With the advent of COVID-19 and the forced implications of social distancing and remote working, teams and units had to find ways to function effectively, despite the challenges faced. While during the initial outbreak many businesses were questioning if they would be able to face the logistical challenges, the internet came to the rescue and over the first half of 2020 we would see the increased use of collaboration tools to help teams function just as effectively while being remote. Let’s take a look at the most effective collaboration tools to manage international teams in 2021.
While there are various tools that serve different purposes, for example chat apps, social networking tools, video platforms and filesharing tools, our list is focused on project management tools. These tools consist of different abilities and functionalities but can be highly effective based on the needs of your team. Check out our list below:
1. Microsoft 365
The combination of Microsoft 365 together with Microsoft Teams offers a high level of functionality and ease of use. Due to the high number of businesses that use at least some features of Microsoft office, Microsoft 365 offers a range of collaboration options that makes remote work far easier to conduct. Whether it be documents in Word, Excel or PowerPoint, they can be shared, edited and updated in real time.
Microsoft Teams which is part of the Microsoft 365 family offers a chat, videoconference, app integration and file storage platform. Teams also allows for seamless integration with all other 365 apps. While this is a collaboration tool, it is best used by teams who already use other Microsoft products like MS office.
A big plus that bolsters 365 overall is that it is a cloud-based platform which means that it can be used with Windows, Android, Mac, and iOS and it can be accessed online.
For many corporate teams and millions of users around the world, Slack is well known collaboration tool that has an impressive offering. Slack differs from 365 in that it even though it has less capabilities, it has a much more user-friendly interface.
Slack works like this, it firstly allows for the organization of conversations into different channels. Once the conversations have been organized, users are able to send direct messages, message into the channels and send files to other users or groups of users. Slack also allows for video calling between users, which has become increasingly useful for meetings and conversations that need to ta ke place.
While it is not a cloud service, users are able to share files with one another directly within the app. It is also compatible with other sharing apps like Dropbox and Google Drive, allowing for documents to be stored online.
This well-known and powerful collaboration tool offers a free version as well, however users are limited to the amount of data storage and channels.
When it comes to project management, to many managers Trello is not an unfamiliar tool. Describing it in the most simple manner, one could call it a computerized version of a board of sticky notes. This app has an easy-to-use interface that allows users to easily organize multiple projects on different boards. Due to the ease of its interface, it can be integrated amongst teams as well as cross functional departments.
How it works is that all details of a particular project will be contained on a “board”, which is categorized using a list. Each list contains different cards that may contain more details on a project. Cards can be annotated with various different labels, members are able to add notes, comments, and discussions as well as add a task checklist.
One of the app’s best features is the ‘power up’. These power ups allow these boards to transform into “living applications” by adding different features. The features and integrations allow for the management of social media, document management and other business functions.
The app offers both a free version as well as paid options. While their free option does have some limitations, it still offers great user access for managers who would like to test it out before making a purchase.
Wrike is an online platform for project management and workflow organization. It has become well known for its ease of use in comparison to other project management apps. While it does offer quite a comprehensive free package, if you have a large team it may be on the costly side to upgrade and get the right package for your team needs.
Wrike offers a few different ways to view and manage various projects. Users can view projects through Gantt charts, tables, and Kanban boards, which allow managers to track projects. It allows teams to set timelines, prioritize tasks and analyze the results in a data-built report. Even though it has a number of features, it is simple to use and get a grasp of. It also offers a number of templates for project management, task scheduling, marketing campaign management, product launches and many more.
Among its other features are time tracking, file sharing, the online document editor, and a number of useful integrations with other apps. Additionally, Wrike has its own add ons which can be integrated for an extra fee.
Aside from the free package on offer, Wrike has 3 paid plans known as the Professional plan, Business Plan and Enterprise plan. Each of these plans is suited to different sized teams, according to their needs.
Asana is a collaboration tool that helps teams manage an array of different tasks and assist with workflow management. With an easy to use, flexible interface Asana is suitable for use in teams of any size. Asana is primarily a task management tool, similar to a Gantt chart, and the platform includes task assignments and various app integrations.
While Asana does not have advanced project timelines, what differentiates Asana from other project management software is its flexibility and how intuitive it is. Asana is useful for the tracking of on-going projects, long term work plans, team co-ordination and distribution of workloads. Managers are able to easily assign tasks across teams and because everything on the platform is archived when it is complete, there is an efficient record of all work history.
While the platform itself does lack some features like live document editing or instant messaging, it does offer a high level of app integration, which allows you to add these extra features. Asana can be integrated with apps like Microsoft Teams or Slack as well as with cloud storage sites like Adobe Creative Cloud.
There are 4 different packages available: Basic, Premium, Business and Enterprise. The correct package should be chosen according to the needs of your business as well as budget allocation.
6. Zoho Projects
Ideal for small teams and a budget friendly option, Zoho Projects has a wide product offering. Although it does not offer all the advanced features other software may have, you are able to connect it with other apps that do offer the advanced functions, such as invoicing tools.
Zoho is releasing an updated version of projects in 2021 which includes custom edits to timesheets, edits to the Gantt charts and several new integration options allowing you to connect to apps such as Microsoft OneDrive, Toggl Track, and other apps on Zoho Office Suite.
While there is a free plan, this plan is limited to 3 users, 3 client users, 2 projects and only 10mb of storage, and there a number of other restrictions imposed on this type of account. The standard package has a few extra features and is available for teams between 6 and 10 users, costing only $3 per month per user. While the express package is for teams between 12 and 50 members, costing $4 per month, per user.
The 2 packages which include almost all the features and larger space are the Premium package and the Enterprise package. Costing $5 and $6 per person per month, it can be easy to why Zoho projects is a good option for small businesses. These packages allow you to manage an unlimited number of projects, with more than 20 project templates available and resource utilization charts for each project. They also offer more than 100GB of storage and are available for 15 users and above.
Important tips on selecting the right App for your Business
Unfortunately, most tools are not a one size fits all solution. What you need is a tool that can maintain efficiency, be updated in real time, allow for smooth communication, and ultimately increase productivity. Here are some things you should consider:
- Team needs: evaluate your team’s needs. Look at the challenges you may encounter and how they were traditionally faced, and then look at the technology that can help you address these challenges.
- Processes: look at the processes your team would usually follow and map out how the processes would be carried out virtually.
- Tool selection: Look at the list above and outline your business goals. Together with your team determine the tool that can best follow the processes and meet the needs of your team.
While there are hundreds of applications and software out there to help your team perform more effectively, we have chosen the most popular and highest rated ones. Not every one of these will be suited to your business needs, so it is important to evaluate what exactly your team needs to achieve, so you can find the right fit. Look at the size of your team, the nature of the work and your budget. With the many options available, your business will undoubtedly be able to find the right project management tool for you to track progress and achieve your goals.
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