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6 min read

Tech Trends: Popular Collaboration Tools for Small Business

Teamwork is the principal idea behind how small businesses run.  Small businesses rely on productivity to drive their profits. With fewer resources than their big business counterparts, it's important to reach max productivity.

Keeping each component of your business on track is not easy. But keeping communications simple and accessible gives you an advantage. Help your employees escape the stress of being overwhelmed by offering efficient communication.

Here's a list of popular tools that could help your company collaborate on all cylinders.

Each category has three options (in no particular order). Explore each tool until you find the one that fits your needs. Keep in mind what works for other businesses in your circle may not be what you're looking for at all.

Collaboration Messenger Tools


Slack is designed to be a one-stop communication tool. It lets you set up groups or channels that can be used for different teams within an organization. If your role crosses over between teams, then you can join more than one. Real-time messaging between groups or individuals, file sharing, and voice/video calling in one neat little package. Plans have searchable archives, so you’ll never forget who said what, when. It also integrates with some other popular apps including Dropbox, Twitter, Zendesk and many more. Think AIM of the 21st Century. There’s a free version with limited features, or paid plans starting at $6.67 per user/month.


HipChat is reminiscent of the raging 90's chat rooms. Well, if it had a "safe for work" chat room cousin, that is. What makes this one safe for work is their security for businesses feature. HipChat claims that their security is made with businesses in mind. You can create unlimited chat rooms with video calling, screen sharing, file sharing, spreadsheets, etc., all searchable by keywords. This includes private or guest/customer chat rooms with limited access. -- The basic plan is free. What you get for free is VERY comparable to paid options on other messenger apps. But if you are willing to upgrade to a premium account, you get video chat and screen sharing for $2 per user/month.


Quip is a mobile word processing app with messaging additives. Think of it as your mobile sidekick for communications on the go. Don't worry about being offline on occasion. All of Quips features work offline on your phone or tablet -- talk about freedom!  With over 400 features, you can create spreadsheets and other documents on the fly. You can even export documents to PDF or Word documents. Just like the two above, it offers a great chat/commenting system with access to things like chats, docs, task, lists etc. You and your team can communicate right on the documents themselves or in chat threads. The price is slightly steeper, $30 per month for a team of five. Additional members can be added for $10 per person. The enterprise option is $25 per month per person.  

Collaboration Platforms for Projects / Time Management


Asana is a virtual office that keeps your team productive. If you have no "home" office or several remote employees, this might be a great option. This is a project management tool with integrated conversation, initiatives, meeting times, and listing tools. Say good bye to your old project management ways with Asanas instant status updates. It alerts you as tasks are created and assigned. It’s a flexible tool, that can also work as an assistant, tracking your assignments, meeting, workflows and much more. Each task has a “comment train” keeping all notes and communication attached. Skip the frustration of searching through email by subject in hopes to find that obscure email from two months ago. It easily integrates with apps, included Dropbox, Slack, GitHub, Alfred, Harvest, MailChimp, HipChat, and Evernote. The basic plan is free, with premium plans starting at $9.99


Podio is your online shared workspace. Think: projects that need to live with multiple person access. What sets this apart from other collaborations platforms, is the customizable workstations. You can customize your workspace with a simple drag-and-drop interface. If creating isn't your thing, present content by choosing from hundreds of specialized work apps. The kicker all customizable tools are free. It's free for up to 5 employees and 5 external users. But the free option doesn't offer many features. Paid plans start at $10, and go up to $25 per month per user.


Brainstorm and Whiteboard Collaboration Tools is an online brainstorming tool. Teams or individuals create murals or walls with sticky notes. Collaborators can share said sticky notes, in real-time. Each sticky note can be written or drawn, and is an idea, thought, or piece to the greater project. The evolution of each idea is tracked, just in case another idea is sparked along the way. Use images, links, and videos to support the project through creativity. Plus, it integrates with other visual apps like YouTube, Vimeo, presentation slide shares, note taking platforms, and Cloud drives. – Billed monthly is $16 per member, per month. If you can pay up front they give you a $4 a month break, $12 per user, per month, billed annually.


Trello is a personal assistant tool with task cards. Its strength is giving you a quick visual reference of what's being done and who is doing it. You can follow projects from start to finish and give feedback in real-time. If things change, you can reorder your task cards with a simple drag-and-drop. You can post comments or add checklists to track the big picture and small details alike. With their “power-up” feature, you can integrate some conventional heavy-hitters like Slack and GitHub. As well as some less conventional platforms like Giphy for gifs. It's free, but the premium version is $5 per user per month.


Conceptboard is a virtual whiteboard space. The same way you would write on a whiteboard in an in-person meeting, you can do virtually. Scribble your way to an idea or drag-and-drop files such as PDF or word documents on the whiteboard. When your colleagues join in, start a "live session" or a virtual meeting. Each board come with its own chat room. So keeping tabs on that one project is easy. All conversations and feedback are in one chat, in one place. You can try it for free, but paid plans start at $28.50 per month.

When productivity is everything, what do you have to lose? Most, if not all, of these apps offer a free version. Go wild, try them all! Dig into them to get their true grit. Again, what works for you might not be what works for another, and that's okay. If you don't know where to start, talk to your employees and your IT team. They probably have some suggestions on what they're like to try. 

Tech Trends

What’s going on in the world of business IT? We keep your finger on the pulse of it all.

Our monthly Tech Trends article will keep you in the loop and show you what's on the horizon of IT.

Related: Tech Trends: The Cloud -- The New Norm for Business? 

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