What to look for in data collaboration tools?

Data collaboration is essential in today's work landscape. It is essential that organizations invest in data collaboration tools and platforms that will make it easy for teams to work together efficiently, without losing vital information, or having to go back and re-do tasks because they did not have the latest information. Data collaboration helps ensure that data related to a project, from all sources, is visible to the required people, in the right format, at the right time.

Why we need data-collaboration

1) Change in type of work

The type of work that employees do today has changed. The number of manufacturing jobs is on the decline. Roughly 57% of the current manufacturing jobs in America could potentially be automated in the coming 20 years[1]. Farming as an occupation has been in decline around the world since the 1970s. Today, an increasing number of people are working in offices, at businesses that provide some sort of service. The type of work that most people are involved in today requires a high degree of collaboration. Unlike working on an assembly line or on a farm, where individuals can work independently or in silos with a small group of people, work today requires a lot of exchange of information, data, and collaboration.

2) Developments in technology

There is a popular saying in business, "if you build it, they will come." The idea is that once something is available for use, people will start using it. Technology has developed at an increasing pace over the past 5 decades. Advancements like cloud computing, increase in internet connections, higher internet speed, smartphones, etc have made it possible for people to work from anywhere and with anyone. The technology and solutions available today make it possible and secure for people to share data and collaborate on tasks. As the infrastructure has become available, businesses have found ways to make optimal use of it.

3) Increase in remote working

According to Upwork, 22% of the American workforce will work remotely by 2025[2]. Around the world, the number of people working remotely is increasing. People today are looking for flexibility in their work. The Covid-19 pandemic forced many organizations to update their infrastructure to be able to support working from home securely. It also demonstrated to companies that not everyone needs to be in the office for work to take place. By working from home, employees can have higher productivity cut down on time wasted in long commutes, and have higher motivation. These lessons will have long-term impacts on how we work. Companies like Facebook and Google have already announced plans to make remote working a permanent part of their workforce. As more people work from home, the need for them to collaborate with team members and colleagues who are at different locations has increased.

The importance of data collaboration platforms

A platform that allows its users to share information, data and work together on tasks is referred to as a data collaboration platform. Solutions like email, group calendars, task management tools, virtual meeting software are all examples of data collaboration platforms. Collaboration platforms make it simple for groups to cooperate on projects. A coordinated effort is the new normal in the work environment. Effective collaboration can lead to improved proficiency and increase profitability. These tools offer everything from cloud archiving to overseeing day-by-day assignments, to video conferencing for online gatherings and virtual events. They should work equally well on cell phones as they do on desktops and workstations.

See also: How to promote an event on Facebook?

Good data collaboration tools for 2021

Mircosoft office 365

When thinking about collaboration Office 365 may not be the first name that comes to your mind. This is because we have gotten so used to having software like Word and PowerPoint on our computing devices that we do not immediately associate this software with modern collaboration solutions. However, Office 365 has been rebranded as Microsoft 365 and is the core of Microsoft's cloud-based office suite. Since the cloud-based solution is built on software people are already familiar with and know how to use, the transition for businesses has been fairly straightforward. The solution is being used by over a million companies worldwide. Therefore, Microsoft Office has retained its title as the most used office suite solution. Alternatives to this suite are OpenOffice and Google Workspace (previously known as G Suite). These alternatives are quite robust and are continuously improving. However, they have not yet caught up with Microsoft in terms of functionality and ease of use.  

Most people would associate Microsoft 365 with Windows. However, since the platform is hosted on the cloud, it can be used with all popular operating systems like Mac, Android, and iOS along with Windows. The amount a business will need to pay will depend on how many licenses are required, i.e how many people will be making use of the platform, what software on the platform will be used, and the amount of data that will be stored. Businesses that use Microsoft 365 have to sign up for pre-paid annual plans. Though it is not the cheapest office suit available in the market, Microsft 365's pricing is competitive and there are various plans for businesses to choose from. It is also the most well-designed platform when it comes to ease of use. 

Slack

It might surprise you to learn that Slacks originated as a gaming engine. Today it is a very popular collaboration tool that has millions of users from all parts of the world. Slack can be used on both desktops as well as mobile devices. Users can send direct messages to each other, files can be shared with a single user or with a group, and conversation threads can be organized into distinct channels. For example, businesses could create separate projects on Slack for people to talk about IT support, general discussions, a particular client, etc. Slack can also be used for video calling which makes it easier for team members to talk to each other, exchange ideas, and work together without the need to write long messages. Even though users can share files with each other, it is important to understand that Slack is not a cloud storage solution. Businesses will need to have a separate storage solution like Google Drive or Dropbox in their technology stack. Slack is compatible with both Google Drive and Dropbox. There is a free version of the platform available with limited features. Businesses can test out the platform to see if it suits their requirements.

Asana

Launched in 2008, Asana has been around for quite some time. It is a well-known collaboration tool that is used by companies like Uber, Pinterest, and Intel. Asana plays a key role in the communication model at these companies. The platform was designed to be easy to use, its name 'Asana' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Asan' which means easy. The platform helps businesses keep track of what employees are working on and where they currently are in the workflow. The platform allows users to create to-do lists for individual projects. Tasks in these to-do lists can be assigned to specific team members. You can set deadlines and send requests to colleagues. Nested discussions can take place on each task. Depending on preference, businesses can organize projects in a board format or as lists. The robust search functionality makes it quick ad easy for users to find any tasks, comments, and discussions. If you are looking for a data collaboration tool that will help with project management, then Asana is a great choice. It helps businesses say organized, facilitates discussions, and provides a holistic view of the status of a project. 

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Sources:

1. Jan 2021, D. Jacimovic, "14 Incredible Statistics on Loss of Manufacturing Jobs", [available online] available form: https://whattobecome.com/blog/loss-of-manufacturing-jobs/ [accessed May 2021]

2. Jan 2021, 'Statistics on Remote Workers that Will Surprise You (2021)', Apollo Technical, [available online] available from: https://www.apollotechnical.com/statistics-on-remote-workers/ [accessed Apr 2021]