These nine cloud collaboration tools can help organizations communicate more effectively, share and modify files, track all changes, create detailed 'mind maps,' and more.
By Paul Mah
The nature of work has evolved rapidly during the last few years. Modern coworkers often have very different roles and responsibilities, and many work from multiple locations. Email is no longer an efficient tool for many of the tasks today’s professionals perform, and face-to-face meetings are increasingly a rarity.
Fortunately, a new generation of cloud-based collaboration tools are now available to help tackle some of these challenges. Here’s a look at nine of the best options.
If you’ve been turned off by the complexity of past time-tracking solutions, Toggl may be a better fit. The great-looking time tracker works in a web browser, and it’s an intuitive tool that helps monitor your productivity. Toggl works offline, too, and it automatically syncs time tracked offline the next time it connects to the web.
Toggl scales seamlessly so it’s well-suited for use by project teams and across departments. It generates reports within seconds, and they can be customized to cover various time ranges, projects and team members. You can compare Toggl data with statistics from the previous week, and it can be exported to external platforms via .CSV files. Toggl apps are also available for Android and iOS smartphones, as well as Windows, Mac and Linux desktop computers.
2. Trello for project management
Trello is a digital corkboard of sorts that can be used for a variety tasks, including visualizing to-do items and storing new ideas. Users can create multiple Trello boards and populate them with lists, which are then filled with cards that can be searched, filtered and labeled.
Trello’s true strength is its ability to let team members access and manipulate shared boards, and individual cards can be assigned to specific members. Changes made by users reflect instantly on other boards, even if other people have them open. Trello also can be utilized as a project tracker for managing the large corporate projects.
3. Teamweek for resource planning
Designed to make project management easier, Teamweek offers a collaborative, drag-and-drop interface to help project teams manage their time. Teamweek lets you reassign tasks by dragging them between team members or modify projected timeframes by resizing the appropriate task bars on the timeline.
Task folders can be used to hold unassigned tasks for forward planning, and you can publicly share calendars with a single click. You can sort calendars by projects or dates, and Teamweek synchronizes with a number of external services, including Basecamp and Slack, as well as iCal-based project management services.
4. MindMeister for ‘mind mapping’
MindMeister is a visual “mind-map” tool that’s great for online brainstorming, note taking, project planning and other creative tasks. Remote team members can view and manipulate maps created in MindMeister, and changes show up in real time. An integrated chat feature means you can host real-time brainstorming sessions, and team members can share and rate ideas.
Completed mind maps can be published to the web, shared on social networks or embedded as interactive widgets on websites or blogs. Finally, free MindMeister apps for Android and iOS let you review and edit maps while you’re on the move.
5. Conceptboard’s online whiteboard
Conceptboard is a cloud service for collaboration that aims to replace time-consuming, face-to-face meetings. Visual content can be added to flexible canvases in Conceptboard. Team members can then add comments or suggestions, and they can go back and review previous versions. The service makes it easy to work on graphical content with team members, external partners, or clients who may be located all over the globe.
6. Zapier for web automation
Zapier acts as a glue to help meld all of your various collaboration tools together. Users connect supported cloud services by creating “zaps” via a simple drag-and-drop interface. Once created, zaps run within the cloud service, and they either funnel data between other services or trigger actions based on predefined conditions.
7. CloudHQ integrates cloud services
What happens when team members, partners and external contractors all use different cloud-storage or digital-note services? You get lots of emailed files and related compatibility confusion. Or you can sign up for CloudHQ, an online service that lets you synchronize data between a long list of supported services in real time.
CloudHQ not only facilitates collaboration but also ensures company data is never lost by backing up all changes to files. The service can integrate with your platform of choice, including Google Apps, Office 365, Dropbox for Business, Amazon S3, Salesforce and Egnyte.
8. HipChat for enterprise messaging
HipChat is a communication system for team members that features rich instant messaging capability with emoticons, photos and videos. It’s similar to the popular Slack service, but HipChat displays messages in a more more compact format.
HipChat’s real strength is in its archived and searchable messages. To further facilitate collaboration with remote teams, HipChat also has screen-sharing and video-calling features.
9. Evernote as an online notebook
Evernote recently pared down its free offering, but the digital notebook service remains a popular cloud tool for consumers and pros. Evernote notebooks that contain details on HR regulations or other company guidelines could be easily shared with new employees, for example, and members of a product team or department could use the service to quickly share updates.
Evernote also tracks multiple revisions to notes, which makes its well suited for use as a central repository for document collaboration, with the ability to roll back to previous iterations as necessary.