Best free collaboration and communication software

Best free collaboration and communication software
Ivan Pavlov
February 3, 2020
Last updated: February 6, 2020

Modern workspace is no longer what it used to be. Real offices are becoming a thing of the past, as teams of workers from all over the country or even from different sides of the World work together on achieving goals. And even if you share a real workplace, communication should be organized efficiently.

This is why collaboration tools became so popular in businesses of all kinds. They are especially valued in hi-tech spheres, like software development, but any company which wants to create a productive work environment needs such tools as well. We suggest to learn more about tools for effective collaboration and choose the one that best suits your current project.

Collaboration and communication tools in a digital workplace: why do you need them?

While the general term of a digital workplace is still emerging, it is still possible to give it a brief definition. Altogether, a digital workplace is the result of regular workspaces evolving and adapting to the demands of the modern world. And with technology and tools used in the workspace developing so rapidly, having access to a digital workplace becomes essential.

Digital workplaces consist of various kinds of software. The choice depends on the sphere a company or its department is working in as well as the general needs it has. This means a digital workplace can include such tools as time-tracking software, CRM systems, task management tools, messengers and portals.

While creating a digital workplace, it is important to pick the tools which can contribute to perfecting the work currently done by vendors. At the same time, the interface should be taken into consideration, as the easier the tool is to get used to the faster it will be implemented into daily workflow. Perfectly chosen business collaboration tools can make the overall experience of collaboration more pleasant and productive.

Types of business collaboration and communication tools

There are several kinds of tools of collaboration which are generally used in work environments.

Intranet

Intranet is a virtual space or portal created specifically for the users from a certain organization. Intranet systems are based on creating a feed of news where workers can find updates regularly as well as implementing a collaboration platform for individual vendors, specific groups or departments. Internal news, tasks and important updates can be posted here.

It is especially convenient to use intranet in teams with remote workers. For such groups it becomes a place for collaboration, as each co-worker can update the others on their current tasks and the whole work process becomes a lot more transparent. Regular feedback and comments give space to adjustments.

Intranet also ensures the collaboration among various departments. While using emails as the main tool for collaboration, it is very easy to miss some information just because you don’t read a letter. But with intranet feed co-workers come across announcements and updates just scrolling down the page, which visualizes data and makes it possible to use visual tools for denoting important things.

Chats & Messengers

Collaboration tools in business which imply the ability to send instant messages are often considered one of the most effective and convenient. They provide the possibility of discussion and collaboration, just like real-time meetings do. Especially if your employees work distantly, they need such a space where it is possible to instantly denote issues and come up with the solution.

Choosing a type of a chat system depends on the structure of your organization and the way teams work on a project. For some it is vitally important to have a place where the whole group of employees can collaborate, but in other cases face-to-face collaboration might be required and in case a platform doesn’t provide you with such possibility, it won’t suit the project.

When looking for a collaboration tool with chat features, consider the ones which allow to sort the chats. For example, you might need a chat for HR department as well as the one for developers and designers. You should also have the ability to divide the people who work in different projects into corresponding chats, otherwise there misunderstandings will arise too often.

Forums

You may feel that having a forum as a tool for internal collaboration is a bit out of date now, but it is still a very convenient type of collaboration tools which is used by various companies rather frequently.

The difference which makes forums stand out is the possibility to create a discussion about a particular topic. This can both be used to inform the workers on current situation and open a topic which can be used to solve an issue collectively. Such method definitely increases team collaboration.

Another reason to use forums is the need to store the knowledge. If you are sure some facts and data can be used as a reference for other workers later on, it is a great idea to create a link on organization forum and then refer to it when necessary. Again, it will be much easier to solve issues which are regularly faced by workers. Once a post is created on a forum and a question is answered, it is possible to use a search to find it when necessary. Therefore there will be no need in explaining the same ideas every time a problem arises.

Such methodology also increases collaboration inside the team, as everyone can rely on the support of the co-workers and be sure the problem will be solved.

Tracking Software

Tracking and organizing tasks is another vital part of collaboration inside a team. Automating the ability to assign tasks to correct employees makes the work process faster and much more convenient as well as increases transparency of a project and makes it possible for each team member to see clearly how their input corresponds with the common goal.

Apart from organizing the workflow, various tools allow to track different statistics which can further on be used to improve the quality and efficiency of work. Such stats allow to define team productivity and detect the issues which lower it. This way project managers can also adjust the planned time of work completion and be more realistic while setting goals.

Tracking and planning software is also perfect to use in self-organizing teams which are so widespread in agile project management. Using it to visualize and prioritize the tasks gives the team members a clear overview and allows to build the work responsively. Such system also won’t let the workers forget about the assignments as notifications can be set if needed. At the same time, tracking the amount of tasks linked to a certain worker allows to distribute the work evenly and avoid bottlenecks.

Internal blogs

Internal blog is a less formal collaboration tool but more encouraging to share the ideas at the same time. Even though it is called a blog, only the workers of your organization can have access to it, so no customers or outsiders will have a possibility to see it.

Similar to forums, blogs allow to share the knowledge employees have, with the only difference. Having a blog specifically for your business means workers can share much more information and give more details for further use. In that case giving a new colleague an overview of a project becomes much easier. As blog posts are usually searchable, it is possible to address them anytime you need to refresh your knowledge of something.

At the same time, comments below blog posts encourage to have a discussion and share opinions among co-workers.

Internal blogs can also be used to inform workers on current events and issues which require attention. It is not only educational and collaborational, but also can be used for organization and control. And if multiple departments of your organization can’t find a way to keep in touch with each other, such blog would be a perfect place for them to start.

Examples of collaboration tools

Except for breaking down how regular collaboration tools look like, we also decided to gather some examples of actual collaboration tools for business.

Bitrix24

Bitrix24 communication and collaboration platform

While there are features that allow to use it as a collaboration tool solely, Bitrix24 is actually more of a comprehensive project management tools which allow to create an efficient work environment. With Bitrix24 you get:

  • Task management systems like Kanban or Gantt chart, to-do lists and many more. This means you can present project plan in the most understandable way;
  • Templates for repeated tasks. Those help to get rid of repeated work and let the system automate it instead;
  • Trackers and reports. It is possible to view the efficiency of work of each team member, see how many tasks he or she currently has and how much time is generally spent on completing one task;
  • Collaboration platform. It is possible for every team member to post notifications into common feed or comment on tasks. At the same time group and individual chats can be created to encourage collaboration among team members;
  • Mobile version which allows to keep in touch with colleagues wherever you are.

Slack

slack collaboration and communication tools

If you are looking for effective collaboration tools which have chat system Slack is a great choice for you. It is used by many businesses which are in need of an organized discussion platform. With Slack you can:

  • Create a chat for each department, project or a team of developers. This way the chats will be well-organized and employees will be able to both communicate within the whole organization and connect directly with the people who share the same responsibilities;
  • Have discussions with particular people directly. They also won’t get lost as direct messages are organized separately from group chats;
  • Use voice and video calls. If you find it more efficient to have a group meeting via a video conference or just want to discuss the issue faster, gather your co-workers in a voice or a video call;
  • Send files. It is possible to attach files to your messages but also be sure it will be easy to find using a search system;
  • Use the system as a task list. You can organize a channel which would serve as a to-do list. Here tasks can be set, taken by employees and the feedback on task completion can be given as well. Even though a to-do list style is not as visual as a board organization type, it is still very efficient.

Ryver

ryver collaboration tool

This system is a combination of a project planner and a collaboration platform. There are several features Ryver includes:

  • Group or face to face chats. As brief messages are the most popular and convenient way of having a daily conversation among remote workers, Ryver suggests a possibility to create group chats or message a chosen person directly;
  • Forums. Those are used to make announcements and open discussion with all of the team members. Forums and topics on Ryver allow to focus on an issue and find a perfect solution together;
  • Tasks. This section is based off a popular Kanban style chart which includes several columns like To Do, In Progress, Done and some more. This is a great way of visualizing a project and making it clear for each team member. It is also possible to mark tasks with coloured hashtags which makes it easier to understand the responsibilities and priorities;
  • Calls. If you want to hold a team conference, organize a meeting with remote workers or just discuss some issues more productively face-to-face, you can use a call feature. Both voice and video calls are available, but you can also share your screen if you need to show a presentation or explain something.

Fleep

Fleep collaboration tool

Fleep combines various ways of team collaboration which allows to both communicate with your co-workers on a regular basis and have a plan of upcoming deadlines as well. It encourages collaboration among team members and makes the work process more clear. Fleep features include:

  • Task list. Just a regular check list with tasks that have to be completed. But here you can choose a person who will be assigned to a particular task and execute it;
  • Pinboard. If you make an important announcement or want your co-workers to remember something you can pin a message or a task and make it available for a view and editing;
  • Chats. You can create chats for various purposes and departments or send a message directly to the person you want to discuss something with. You can also star an important chat or personal dialogue to always have it on hand;
  • Presence. If you want to discuss something as soon as possible, you can see when a person was present on the website last time and find the way to connect as fast as you need;
  • File storage. Each conversation in Fleep has a file drawer which contains all pictures and documents which have been sent. They are not deleted so you can find what you need anytime.

Flock

Flock collaboration software

Another collaboration, collaboration and project management tool which suggests possibilities for creating a multi-functional work environment. Flock offers:

  • Direct and group chats. Issue discussions can both be held in a public space with the aim to include all workers and team members into sharing ideas and solving problems. But at the same time, if face-to-face collaboration is more preferable, it is also possible to organize;
  • Video calls. Those can be used directly from a channel where initial conversation took place or separately, if you want to organize a meeting or briefly discuss something with a particular person;
  • Shared content. Everything you send in a chat is stored so that it could be used later on. Shared files section is easily available, and all files can be just dragged and dropped into the conversation;
  • Search system. If you are looking for a particular message or a file, you can use a searching system and just type the name of what you need or one word mentioned there;
  • Integrations. If you are already using a tool in your work process and don’t want to miss what you have achieved, just integrate it with Fock and keep all the data in the same place.

Rocket Chat

rocket chat collaboration tool

Rocket Chat is a tool similar to Slack which offers a place for team collaboration and collaboration. Here are several features which can be found in Rocket Chat:

  • Text chats and messengers. As it is the most simple and popular way of daily collaboration, it is also offered in Rocket Chat. Just write a message and it will be sent into a group chat or to a particular user instantly;
  • Audio and video conference. This way you can articulate tasks, brainstorm issues, just have a daily or a weekly meeting to overview what is done and what still needs attention. You can also share your screen to other call participants if something needs to be shown;
  • Notifications. You can set a notification system to top priority chats and follow the updates there, but you can also turn the notifications off if they distract you;
  • Integrations. It is possible to integrate Rocket Chat with other tools and systems to create a comprehensive working environment. Such tools include project planning systems, file storages and even other chats. You can create a space where all of your work is done successfully without switching from mechanism to mechanism and having everything you need at once instead.

Blink

blink communication tool

This system allows you to create a space where your company members get a chance to communicate, collaborate and keep in touch with inside processes. Blink gives you:

  • Feed. This is a feature which gives an opportunity to have a social media-like form of information presentation. Posts in such feed can be prioritized in various ways depending on your needs;
  • Unified search. It doesn’t matter what you are looking for: a message, a document, a shared file or a post. Blink offers the same search system for all of these which means you can easily find what you need;
  • Messaging. Chats and messages are available in Blink as well. You can create a separate chat for each department, team or an idea people are working on. This is how they can stay focused and sort what is important in a productive collaboration. But you can also create a chat for all of your co-workers as well;
  • Tracking and analytics. Blink gives an opportunity to track both the workflow and the collaboration flow to detect issues and work on them timely. This ensures personal growth of every employee as well as a stable and efficient development inside the company as a whole, but can also be used to tackle arising issues.

Summary

Whether you need a tool for the sole purpose of collaboration or want to create the environment where many project management tasks can be done, take your time to consider and test various options. This can be made by making a research, but also by downloading a demo version which can be tested in your team natural environment. This way you can actually find out the positive and negative sides of the use of such software and decide on further investition. But be sure you have a good collaboration tool for your organization otherwise it is less possible to organize a stable work environment with inclusion of all workers.

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