. Its persistent rooms enable a more collaborative, multiplayer experience by letting you share and work on browser-based apps together. With Switchboard, you’ll be all set to tackle your project management and collaboration needs—and have the right tools at your fingertips.
Make it easy for your team to collaborate on projects
Add sticky notes, brainstorm on a whiteboard, and have all relevant information at hand in Switchboard’s persistent rooms.
Frequently asked questions about how online collaboration tools help in project management
How can collaboration tools help me in developing my project?
Collaboration tools can help you develop projects by making it easy for teams to communicate, share ideas, and work together online. You can collaborate with others by:
- Using a virtual whiteboard
- Having video conferences
- Editing the same file in real-time
- Ensuring version control and document history
What is the main purpose of collaboration tools in a project?
The main purpose of collaboration tools in a project is to simplify team communication and get things done. Project collaboration tools also allow the team to reach alignment, comment and edit a file hosted in a central location, and brainstorm ideas.
What are the most common collaboration tools for project management?
The most common collaboration tools for project management include:
- Switchboard: For setting priorities on video calls, having all project files available in one place, and collaborating with others in real-time and async.
- Asana or Trello: To keep track of pending tasks and manage team workload.
- Dropbox: For dedicated cloud storage and making files editable on the cloud.