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No digital job advert is complete without mention of collaborative working; a skills shortage means businesses are finally fixing their broken windows.

Collaboration isn't easy to engender. Let's face it, people are nine-tenths of the problem. The other 10% is technology, something many tech startups and big beasts are tackling.

Here are three collaboration tools that are aiming to corner the market.

N.B. Here I'm concentrating on chat apps, not project management software, though I am aware there is much crossover in functionality.

Chat apps ultimately aim to become an operating system for productivity, sucking in a variety of functionality.

Facebook at Work

Facebook isn't just testing a beta of Facebook at Work. It's been up and running since early 2015 and Facebook is now pushing the platform, with a host of successful case studies to call on.

Check out its snazzy Wordpress promotion site at work.fb.com (complete with cute, collaborating hipsters) and you can see how serious Facebook is about this product.

Of course, it's no surprise that the social giant is ramping things up quickly, as most of the functionality is familiar from the consumer version of Facebook.

Biggest pro: 'Intuitive' interface

Talk to any CRM consultant and they'll tell you that encouraging adoption is the most difficult part of implementing new software.

People are lazy and do not want to think about how to use new CRM technology, kidding themselves that bringing in business is more important than recording it.

The same thing happens with collaboration tools. Only certain staff adopt them unless the organisation wields a big stick.

Facebook, however, has such a big user base (already proficient on desktop and in-app), there should be less of a problem developing employee usage habits. Staff may even actively want to use it.

Biggest con: Pricing?

At the moment, Facebook at Work is free. This isn't made explicit on the explainer homepage, though it is stated in the FAQs.

However, the sign up process is currently not self-service. You have to enter your email and Facebook will get back to you.

This could present a problem for those on a budget who want transparent pricing upfront.

facebook at work


Slack was arguably the app of 2015. Launched in early 2014, Slack had 2m daily active users by the end of 2015, with 570,000 paid accounts.

Biggest Pro: Service integration

In December 2015, Slack announced its app directory for third-party tools, building on some slick, existing integrations.

Around 150 apps and bots are available, from NewRelic to MailChimp, Skype to an NYT bot providing 2016 election coverage.

This development of a Slack platform will build functionality into what is arguably the most loved workplace chat platform out there (due to features such as powerful search, and a browser-based experience allowing easy access to web content).

Slack has become synonymous with bleeding-edge company culture, including email-free environments where internal work is completely separated from external distraction.

Biggest con: Noise

Some newbies find the notifications in Slack to be overwhelming, until they get to grips with customising the platform.

This excess noise can prevent some from engaging efficiently with the tool.



Disclaimer: I used to manage Econsultancy's Google Apps account before migrating to Microsoft when we joined a larger media group.

Such a path has led me to be slightly biased against Microsoft (purely because I'm not an intuitive Microsoft user), though much of its software has admittedly improved immeasurably over the past couple of years.

Biggest pro: Documents

Now that Office documents can be edited online, Yammer presents a good option for Microsoft businesses that want to collaborate.

Users will be able to version and edit documents from Yammer, with co-authoring and translation scheduled features for 2016.

Biggest con: Microsoft

For the uninitiated, it's a tad confusing trying to understand the differences and integrations between 365 Groups, Yammer and SharePoint.

Yammer has had difficulties with user adoption over the past couple of years and this has partly been down to a chicken and egg scenario.

Businesses invested heavily in the Microsoft ecosystem have traditionally been email-focussed, with chat therefore being low priority.

Though Microsoft has made a successful transition to the cloud, it will take some time for these businesses to pull away from an email-centric world.

Perhaps this is less of a disadvantage and more of a reality.


Ben Davis

Published 8 February, 2016 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)


Christopher Kenner, Project Management at KennInc

We are using Stackfield.com, because it combines group chats with task management, file sharing and scheduling. It's like a mixture of Slack and Trello, but with encryption!

8 months ago

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