It seems as though almost every day there’s a new collaboration app that’s touted as a true game changer.
On the surface, the solutions—like Cotap, Zula, IMO, Hall, Quip, Kato, Voxer, Glip, Google Hangouts, Uber, Biba, Convo and Slack, among many others—appear to be quite similar. But upon closer inspection, all of these apps have their own distinct personalities.
Those differences can be traced back to how and why these tools were developed. It might be hard to remember, but it wasn’t so long ago that businesses were relying on archaic chat tools like AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) to digitally communicate with their colleagues, both internally and externally.
But those two tools didn’t have much more functionality than sending a digital message from Person A to Person B. Eventually, presence features were added to AIM, but the evolution of the tool kind of stalled right there.
And that’s the point at which innovation began to occur. Users of these tools saw the need for additional functionality and, as such, they began working toward meeting the goal of creating a tool that really enhanced enterprise collaboration opportunities.
While the creators of these new team collaboration services all share that same goal, their interpretation of it is different. And that’s why we’re seeing all kinds of various team collaboration apps emerge on the market.
Some of them are community-centric, similar to Skype, meaning they allow you to search other members publically and communicate with them. On the other end of the spectrum are company-centric ones that only allow intra-company collaboration.
As you begin to look for a team collaboration service, it’s important that you do your due diligence so you’ll be able to find the solution that works best for your company. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the different kinds of applications available for businesses, as illustrated in the attached chart:
WhatsApp for the Team: There’s a reason Facebook forked over $16 billion to acquire WhatsApp, the mobile cross-platform tool that allows users to communicate with their peers via free text, voice and video messages, so long as an Internet connection is available. With WhatsApp, users are able to communicate with those within their networks in either one-on-one or group settings. Apply the WhatsApp concept to the enterprise and you get solutions like Cotap and Zula. While Cotap bills itself as a tool that allows for simple and secure mobile messaging for workers, Zula offers the added functionality of file sharing, group messaging and one-touch conference calls.
Community-centric Mobile-First Enterprise Messaging: Let’s say you and your team members each routinely collaborate with a variety of external clients. Similar to Skype or Google Hangouts, with community-centric mobile-first enterprise messaging apps, each of the members of your team are able to add their own individual and other external or internal colleagues to their contact lists. Some of these tools include:
- IMO, an app that lets you communicate via voice, video or text with whoever is on the company’s network.
- Hall, an app that, in addition to inviting internal colleagues, lets you build your contact list using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Gmail. Once they are on Hall, you can see their presence and exchange instant messages with them.
- Quip, an app that allows for collaborative editing of documents stored on Box, Drop Box, Google Drive or Evernote.
- Kato, an app that allows you to communicate with team members, customers, vendors and partners in real time, toggling between text, voice and video—whichever is best for the situation at hand.
- Voxer, a walkie-talkie-like app that offers push-to-talk and text messaging functionality.
Company-centric Mobile-First Enterprise Messaging: These services, similar to UC vendors, offer the usual presence-based communication modes: chat, multi-user chat, voice and video calling. Some of these include:
- Glip, an easy-to-use tool that was built around video chat and text communication.
- Hangouts, which is Google’s take on collaboration. The tool allows employees to have group conversations, as well as communicate via video chat.
- UberNote, which is a Web-based tool that allows businesses to store and organize their corporate data, keeping those communications private.
- Biba, a collaborative tool that boasts conference calling, online meetings, video calling and business messaging functionality.
Messaging with a Social Bent: Serving as a central hub for all team communications, Slack is a mobile-first collaboration application that tries to integrate IM, group chat, file sharing. The novelty of Slack is a search bar which incorporates social media tagging. This makes it easy to find what you’re looking for, similar to looking for a specific hashtag on Twitter. Moreover, Slack also allows users to create channels that can pull data from other applications, such as Zendesk, Twitter, Google Drive and Dropbox, and display them as chat messages. These channels, which are akin to chat rooms, are great for projects, as all pertinent information—messages, files, comments, images, videos and rich link summaries—can be stored in locations that are accessible to your whole team or certain members of it, depending on your specific requirements. With Slack, users can also expect a seamless experience as they migrate across devices.
We at NextPlane live and breathe messaging and as such, we’ve seen all of these challengers in action. In our expert opinion, these services were all created with the same goal in mind: to help workers collaborate effectively in today’s increasingly mobile and digitalized world.
But the developers of these apps all have fundamentally different ideas about what is collaboration and how to make it more efficient, and that’s why all of these seemingly similar services are actually very different upon closer inspection. As such, it’s imperative that you keep all of this in mind while researching which collaboration tool makes the most sense for your business.