Best free collaboration and communication software

Best free collaboration and communication software
Ivan Pavlov
February 3, 2020
Last updated: September 7, 2021

The 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 world work together on achieving goals. And even if you share a real workplace, communication should be organized efficiently.

This is why free collaboration software tools have become so popular in businesses of all kinds. They are especially valued in hi-tech industries like software development, but any company that wants to create a productive work environment needs such tools as well. So let’s try to learn more about tools for effective collaboration and see if we can choose the one that best suits your current project.

What Is a Digital Workplace?

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. With technology and tools developing so rapidly, having access to a digital workplace becomes essential.

Digital workplaces consist of various kinds of software. The choice depends on the business 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.

When creating a digital workplace, it is important to pick the tools that can contribute to perfecting the work currently done by vendors. At the same time, the interface should be taken into consideration - the easier the tool 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.

Different Kinds of Collaboration Tools

There are several kinds of tools for collaboration that are generally used in work environments - let’s take a look at them.

  • Intranet

Intranet is a virtual space or portal created specifically for 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 them, it becomes a place for collaboration, as each co-worker can update others on their current tasks and the whole work process becomes a lot more transparent. Regular feedback and comments give space for adjustments.

Intranet also ensures collaboration among various departments. When you use emails as the main tool for collaboration, it is very easy to miss some information just because you have skipped an email. But with an intranet feed, users can view announcements and updates just by scrolling down the page, which visualizes data and makes it possible to use visual tools for denoting important things.

Collaboration tools that feature the ability to send instant messages are often considered to be one of the most effective and convenient. They allow you to discuss and collaborate, just like real-time meetings do. Especially if your employees work remotely, they need a space where it is possible to instantly denote issues and come up with a solution.

Choosing the 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 if a platform doesn’t provide you with this possibility, it won’t suit the project.

When looking for a collaboration tool with chat features, consider the ones that allow you to sort the chats. For example, you might need a chat for the HR department as well as the one for developers and designers. You should also have the ability to divide the people who work on different projects into corresponding chats - otherwise, misunderstanding 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 useful type of collaboration tool that is used by various companies rather frequently.

The thing that makes forums stand out is the possibility to create a discussion about a particular topic. This can be used to inform the workers on the current situation and open a topic that can be used to solve an issue collectively. This method helps to increase 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, it is a great idea to create a link on the organization forum and then refer to it when necessary.

Again, it will be much easier to solve issues that \workers regularly face with. Once a post is created on a forum and a question is answered, it is possible to use the search to find it when necessary. Therefore, there will be no need to explain the same idea every time a problem arises.

This 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. It also increases project transparency and makes it possible for each team member to see clearly how their input aligns with the common goal.

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

Tracking and planning software is also great for using in self-organizing teams that are so widespread in Agile project management. Using it to visualize and prioritize the tasks gives team members a clear overview and allows them to build their work responsively.

This kind of system also won’t let users forget about the assignments as notifications can be set if needed. At the same time, tracking the number of tasks linked to a certain worker allows to distribute the work evenly and avoid bottlenecks.

  • Internal blogs

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

Similar to forums, blogs allow companies 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 tips. 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 that require attention. It is not only educational and collaboration-friendly 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 a blog would be a perfect place for them to start.

In addition to breaking down what 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 you to use it as a collaboration tool solely, Bitrix24 is actually more of a comprehensive project management tool that allows its users to create an efficient work environment.

With Bitrix24, you get:

  • Task management systems like the Kanban board or the Gantt chart, to-do lists, and many more. This means you can present a project plan in the most understandable way;

  • Templates for repeated tasks. They help to automate routine operations and let the system handle them instead of you;

  • Trackers and reports. It is possible to view the work efficiency of each team member, see how many tasks they currently have and how much time is generally spent on completing one task;

  • Collaboration platform. Every team member can post updates to the 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 you to keep in touch with colleagues wherever you are.

Slack

slack collaboration and communication tools

If you are looking for an effective collaboration tool that has a chat system, Slack is a great choice for you. It is used by many businesses that require an organized discussion platform.

With Slack you can:

  • Create a chat for each department, project, or team of developers. This way, chats will be well-organized and employees will be able to both communicate across the whole organization and connect directly with the people who share the same responsibilities;
  • Have discussions with particular people directly. Your communication 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 and 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 that will serve as a to-do list. Here, tasks can be set, taken by employees, and 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 features the possibility to create group chats or message a particular person directly;

  • Forums. They are used to make announcements and open discussions with all of the team members. Forums and topics on Ryver allow you to focus on an issue and find a perfect solution together;

  • Tasks. This section is based on a popular Kanban style chart that includes several columns like To Do, In Progress, Done, and 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 colored 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 the 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 you both to 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 checklist with tasks that have to be completed. Here, you can choose a person whom a particular task will be assigned to;

  • 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 viewing 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 bookmark 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 last online and find a way to connect as fast as you need;

  • File storage. Each conversation in Fleep has a file drawer that contains all pictures and documents that have been sent. They are not deleted so you can find what you need anytime.

Flock

Flock collaboration software

Another collaboration and project management tool that offers possibilities for creating a multi-functional work environment.

Flock features:

  • Direct and group chats. Issue discussions can be held in a public space to involve all your team members in the process of sharing ideas and solving problems. At the same time, if face-to-face collaboration is more preferable, you can organize it as well;

  • Video calls. These can be used directly from the channel where the 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. The 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 the search system and just type the name of what you need or a keyword/phrase;

  • Integrations. If you are already using a tool in your work process and don’t want to lose what you have achieved, just integrate it with Flock and keep all the data in the same place.

Rocket Chat

rocket chat collaboration tool

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

  • Text chats and messengers. As it is the most simple and popular way of day-to-day 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, or simply have a daily or a weekly meeting to review what has been done and what still needs attention. You can also share your screen with 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 storage, 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.

  • Feed. This is a feature that allows you to have a social media-like form of information presentation. Posts in the 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 idea people are working on. This is how they can stay focused and see 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 allows tracking both the workflow and the collaboration flow to detect issues and work on them timely. This ensures the personal growth of every employee as well as stable and efficient development inside the company as a whole, and can also be used to tackle arising issues.

To Recap

Whether you need a tool solely for the purpose of collaboration or want to create an environment where many project management tasks can be done, take your time to consider and test various options. This can be done through proper research and trying a demo version that can be tested in your team environment.

This way, you can actually find out the positive and negative sides of the software and decide on further investment. Be sure to have a good collaboration tool for your organization otherwise it is less possible to organize a stable work environment where all workers are included.

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Bitrix24 is a place where everyone can communicate, collaborate on tasks and projects, manage clients and do much more.
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