May 2021
5
Mins read

Best Tools for Remote Team Collaboration in 2021

As the dust settles on an arduous 2020, and we realise that work-life has changed forever, it becomes all the more important that we have a solid stack of tools that allow for best-practice remote collaboration.

Thankfully, software applications have come along in leaps and bounds so that we now have solutions that can go anywhere, have in-built security, and put the employee first in terms of usability.

Starting out with a team collaboration platform, and picking the best standalone collaboration apps to augment its capabilities, you can build a complete remote work experience that empowers employees and enhances remote productivity.

How to improve team collaboration for office, remote, and field workers

Team collaboration for employees, no matter where they are located, is crucial as we move towards a purely digital workplace. Before choosing the tools to make up your collaboration stack, you should create a strategy for digital collaboration going forward. 

Deloitte outlines seven areas of focus when it comes to digital workplace collaboration: Facilitation, Communication, Presentation & Meetings, Project Management, Team Building, Events, and Reality Formats. Each of these will need to be addressed in turn.

This strategy, combined with input from employees will serve as a basis for tool selection, configuration, and reviews in the future. As a starting point, you can read 7 Ways to Improve Teamwork for your Remote Workforce, which can provide insight into the way people work.

The essentials of any workplace collaboration tool

Great user experience

“70 percent of workers report having to enter the same data in multiple systems to get their job done.” 

- The digital workforce experience, Deloitte 2019

When we say user experience, it’s not just the UI that matters. While an attractive, well laid out screen is important, it’s also crucial that workflows through software are easy, intuitive, and performed in as few steps as possible. While attributes like colour schemes, fonts, and design can wax and wane in popularity, being able to pick up how to operate a tool easily will never go out of style. Without a great user experience, employees will develop their own workarounds which they deem easier to use.

Available anywhere

For remote collaboration, you need tools that simply work - no matter where employees are located; in the office, on the road, and even overseas. Some software is built with a remote-first mandate. This means that security is inbuilt, and the software is designed specifically so that you won’t have to go through different enterprise configuration and steps on startup.

Works on any device

With modern businesses, it is now expected that employees will have a mixture of company-provided and BYOD devices. To eliminate the possibility that an employee won’t be able to use a tool simply because they have a Mac vs a Windows laptop, or only have an iOS mobile device, collaboration tools should work on as many devices as possible. This can be via web apps, which work on any browser, or via simple, custom-built apps for each platform.

Integrations with other tools

“APIs can help IT bring faster, more agile, and innovative solutions to business, employee and customer needs, without the need for a full software overhaul.”

- Unlocking a connected enterprise with an API strategy, KMPG 2020

Software no longer exists in a vacuum. We require tools that have the ability to share data with other tools, can trigger actions in other places, and promote single sources of truth instead of siloed data. In what’s termed the API economy, any tool that you choose should come with a robust API for interoperability with other software products. Many tools come with pre-fabricated integrations with other commonly used tools, so that building out the API is unnecessary.

Works with existing identity management solutions

You already have your enterprise identity management system in place, such as Active Directory or Okta. By leveraging the already designated identities, you’re able to quickly roll out functionality in a collaboration tool based on existing configurations.

The best collaborative tools for remote work

Team chat apps are no longer the first point of digital collaboration within an enterprise. To start with, you need a team collaboration platform, or digital workplace platform, to be your jump-off point for the majority of company work. From here, you can add and integrate external tools that make up any gaps you identify within the platform.

Team collaboration platform: Centric Minds

CentricMinds is the perfect platform to have as your base collaboration tool. Our platform has, at its core, a clever document management system, inbuilt identity management, and outlets for all different types of collaboration as well as company communications. With CentricMinds, employees can create project spaces for collaboration with file sharing and management, perform task management activities, do group messaging, and more. With plenty of inbuilt integrations, simple configurations made for any user to grasp, along with a robust API, it’s a way to remove the complexity and IT overheads of traditional collaboration platforms.

Benefits

  • Provides its own native iOS and Android app with all communication securely managed from your own private cloud  
  • Enables customers to brand the CentricMinds employee app as their own
  • Integrations include Office 365, Google Workspace, and Salesforce
  • Employee app supports secure file sharing, real-time chat, team messaging, internal communication avenues, and task and workflow management, all with an integrated staff directory

(Virtual) face to face communications: Zoom

In 2021, Zoom still reigns supreme as the number one video conferencing tool of choice. Zoom is simple to use, secure, and doesn’t suffer from some of the same connectivity issues that plague other widespread communications tools. Its price point makes it a viable alternative to many more expensive enterprise video meeting solutions.

Benefits

  • Pervasive in the modern software application landscape, from the workplace to home
  • Very easy to use
  • Integrations with software such as Slack, Hubspot, and Google Calendar
  • Other features including webinars, cloud phone facilities, and meeting management

Kanban project organisation: Trello

For collaborative, on the page, reconfigurable small project management and workflows, Trello is a beacon of stability. This ten-year-old tool has come into its own, now with a thriving userbase of both businesses and individuals. With a clean UI, and plenty of features (some only available with paid versions of the product), Trello is simple for everyone to use.

Benefits

  • Lays out internal workflows and processes in a simple, changeable interface
  • Empowers employees to create their own personal workflows and management systems
  • Integrations include Jira, Google Calendar, and Dropbox
  • Part of Atlassian’s highly rated suite of project management tools

Putting it all together with automations: Zapier

With a set of separate communications tools, you want them to be able to work easily with each other, as well as with your other work systems. Some of the time, you’ll find that in-built integrations don’t go far enough. That’s what Zapier is for - automations. You can think of it as a connector between apps. For instance, you can set up a Zap that has a trigger in one application, which will then produce an action in another app using data from the first. It’s workflow creation without the overhead of custom software development.

Benefits

  • Allows disparate applications to talk to each other and produce new actions
  • Reduces manual overheads in switching between applications and copying data
  • Integrates with over 3000 different applications
  • Doesn’t require the help of software developers to build

And a world more to discover

These are just the essentials on your shopping list of remote team collaboration apps, there are hundreds more that are excellent choices given the right circumstances. So long as you have a solid, extendable platform in place to work from - like CentricMinds - you’ll be able to find the right tools for your organisation for the smaller pieces of the puzzle.

Get started with CentricMinds

Try out our platform or ask to chat with us about how you can build your digital workspace for remote-first productivity. We’re happy to help with further product recommendations unique to your organisation.