The most successful businesses in the world all rely on strong teamwork. In the past, a “team” meant people sharing the same office. In today’s virtual world however, a team can be as diverse as a group of people from Poland, New York, India and London all working together. Whether you have virtual staff, outsourced staff or just co-workers who work from home, having the right tools makes all the difference. Having great online collaboration and document sharing tools will enable you to all work together and eliminated wasted time. Here are ten of the top online collaboration and document sharing tools. If you’re running an online business, these can really help you bring your team together.
Tool #1: Basecamp
http://basecamp.com Basecamp (Used by Westwood Virtual Associates team) is one of the top project management tools on the market for small businesses. It allows you to create multiple projects, track milestones, assign to dos, see daily progress, communicate through discussions and more. It’s perfect from tracking what needs to get done by who and by when.
Tool #2: Doodle
http://doodle.com Need to schedule a meeting? Instead of emailing availability back and forth, just use Doodle.com. Use Doodle with Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook, and create polls in Doodle’s convenient calendar view. Your personal profile for 1:1 meetings: Show your co-workers and friends when you are available. A user-account remembers your polls for you and lets you connect your calendar. Best of all? It’s free.
Tool #3: Pidgin
http://www.pidgin.im If you work with a diverse team that has a wide range of communication mediums, having Pidgin can save you a lot of time and headache. Pidgin allows you to communicate on Google Talk, AIM, MSN, Yahoo! Messenger, ICQ and a lot more.
Many industries tend to only work in one medium. For example, the CPA affiliate marketing industry runs a lot on AIM. Programmers on the other hand love IRC. Having Pidgin makes managing virtual communication a cinch.
Tool #4: Mindmeister
http://www.mindmeister.com Mindmeister allows you to create and share mindmaps on the web. These mindmaps can then be shared with other people on your team, who can also edit and add to those mindmaps.
A lot of research has been done on how mindmaps work with the brain. People retain mindmaps much better than linear notes. They’re a versatile tool for taking notes, making plans or brainstorming.
Tool #5: Google Docs
http://docs.google.com Google Docs allows you to collaborate on documents with others in real time. Any document that’s shared with other people can be accessed by them at any time. The moment you make any changes to that document, the changes will be reflected on the other person’s screen. You can literally take notes in a document and have those notes appear in real time halfway around the world. For documents like word files or spreadsheets, Google Docs is a fantastic sharing tool.
Tool #6: Dropbox
https://www.dropbox.com Dropbox allows you to create a shared folder that can be accessed by everyone on your team. Any files added to Dropbox will automatically be uploaded to Dropbox. It works just like any other folder on your computer, except the upload is automatic. You don’t have to worry about sending files to others or backing anything up – It’s all done for you. Likewise, any new files uploaded by co-workers is automatically downloaded as well.
Tool #7: Google Drive
https://drive.google.com Google Drive is Google’s version of Dropbox. It aims to provide much of the same functionality as Dropbox, as well as contain all your Google Docs files.
At the time of this writing, Google Drive provides about double what Dropbox does for the same price. That said, Google Drive doesn’t quite have the same functionality as Dropbox yet. Only time will tell which is the better tool.
Tool #8: YouSendIt
https://www.yousendit.com If you need to send a large file quickly and don’t have time to get someone to signup for and install Dropbox, use YouSendIt. This allows you to send large files (up to 250 MB) for free. Most email clients only allow you to send files up to 25 MB. If you’re sending a large document or file, YouSendIt makes it easy. All you need to do is upload the file and YouSendIt will send the other person a link with your file in it.
Tool #9: Skype
http://skype.com As far as real time team collaboration goes, there’s no better tool than Skype. Skype has just about everything you could want from a messaging and chat service. First, you have text chat. That’s great for quick messages and requests. You can easily call team members if you need to talk about something more complex. Video chat enables even better communication. Screen sharing lets you show others exactly what you’re talking about. If you’re looking for a versatile tool to communicate with the rest of your virtual team, Skype is often the best answer.
Tool #10: Hootsuite
http://hootsuite.com One of the toughest things to co-ordinate online is a social media strategy that’s run by multiple people. For example, let’s say you’re running a contest. The prize announcements are handled by one person, the updates by another and the personality by yet another person. How do you co-ordinate it all? Hootsuite makes this easy. Hootsuite allows you to access all your social media accounts all in one screen. You can schedule posts to go out in the future rather than post them all right now. Best of all, the account can be managed by multiple people. For example, the person responsible for the prize can upload tweets about what the prizes are without sending them. The person responsible for the personality can look over the announcements and rewrite them to make sure they’re in line with the brand. Then and only then are the tweets sent. If you’re managing a multi-person social media strategy, give Hootsuite a try.
These ten online collaboration tools will make managing any kind of virtual team a whole lot easier. Whether you’re running a two-person business or a business with hundreds of staff, the tools available here can help you streamline your processes and increase productivity.