Small businesses often face the same challenges that large enterprises face regarding technology and collaboration needs. The challenge for them is they will often lack the expertise to know which solutions are worth paying for, how to deploy them, and how to make the best use of them.
Large enterprises will generally have an information technology staff that can research options, meet with vendors, plan training sessions, and then provide level-1 support for everyone on the team.
One of the weakest areas that many small businesses face is team collaboration apps. Even for a team of five, having top-notch and easy-to-use collaboration tools can make the difference in a business succeeding or failing.
When a small business starts researching potential collaboration apps and tools, they’ll likely start with a Google search which ends up displaying a long list of paid advertisements, complex apps, leaving the business owner frustrated and confused. There are countless free collaboration tools, but also plenty of paid ones as well.
What Tools are Needed for Effective SMB Collaboration
What solutions are table-stakes for a small business today? Finding a single solution is hard, but small companies are also unsure how many solutions they need. Considering the state of the working environment that requires mobility, seamless sync, and cross-device access, small businesses need a portfolio of tools that can handle video chat, document sharing, email, chat, and project management. So, what tools are necessary for effective SMB collaboration?
Having collaborative notes will be a tent-pole feature for effective collaboration for small businesses. Text is the cornerstone of office productivity, and sharing it among teams is critical.
What should SMBs be looking for with a collaborative note solution? The first consideration is multi-device access. A modern note solution should work on all device types, including iOS, Android, Mac, PC, and on the web, so that employees can access their notes wherever they are without needing a clunky VPN solution that will slow down their connection.
The second consideration for a collaborative note solution is seamless sync to mobile devices. While most SMB work is done on a traditional computer, the need to access all of your tools when out of the office is critical. An SMB collaboration tool for notes should include access on mobile devices as well as tablets.
Having a reliable calendar with features to help you get to your meetings on time and have a bird’s eye view of your schedule across all of your calendars can be a key tool for SMBs. In addition, employees are likely to have multiple calendars, so having a tool that displays them all merged into a single view will help them balance professional and personal appointments in the same app.
Video meetings, even for an SMB, are a vital part of a collaborative workflow. Small teams will still need to meet with clients, collaborate with out-of-town employees, and more. A small business should look professional in all aspects of their operation, so having a video conference solution that can integrate with their email and calendar appointments will be a big boost for appearances, but also help streamline moving from chat to email to voice without struggling to get logged in or install a new app.
Sending a voice message over email might be one of the most underutilized productivity tools among large and small businesses. However, sometimes you need more than email but want to avoid another meeting. Sending a voice message is the perfect way to share what you need without having to book time on someone’s calendar. Even if it takes a few “back and forths” over voice messaging, you’ll still come out way ahead on time and focus.
There is a healthy model of collaboration in many small business environments because the team is so small. Instead of having group text messages that interrupt an employee’s personal time, a group chat system can find the right balance between email and text messaging. File sharing should also be an available integration in your group chat system as well.
Email is something a lot of people hate because they see it as a chore. Conversational email is a new model of email that takes the best of chat tools and incorporates them into your email. Email is based on older technology and tools, but its openness has made it critical for businesses to operate in the digital age. Our email addresses have become our universal identifiers.
Conversational email strips out the formality of complex headers, long signatures that no one reads, and more. It focuses on just the message in the same way that chat tools do. When was the last time you used a signature in a text message? Never – because people already know who it’s from.
A challenge for small businesses collaborating is finding the right mix of tools to ensure your business succeeds internally and externally. We’ve listed five key features that every business needs today to meet their customers’ needs and grow.
What if we told you that a single collaboration app could unify all of your tools into a single digital workspace? Spike is that tool, and it’s the best online collaboration tool that is free for personal use and offers competitive rates for business plans.
Spike offers a collaborative Notes tool that seamlessly integrates with your email and syncs to all your devices. Spike Notes can help capture everything from your office supply list, your team meeting notes, or notes from a client call. In Spike Notes, you can use words, images, code, or videos. It will let you attach all your files, add to-dos, and set reminders for easy project management.
Like we mentioned, having a rock-solid calendar is a vital part of an SMB collaboration tool kit. Once you get signed into the Spike app with all of your work and personal emails, you’ll be able to see all of the events from all of your calendars in a single location. If your job requires you to take an out-of-town event, you’ll be able to see how the unexpected travel will impact personal circumstances like ball games or dance recitals. If you suddenly need to attend your child’s school to meet with a teacher, you can quickly see a list of all of your work meetings to know what needs to be rescheduled.
Video meetings are yet another important thing to have integrated into your tool kit for an SMB. Video and audio calls are integrated into Spike; you don’t need to use Zoom or Google Hangouts. Spike lets you send 1-click meeting video meeting invites over email or automatically include them in calendar events. Even if the person you’re meeting with doesn’t use Spike, they can join using any web browser on any device without needing to register for an account.
Spike includes built-in voice messaging on both desktop and mobile, so anyone can record their thoughts on the latest mockup or give status updates. You can record and share a voice message from your email, Groups chat, or Note.
Spike Groups offers you an easy way to collaborate with multiple people simultaneously, whether they have a Spike account or not. It boosts productivity by allowing you to plan, manage, and work together in real-time, giving you the opportunity to create a new Groups chat for any number of people.
You can set up Groups per client, per project, or anything else. And the best part? Anyone can participate on any platform without worrying about threads, recipients, or signing up for anything. It bridges the gap between a group text message and long email threads with file sharing, voice messages, video calls, and more.
Finally, Spike has pioneered the model of conversational email. With Spike, you can process all of your messages in a single inbox quickly with Spike’s conversational format that looks similar to a chat app. Spike lets you snooze items, schedule messages to go out later, attach files, add a doodle response, and more.
If you combined email and iMessage into a single service, you would have Spike! Spike strips away the clutter of email (headers, signatures, etc.) and makes it look like a chat app.
- Personal use only
- 5GB storage
- 15k Message History
- 20 Notes
- 10 Groups
- 1:1 Video Calls
- Personal and business use
- 50GB Storage
- 20 Groups
- 200 Notes
- 10 Audio/Video Call Participants
- Starts at $12/mo when paid annually
Slack has become a popular choice for teams and groups looking to simplify communication. While it’s a responsive solution for fast-paced working environments, it does have some significant limitations. It does one job exceptionally well: team chat. Slack creates channels for projects, groups, etc. It can function as a direct message chat tool for connecting with people directly.
Slack’s free plan includes the most recent 10,000 messages, 10 integrations with apps like Google Drive and Office 365, as well as 1:1 calls between teams. The most limiting function is the 10,000 messages as active teams can quickly exceed it.
Slack has multiple paid plans that start at $8 per month per user. Upgrades include full message history, unlimited integrations, and group voice and video calls with up to 15 teams. Advanced enterprise plans include additional compliance support and SAML-based single-on integration.
Microsoft Teams is a business communication platform that provides a digital working environment for teams. It’s primarily based around video conferencing and live chat but integrates other features, including chat, document sharing, and a calendar. As one might expect, Teams is highly integrated with the Microsoft 365 platform, allowing for add-ons such as Office apps, Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and more.
Microsoft Teams offers a free plan for teams that want to try out the product. It includes 60-minute meetings, 10GB of cloud storage, 100 person calls, and unlimited chat.
Paid plans start at $5 per month per user, but it doesn’t include access to Microsoft’s desktop apps. Pricing plans with desktop apps included start at $12.50 per month per user. Teams paid plans include scheduled meetings, meeting records, webinar hosting, and 1 TB per user of file attachments.
Twist bills itself as a distraction-free workspace that focuses on collaboration through conversations. It supports channels for team chat, threaded discussions, and direct messages, and it works across all your devices.
The free plan for Twist includes access to the previous’ months messages, 5 integrations, and 5 GB of file storage. Guests are also welcome to join your team with unlimited access in the free plan.
The paid plan is $5 per user per month. It includes full access to comments and message history, unlimited integrations, unlimited file storage, unlimited guests, and priority support.
Discord has historically been used in the gaming community for chat during gameplay, but it’s recently been picked up by teams for video and voice chat. It supports channels and direct messages for collaboration.
Discord is free to use with unlimited access to all services. Anyone can create a new server, invite friends and colleagues for free, etc. It can be used across all desktop and mobile devices.
Discord’s pricing model for paid plans is unique in that the user can choose to upgrade to a Nitro plan that upgrades their experience with more emojis, bigger file uploads, HD video, and more. Like we mentioned earlier, Discord is not suitable for most SMBs, but it can function as long as you know the limitations going into it.
When an SMB is looking for the best collaboration tools and apps, it’s important to have criteria going into your selection. You’ll want to find a tool that’s built for teams, supports email, has options for video meetings, works across all your devices (including Android), and includes robust collaboration tools.
There are multiple tools on the market that teams will find useful, but Spike is the only tool that checks all the boxes for small business online collaboration apps. It’s the complete package and provides a one-stop shop for a digital collaboration hub.
Download Spike today!