Hot Spots are featurette articles that provide a brief introduction to a contemporary topic in life science marketing along with a rich collection of references to quickly get the reader up to speed.
I would argue, I think justifiably, that email is the single biggest internet app ever. Well, of course, after search. Email remains our primary means of digital communication, because it's easy, effective and has become an integral part of our daily lives. But, email has its limitations. The biggest of these is its lack of focus. We all receive so many emails each day, managing focused communications through email becomes fairly inefficient.
Gmail, as one common platform, addresses the problem by sorting your eamil into its predefined categories. It also offers a number of other ways to tag, label, and sort your emails. But if you're like me, you find these a bit cumbersome. And then, sharing is hard.
Thus the enormous and growing interest in team communications apps. These apps are all about easing the management of the multitude of communication flows we live with every day, and keeping focused on what needs to get done. In this Hot Spots post, we're going to look at a few apps you should consider if you're looking at boosting your team productivity this year.
The idea of team communications has been around for a while. Using the internet to improve communications beyond email was quickly recognized as an important development trajectory, and the technology continues to evolve. Early successful entries into the field such as Yammer, HipChatt, Pie, Hall, eXo Platform, and even Skype revealed the full range of needs and potential for team-based apps.
The pace of app development hasn't slowed. Here are a few options you should definitely consider for your own organization.
Slack has emerged as the clear frontrunner in the field of team communication apps. Its innovative structuring of communication channels and options mirrors accurately the way that teams actually want to communicate, and, hence, its amazing popularity. Slack is incredibly easy to use and intuitive, facilitates the creation of teams at all levels, offers great internal search capability, and provides a very large suite of integrations with other popular apps.
Slack is all about communication, and it's very good. But the app falls short if you're looking for project management in addition to communications. If your team needs a shared calendar, a task list, due dates, responsibilities, and progress reporting, Slack may not be your solution.
Bitrix24 provides a nice set of project management tools as well as basic team communications. The app has been around for a while and has been adopted by a number of pretty hefty companies. The tools include task and project management, including Gantt charting, calendars, mail, a built in CRM, chat and video, online shared document editing, and built-in drive storage. If your team needs to include project management, this is an app to check out.
Glip is a somewhat lesser-known team communication app that has nonetheless earned a solid place in the constellation. As with Bitrix24, Glip is used by a number of large and well-known corporations. This app offers a mix of communication tools, like messaging and video conferencing, along with task management and calendar tools. Glip can be integrated with many external apps as well. Definitely an app worth looking at.
For straighforward ease of use, there's nothing like Trello. This app is basically a personal project organization / task management tool with the capability to share. Built around a simple architecture of Boards, Lists and Cards, Trello provides complete flexibility in configuring projects or task lists, updating the lists, and adding notes, comments and documents to lists or tasks. Teams can be built around Trello Boards, but these are less fluid than the individual use. Many of the other more comprehensive, team communication apps offer Trello integrations. This is probably the way to go to get the benefits of Trello combined with project management and communications power.
Basecamp is a robust team communication and project management app, now in its third generation. The app is famously easy to use and offers a balanced mix of communications and management without overplaying either one. Basecamp 3 has reconfigured its old modules and added a couple of new ones. The changes make visualizing the components of a project much easier than before. In my experience, Basecamp works best with longer-term, stable projects and teams. While the app is flexible, it has nowhere near the adaptability of Slack or Trello, for example. If your projects tend to come and go quickly, this is probably not the app for you. But if you're built around more stable structures and projects (product development, for example, or extensive integrated marketing campaigns) then Basecamp offers great value. Finally — and thankfully — Basecamp has revised their pricing away from subscriptions based on the number of active projects to a simple, basic, fixed monthly charge. Good move!
We don't generally think of either Dropbox or Google Drive as team communication tools, but each is fundamentally built for file sharing, which is definitely an important component of team communications and management.
Is one better than the other? That's a tough call. They are toe to toe on security, cost, syncing across multiple devices, and sharing. Google Drive has to be part of an umbrella Google account, which may turn off some users. But Google Drive excels in search, which is no surprise. Finding files is spectacularly easy and efficient. And Google Drive offers integrated access to the Google office tools – Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. If you like these tools, then their free availability is a big plus. If you'd rather stick with Office 365 or an equivalent, then they don't give Google Drive much advantage.
So, if you don't already have a "communications" tool, per se, or if you're using a basic or single-function app, or you don't want to pay for the more integrated apps, you may want to think about adding one of these file managers.
These are just a few of the many team communication apps now available, and more are being developed. What you choose should depend — as with everything else — on your particular problems and goals. No app is just right for everyone. Most of the apps offer trial periods or freemium subscriptions. The best idea for those of you looking to implement a team communications app is to take advantage of these and do some experiments. Put a small team together and try each of the apps that looks appealing to you. You'll quickly learn whether its likely to help your productivity, or just become another administrative process you ignore.