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Collaboration Tools and Technologies For Business

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Table of Contents

Introduction

The vast spread of Covid-19 has forced organizations worldwide to adapt to remote working, assisting in reducing the virus’s spread while maintaining productivity and reducing its impact on business growth. Collaboration tools and technologies facilitate employees’ functioning remotely while still communicating and teaming on documents and projects. Furthermore, Covid-19 has made collaboration normalcy in workplaces since employees are not expected to interrupt one another while working. Collaboration increases productivity and improves efficiency, achieved if the organization has established the best online collaboration tools and technologies. Organizations can implement tools such as Skype, Microsoft Office 365, and Trello.

Collaboration Tools and Technologies For Business

Historical Development of Collaborative Tools and Technologies

  • Microsoft office 365

Microsoft Office 365 is a free version of the Microsoft office tool for the original office suit. It was developed in the year 2011. At fast, it entailed only email with document-centric workflow and Exchange from SharePoint. Both technologies strived to ease collaboration, but Exchange aimed with public folder legacy and previously failed attempts to grow from its main strength as an email server. Exchange servers failed, although they looked promising. SharePoint was a perfect document management program. In June 2012, Microsoft obtained Yammer for 1.2 billion dollars. Microsoft collaborated with Yammer, which gave a solution to all issues incurred with SharePoint and Exchange. In November 2014, Microsoft launched Office 365 with a promising solution to the users who employ Outlook in planning their working days. Distribution lists in Office 365 match the distribution group’s features. Currently, Microsoft emphasizes Groups as a service for membership and does not weigh much on the group as a platform for collaboration.  

The Exchange functions as an Office 365 workload by delivering mailboxes to other apps while SharePoint services as go-to document storage. Microsoft Office 365 has shifted from Yammer to Groups and finally to Teams. Recently, Microsoft has integrated cloud components into Office 365 (Redmond, n.d.). Exchange enables the Exchange of emails worldwide in Office 365 while Teams apply to employees who work together on topics of common interest. SharePoint is integrated with Team AND Exchange to play the role of managing documents in the app.

Furthermore, Yammer enables Office 365 to apply to large organizations to support thousands of employees. In the year 2017, Microsoft started deploying slides to elaborate on numerous techniques available to users in Microsoft 365 that facilitates communication. Microsoft 365 has been in constant evolution because Microsoft has changed its strategies and emphasis.

  • Skype

Skype is a free communication tool that allows video and audio calls between numerous devices. Skype changes voice signals into data, transmits it over the internet from the host device, and then restores the audio file at the receiving device. It has convenience features, such as call forwarding and voice mail (Whent, 2012). In other words, one employee can use it through the phone and communicate with one using a laptop. It also allows group calls among employees. Skype is the leading voice over protocol globally. Since its commencement in the year 2003, it has progressed to an extend here any user with the necessary skills can quickly master it. It has both paid and free versions. One aspect that made it attract quite a significant number of users is its free version with everything any casual user would need from a Voice over IP (VOIP) service. The service is in continuous improvement and transition since it has released numerous versions. VOIP facilitates free skype services between two computers and applies a small fee in one end is using a phone.

Its latest version of 5.10.0.114 allows users to incorporate Facebook and Skype contacts into a single list. It operates together with lines of VOIP providers, although it has some noticeable differences. The founders of Skype were Niklas Zennstrom and Scandinavias Jenus from Denmark. They developed it under a company named Skyper, which was later changed to Skype after they discovered it was not accessible from all internet domains. The first public beta presenting skype software was announced in August 2003. This release resulted in a quick update on Windows, Linux, Sony PlayStation portable game, and even Macintosh. Within January 2006, Skype had incorporated video conferencing options in Macintosh and Windows.

E-bay purchased Skype for 2.6 billion dollars three years after it was developed. They were to pay 1.5milliom dollars more for the next five years as part of the purchase deal. E-bay purchased it because they believed that online communication was the core of web activities. The following year, E-bay’s revenue skyrocketed to one- hundred and ninety –five million dollars as the company announced an annual loss of one hundred and seventy-one million dollars. E-bay made a lucrative and big deal that they admitted to having overvalued the online chat platform. Later, E-bay sold some part of skype to investors who were among the founder of skype. Microsoft purchased Skype in 2001. This was the first largest purchase Microsoft made. Microsoft had plans of integrating Skype in its services, such as Ms. Office and Windows.

  • Trello

Trello is a project management tool that enables employees to organize and work on projects remotely. It allows employees to work on lists and billboards by organizing them into different tasks and teams. With this tool, the project leaders can develop a to-do list and delegate tasks to the colleagues (Digneo, 2017). It also has the option of assigning comments to cards and a fast way of giving others feedback. During the summer of 2010, Fog Creek Software embarked on doing Creek weeks to explore potential products. The following year, a model of Trellis to solve high-level planning issues was proposed. The development started in the summer of 2012, and the founder of Cog fleek’s founder became a spoke- husky of Trello. After gaining half a million members, the android app was launched. The app had improved performance and bug fixes. In July 2014, Trello slit from Cog Fleek and became Trello Inc. in 2007, Trello has gained popularity and was applied in empowering project teams everywhere.

Basis of Selecting a Collaboration Tool Software

The rise of home-working, global teams, and remote offices mean that many companies turn to collaboration tools and technologies. The appropriate type of software can allow a geographically dispersed team to work in unity as if they are physically in the organization. There are some significant elements the managers should put into consideration before deciding which software to integrate into their business operations. The reviews ensure that the task of selecting the best option is more manageable.

As the manager, it is crucial to ensure the selected tool delivers real-time collaboration. The software which cannot offer real-time partnership could result in more problems than it is solving. Real-time collaboration provides that every employee does their part without instigating confusion over the correct and last change. This also means that everyone accesses documents and files at the same time without a struggle.

It is also crucial to look at the various communication options offered by the viable choice and the mode of communication. Having the employees communicating in a free manner has vast importance to the organization. The more they are flexible in speaking, the more productive they can be. It is crucial for the users of the tool to have a reliable method of contacting each other.

As the manager, it is also vital to ensure that the tool offers a platform where the team can easily share the files they are working on. The sharing should be automatic once the files are created. What is more, most of the organization’s data stored in the cloud is associated with file-sharing, which will continue growing as technology is continuously advancing. The selected software should accommodate different varieties of files used in other projects. Managers should know how to employ the software in scheduling tasks. This eases the process of showing everyone the advancement of the projects and keep them on track. Scheduling tasks is valuable when there are hardships in a complex project, and the growth of the project is daily. Also, scheduling tasks effortlessly and quickly will create more time without overworking the employees.

No manager would not want to invest a lot of time training my team on deploying the new software. Thus, it is critical to select the software which is easy to get started with. It is always advisable to use software that is conversant with all the team members. A smoothly integrated system and an intuitive interface ease getting started and benefit from the collaboration. Moreover, the software should be able to accommodate all the team members. The software should be up to the assigned budget and be secure. The list of the activities to ensure I select the right software should include the following; ease to assess my team’s needs, evaluate the basic features of the software, and investigate the security feature of the system. Whenever the right software is selected, the organization improves productivity and employees’ productivity too.

Uses of collaboration Tools and Technology in the times of Covid-19

Skype – Care facilities, hospices, and hospitals are starting to limit family members and friends visiting loved ones. Many people are requested to self-isolate at home in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. There is an increased feeling of confusion, loneliness, and isolation. Even though phone calls are essential, real-time facial communication is better (Norris, 2010). Skype is used by inpatient in isolation rooms when visitation is restricted. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services have started a paying clinicians program to offer homecare through telehealth services. They have chosen to use Skype to communicate with the patients since it has audio and visual capabilities. The clinician can assess the progress of patients remotely by the use of Skype.

Microsoft Office 365 – it guarantees a modern remote working place. The teams work independently of space and time, which increased productivity. Covid-19 pandemic has forced many organizations to depend on cloud services and technologies for team remote work more than before. Microsoft Office 365 enables businesses to maintain communication, screen recording and sharing, live events, and live chatting. Conferencing Office 365 would allow teachers to hold online lessons and store the lecture recording for future use. They can use team calendars to plan meetings, call students to register or have side conversations with various students. Lessons and assignments can be saved on OneDrive to enable students access (Alicata, 2020). At Helsinki University, teaching is a profession with communication and collaboration at its core. The Vikki Teachers Training College at the University of Helsinki opted for Microsoft 0ffice 365 and its features for Team collaboration to encourage the cooperation between teachers and their students.

Trello – this project management software allows teams to assign and arrange tasks, generate a workflow for repeat jobs, and track complex programs’ progress. During this pandemic time, parents deploy Trello to create a scheduling table for their kids while they are stuck at home. It has replaced Google calendars, the old paper and pen, and also dry-erase boards. Trello keeps everybody in the loop and makes every task, plan, and project transparently.

Pros and Cons of Skype

Everybody enjoys instant messaging, and it’s a quick technique of communicating. Skype is a faster mode of collaboration as compared to emails. Skype for business gives people an additional communication channel. Moreover, it integrates faultlessly with various communication channels increasing productivity within an organization. The version of Skype for Business allows employees to share files and extend the conversation to groups by adding video conferencing and voice. It has a convenient and easy integration with Exchange to connect one’s schedules with other team members. Skype is readily available remotely and on any device, including IOS and Android, enabling people to stay connected despite their locations (Craig, 2014). It also prevents intrusion or privacy risks by offering enterprise security to keep the organization safe. Lastly, Skype is a reliable and dependable collaboration tool fit for any business adoption.

Although skype is the leading instant communication platform, it also has some drawbacks, making it less advantageous. The app must be connected to the internet for it to function. The bandwidth required varies based on the type of calls and performance. It is also exposed to security threats as hackers are always trying to penetrate passwords and illegally access personal data. Although developers encrypt calls made through skype, the platform is still vulnerable to hackers. Skype provides a free account, and on the contrary, there are some features one must pay to access them.

Pros and Cons of Office 365

When considering the cons and pros of Office 365, the platform should benefit everyone in the business. This platform is advantageous as it allows teams to remote work effectively since it is cloud-based. Office programs, files, and emails are accessible from any location and on any compatible device using Office 365. This is beneficial in connection to employees from different office locations who are remote or absent from the office. It also has a faultless collaboration with third-party sources or in-house departments to maintain productivity. In this regard, co-authoring enables users to edit or contribute to creating specific documents. This platform also has robust security features for additional protection that’s keeps the cloud services and data as secure as possible. It has security features such as mobile device management, encrypted emails, advanced security, and threat intelligence. Since most businesses are conversant with the use of Microsoft products such as word and excel, it eases integrating Office 365 into its operations. Office 365 has plans whereby one can select from based on the size of the business. This innovative feature saves the cost of purchasing extra software.

One downside of Office 365 is that it only functions while connected to the internet. Whenever a business experience internet-related problems, it cannot complete tasks or access emails. Renewing the service is always a struggle too. This service is cloud-based, so dealing with massive data can result in privacy and control issues. This is because all the data in Office 365 is under the watch of Microsoft. Sometimes, there are compatible issues whenever Office 365 cannot integrate into the organization’s previous systems.

Pros and Cons of Trello

Trello aids in the online management of a project under a single platform. When compared to other online project management software, Trello has a less complicated pricing structure. It has an option where a user can invite a limitless number of team members, create lists, cards, and boards. It allows administrators to manage and access all boards, incorporate read-only features, and restrict who can access the board. Trello is mobile friendly as it can function on phones, tablets, or computers. It also offers instant notifications whenever a task is updated, commented on, or removed.

Although Trello has many benefits, it also has several disadvantages. Trello cannot function in situations where there is no internet connection. If one is in a position where they are forced to go on plane mode, they cannot access the platform. Correspondingly, Trello cannot handle massive projects, especially in situations where the team members are widely spread worldwide. Although one can attach multiple files on the Trello card, it has a storage limit of 10MB per file upload (Ramkumar, n.d.). Moreover, the software does not allow editing of comments on the card after posting and saving. With its pros and cons, Trello is an excellent tool, especially when boards are alphabetized and created differently depending on the tasks.

Business Objectives Achieved by Collaborative Technologies

Collaborative tools and technologies have played a vital role in the global economy. Companies rely on these technologies and tools to communicate remotely, market intelligence, and process data. Integrating these technologies and tools in a business leads to improved business processes, revenue growth, competitive advantage, and cost efficiencies. With the outbreak of Covid-19, companies have heavily invested in collaboration technologies and tools.

The use of collaboration technologies and tools has enabled organizations to continue their operations remotely, thus achieving higher profitability. Firms need to advance their production capabilities at all times. These technologies and tools are making the operations continue as usual, although it is done remotely. Whenever the employees can communicate in real-time through Skype, manage project tasks through Trello, the organization’s productivity is maintained (Jerry, n.d.).

Collaboration technologies and tools allow the employees to work together despite physical location. They are keeping operations running in an organization, and allowing employees to work at the flexibility of their time helps maintain a competitive advantage. Whenever employees can work remotely, they save the cost of commuting, and the organization also saves the cost of keeping employees around the workplace. Using collaboration technologies and tools assist the organization in growth and innovation. This is because the devices ease remotely communicating and developing inventive solutions to solve problems, grow the organization, and improve productivity.

Deploying these tools improves employees’ engagement as remote communication helps them maintain constant contact. The video conferencing attribute in Skype improves the engagement process. Videos allow employees to make meaningful communication and reduce occurrences of miscommunication. With collaboration technologies and tools, the organization can quickly achieve customer satisfaction. Employees can facilitate customer satisfaction expectations whenever they develop relationships and create interactive environments. Online video and chats can enhance the communication mode that results in customer satisfaction. In these trying times of Covid-19, pandemic organizations should strive to continue operating despite the stay-at-home policies.

Conclusion

Collaboration technologies and tools changes work from a place to about getting access to work. With a browser and devices such as a phone and computer, each employee should work despite geographical location. As the business is feeling pressure from the pandemic, employees are demanding collaboration tools to work remotely to curb the virus’s spread. While working remotely, collaboration technologies enable employees to be flexible, increase productivity, create a team environment, reduce cost, and improve document and resource accessibility. Furthermore, collaboration technologies and tools are more necessities other than a trend for an organization to maintain a competitive advantage. Organizations that collaborate with assessable assurances are influential and achieve organizational objectives faster. Lastly, utilizing the best tool and technology to incorporate possibilities in an organization is essential for collaboration.

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