Online collaboration software has recently become the number one tool used by distributed project teams. Sometimes referred to as project ware or project collaboration software, online collaboration platforms help people communicate and make it easier to use the array of other productivity tools currently on the market. Ranging in price from free to enterprise pricing, online collaboration tools, especially those based on visual management, are the most effective.

With visual online collaboration software, you can:

  • Stop searching through long lists to find critical information
  • Stop flooded email inboxes
  • Get status updates in real time
  • Communicate on projects and share files
  • Track productivity

Online collaboration not only helps team members work smarter, it also helps project managers increase overall team effectiveness and track of all the moving pieces of a project or task.

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Types of Online Collaboration Software Tools

There are many online collaboration tools on the market today. Most fall into two categories:

  • Visual collaboration tools
  • List-based collaboration tools

Visual collaboration software

Visual collaboration can be thought of in terms of seeing a snapshot of the work and instantly understanding it with little-to-no explanation. You have probably seen traditional team collaboration at work as people gather around a whiteboard to discuss status.

The “daily stand-up” meeting is a form of collaboration and can be an effective way for teams to quickly identify impediments, or blockages, that may be preventing a particular task from getting done. Similarly, many teams hold impromptu gatherings around a whiteboard to brainstorm and practice creative iteration until the team has formed a strategy or an idea with which everyone agrees.

Whereas list-based collaboration tools require that all participants read through a list to find the information they need, visual collaboration tools allow teams to show work items or workflows and instantly understand them.

For teams that work remotely, visual online collaboration software is a great alternative to the whiteboard.

Because not everyone is in the same physical location all of the time, online whiteboards provide an easy collaboration platform that is flexible enough to meet the needs of most teams, regardless of size. The simplicity of creating cards, or sticky-notes, posting them to a board then moving them through a workflow has proven to be the most effective and efficient way to keep teams on track and managers on target.

Benefits of visual collaboration software

Online collaboration software is perfect for teams of any size to collaborate either online or in-person. Look for a visual online collaboration tool, such as an online Kanban board, that allows teams to:

  • Communicate easily by dragging and dropping cards on a board.
  • Manage tasks, projects and processes using visual representations of workflows, processes and tasks.
  • See updates to work progress in real time.
  • Easily integrate the collaboration tool into existing workflows and with other project management systems.

List-based collaboration software

List-based collaboration software also provides a centralized hub that allows team members to contribute information, share ideas and provide status updates. However, there is one major downfall to using list-based collaboration tools: they are not visual.

The same information can be shared using a list-based, vs. visual, collaboration tool; however, the ability to comprehend all of the information does not exist with a list-based system. Humans are visual, which is why we find it easier to learn with the accompaniment of visual aids.

How to Choose the Best Online Collaboration Software

A good online collaboration tool should allow teams to share ideas, provide feedback, and input critical information about a project status, work item or task. However, the best online collaboration software should also enable a team to more easily share goals, see work, and understand a project.

Online Kanban boards are a good example of a visual online collaboration tool that serves these purposes and more. Kanban boards have been used since the 1960s to increase effectiveness among teams of people. Kanban boards work best when they are used among a team that shares a collaborative style of working; however, Kanban boards can be used by anyone looking for a way to help people focus, help teams prioritize work, and generally keep everyone on the same page when it comes to project status.