Digital communication tools are revolutionizing the way teams of all sizes work together and collaborate on projects. Solid communication strategies have seemingly removed the need for most businesses to seek out an office.
Whether you’re a large business with a distributed team or a small business looking to streamline communication efforts across different areas of operation, team chat software can make people across the country collaborate as if they’re in the same room. From project planning to real-time messaging, there’s a wide array of tools on the market to help startups organize their workflow and get stuff done.
If you use a computer, chances are you’ve already heard of Slack. In just four short years, Slack has gained over 5,000,000 daily active users and carved a new direction for apps designed to be used in the workplace. When most team messaging platforms used dull colors and boring copy, Slack saw an opportunity to make chatting about work fun.
As far as chat apps for small to mid-sized teams, Slack is unrivaled. And if you don’t care about searching your last 10,000 unpinned messages, Slack’s core features are free forever to an unrestricted number of teammates.
Slack is perfect for small businesses that want to take their first step into digitizing their communication efforts. Slack makes it easy for distributed teams to keep projects organized across multiple time zones and continents.
Back in January, Slack accounted Enterprise Grid, a more robust version of Slack designed for massive businesses consisting of multiple departments and thousands of users. Companies now have the ability to segment their business into smaller teams and collaborate with others using shared channels.
Regardless of what size your business is, Slack makes it easy organize projects asynchronously and instantly chat with your team members.
- Extremely easy to use
- Free for an unlimited amount of time and team members
- Great for immediate and asynchronous communication across time zones
- Can streamline on location communication (i.e. a restaurant or office)
- A ton of amazing bots/integrations to make working distributed even easier
- Rock-solid reliability
- Free comes with a downside—you’ll only be able to search your team’s last 10k messages
- Can definitely get expensive once you start investigating paid tiers
- Keyboard shortcuts can be hard to master—and those play a huge part in the core user experience
- Daily business communication (startups, on location, distributed, and remote)
- Project management—Slack eliminates the need for emails and meetings
- Client communication (onboard them as single-channel guests and give them their own workspace with a dedicated team)
Apparently, Snapchat isn’t the only thing Zuckerberg wants a piece of. Meet Workplace: Facebook’s very own team collaboration app designed to compete with juggernauts like Slack and Trello. An easy way to think about Workplace is to imagine a combination of Facebook Groups and Messenger.
While it may be a little more complex than that, Facebook has ultimately aimed to bring all of the best features from the world’s most used social network to their new app designed to take over the office.
Workplace is separate from your Facebook account, and the experience is centered around projects and teams broken up into customized groups.
Just like the News Feed on your regular Facebook account, Workplace uses News Feed to bring you relevant updates from groups and allows you to quickly respond to your team members’ posts.
- Great for asynchronous communication
- Streamlines the process of staying up to date on multiple projects
- While still young, it seems to be a good fit for businesses
- Integrations are pretty limited
- Clunky UI, Slack is definitely more refined when it comes to features, integrations and general usability
- Bigger companies that are good about updating others on projects
- Businesses with multiple departments and teams
- Project status updates and daily progress reports
Asana is like Slack with an emphasis on tasks and asynchronous communication on projects. Created in 2015 by Dustin Moskovitz, a co-founder at Facebook, Asana specializes in streamlining project management for businesses of any size.
If you’ve used Trello, Asana is pretty easy to conceptualize. It doesn’t quite have the instantaneous communication power of Slack, but there’s more back and forth than Trello. Asana is mainly oriented for organizing your day-to-day operations based on projects and linking teammates to various tasks. As soon as you open the app up, you’re greeted with exactly what you need to get done.
Asana is easy to use, and it’s great for teams that don’t need a ton of instantaneous communication and project collaboration. Whether you’re on a smartphone or a computer, Asana’s apps are simple, light, and focused. Like Trello, Asana is generally supplemented well by another form of more synchronous team communication like Slack.
- You immediately see what needs to get done
- Free for up to 15 team members
- Individual tasks are very customizable
- Not good for real-time communication
- Even more expensive than Slack once you run out of free user space
- Not the best for business wide communication—great for freelancers that want to manage their own projects
- Freelancers and small agencies that work out of the same location
- Project management and task assignment
Trello is the only application on the list that doesn’t feature any form of real-time communication. That being said, Trello is great to use as a standalone project management app in combination with more communication-based solutions like Slack. It also offers a whole host of integrations with apps ranging from Google Drive to Asana.
Oh yeah, and it already has over 1,000,000 daily active users.
Trello is hands down the simplest way to digitally manage projects. After setting up a new board, you can create lists, movable cards within those lists, and a ton of other features that have special interactions with cards. Trello is especially good for agile teams with more sprint based projects. It’s also great for simple to-do lists, ideation, content calendar creation, and assigning tasks to teammates.
Trello is essentially the digital version of a whiteboard with movable post-it notes.
It turns out Trello and Slack are pretty big fans of each other. With the Trello app, you can get messages every time something happens on a given board directly in Slack. The reverse is also true—you can create boards, lists, cards, and checklists directly from a Slack channel you specify.
- The core features are free forever
- Referral system makes it easy to stack months of Gold
- Almost entirely removes the need for calendars
- Applicable to a wide variety of projects
- Easy for anyone to pick up in a few minutes
- Doesn’t offer real-time communication—teammates can only communicate through comments
- Limited integrations without Gold, but again, it’s pretty easy to rack up a year without paying
- To-dos aren’t super flexible, you’ll have better luck with most third party Slack apps.
- Recurring tasks, HR, recruiting, scheduling
- Content calendars, ideation, and brainstorming
- Agile workflows, project planning/management
- Development sprints
- UX flowcharts
2017 brings digital communication in a plethora of different form factors—the important thing is to find the best app for your specific needs as a business.