Collaboration tools for Small Business

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Small to medium business owners and managers are constantly looking for ways to streamline processes, increase staff productivity and collaborate through digital tools. The introduction of collaboration tools has been a major boon to the business world, allowing teams to work together in real time, no matter where they are located. Collaboration tools have had a tremendous impact on small to medium businesses, revolutionizing how they operate internally as well as externally by allowing employees to be more connected with each other through digital platforms.  They can be used for tasks such as project management, document sharing, video conferencing, and brainstorming.

Popular Affordable Tools for Collaboration
One of the most popular collaboration tools is Microsoft Teams which offers chat-style conversations between team members, group video calls and meetings, secure file storage and sharing, and other features. Office365 is another well-known collaboration tool that offers platforms such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint in a cloud-based environment. This allows teams to easily create documents, spreadsheets or presentations and share them with each other in real time. Other popular collaboration tools include Slack which is a messaging platform for internal communication at organizations; Zoom used for video conferencing; Dropbox for file storage and sharing; Trello for project management; Monday for managing workflows; Asana for managing online projects; Google Drive for storing data online; and Basecamp for creating team discussion boards.

When COVID hit, Zoom became a collaboration leader in the global market, with the global shift to remote work environments. Zoom is the digital equivalent of a conference room, bringing people together for everything from daily catch-ups to high-stakes presentations, irrespective of location.

Cloud storage collaboration tools
For file storage and sharing, Dropbox offers a simple and secure way to store files in the cloud. Entire teams can access and contribute to files in a secure and cloud based location, improving collaboration and keeping up with the latest and newest versions of documents. Google Drive offers similar solutions, with space to store all kinds of data online, from videos and images to large data files, readily accessible from any internet connected location.

Project Management
With the acceptance and adoption of SaaS products, project management needs seemed to move into the cloud overnight and there are a number of SaaS tools available to SMEs for project collaboration.
1.    Trello provides a visual platform that's akin to a series of bulletin boards, where tasks move from one stage to another.
2. enhances workflow management by offering customizable boards that track everything from simple tasks to complex projects, ensuring everyone knows their next steps.
3.    Asana manages online projects with a focus on task assignments and deadlines, promoting transparency in team responsibilities.
4.    Basecamp helps in creating discussion boards where teams can brainstorm, provide updates, and keep track of deadlines in a more structured format.
5.    Jira Atlassian became a behemoth in project management and collaboration based on providing simple, effective and readily accessible cloud based tools, focusing initially on technology development projects

Improving Competitiveness
The use of collaboration tools has allowed SMEs to become more competitive in their respective markets by improving their internal operations. By streamlining communication across multiple departments within the organization, SMEs can effectively manage their teams and ensure that tasks are completed on time. Furthermore, as many of these tools can be used on mobile devices, SMEs can now allow their employees to access the same resources while they are travelling or working remotely. This makes it much easier to exchange information between colleagues without having to be in the same physical location.

The availability of these powerful yet easy-to-use collaboration tools have enabled SMEs to compete with larger firms on a level playing field through improved efficiency in communication and project management.  As the technology behind these tools continue to advance, SMEs will only benefit from an ever-growing selection of diverse options that allow them to stay ahead of the competition in an increasingly globalized market place.