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Online Tools for Successful Collaboration

If we were to believe motivational speakers and self-help gurus, successful collaboration is all about constant communication. While it sounds good and makes for great motivational posters, sometimes we need additional help to achieve it.

Project management tools are important for this exact reason. They mediate within and outside the team and provide a technical framework for the chosen methodology.

Jira

The most powerful and flexible project management and collaboration solution, but it can get very confusing. Once you master the steep learning curve, it becomes a breeze. Specifically tuned for software development. Scales well — if you anticipate your growth up front and scale accordingly.

Trello

Easy to access, easy to use. A clean, simple interface resembling a kanban board. Can be used from software development to high-end gardening management. Great for collaboration, as it seamlessly integrates with Slack, Github, Evernote and many more. And the basic functionality is free!

Asana

Based on the workspaces, which contain tasks. Users and team members follow certain workspaces and get updates whenever something is changed. Asana is infinitely customizable and easy to use. However, you can’t assign multiple team members to a task. For that, you need to duplicate tasks, and with Asana being text-based, it can lead to confusion and clutter.

VivifyScrum

Simple and elegant. Ideal for Scrum teams and freelancers. Compatible with both Scrum and Kanban. Clean, easy to use, and very intuitive.

A post-it board

An actual post-it board can provide more than enough functionality — at least within the individual, simpler sprints. It’s visual, concrete and above all physical. It has a tactile, hands-on quality that no screen can offer.

When the project needs direct team communication, there is still no need to worry. A chat app can help you no matter where your team is.

Slack

Fast and reliable, with a great search function and a rich notification system. The mobile version works flawlessly. It can look cluttered and noisy.

Hipchat

Very simple and clean. However, it suffers from long loading times, very frequent updates which seem to contribute nothing to the tool itself and server outages are common.

When textual communication isn’t enough, a video one comes into play since it offers all the benefits of direct communication. Also, most of the video conferencing apps offer screen sharing, which is a great tool for collaborating and learning — without moving!

Appear.in

Directly and officially integrated with Slack, which makes it easy to turn a textual chat into a video conference and/or screen sharing. Very simple and easy to use.

GoToMeeting

Very easy to use, and the mobile app works great. The price, even for a small team, is a bit too steep considering that most of the paid functionality competition offers for free.

Skype

A tried and true video conferencing solution which offers great video quality and a very low latency. Also, it’s free. A team may have problems with the notoriously inaccurate online/offline notification.

File sharing is a necessary functionality for any collaboration. While smaller files are readily exchanged by most of the aforementioned chat apps, larger files need to be handled by the pros.

Dropbox

The synonym for online file storage, fast and reliable. They invented syncing, and it works flawlessly between devices. Block-level sync means that only the changed portion of the file is synced, which speeds the sync dramatically. The free storage of 2GB on sign-up is not exactly abundant by today’s standards, and Dropbox offers only one paid plan.

Google Drive

The free plan offers 15GB of storage, which is hard to beat. It offers selective sync, speeding up the workflow, and is seamlessly integrated with the rest of the Google ecosystem. However, file sharing options are notoriously minimal, and Google Drive can’t set passwords, or set expiry dates for permissions, which allows only for very simplified collaboration.

OneDrive

Microsoft’s OneDrive offers 5GB of storage on sign-up, and the paid plans offer a very good value. It integrates well with the Office suite, offering block-level sync for all Office documents. The contents of your OneDrive are not encrypted, however, which is a major drawback.

There are situations when you need to access your computer, but you cannot come to the office. That’s when the remote access apps come into play.

TeamViewer

The de facto standard remote access solution. Intuitive, fast, very easy to use. Works across all platforms and systems. Can have problems in a larger environment, and the file transfer is unnecessarily complicated.

LogMeIn

Less popular, but still an excellent solution for remote access. Works well in a small-to-mid-size enterprise, and excels in collaboration tools. It lets you create user groups, you can time-out access, and file transfer is very easy.