Small Business Guide to Social Collaboration Tools - Page 2

By Pam Baker
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File-centric Collaboration Category

"File-centric collaboration software offers either synchronous (real-time) or asynchronous environments for people to collaboratively author documents, manage, share, review, and comment on them," Ganesh said.

Top tools in this category:

Social Collaboration: The Why Behind the What

Everyone in business is collaborating with someone, somewhere to get any given project done. Social collaboration tools simply help you do whatever you're already doing in a much faster, easier way.

For example, "small business owners rarely write their business plans alone," said Mike Duncan, product evangelist at Palo Alto Software. "They might collaborate with a business partner, an instructor or an advisor of sorts, or even friends or family. The problem is that, more often than not, these people aren't in the same place. Needless to say, when you have to go out of your way to work on something together, it's much less likely to get done."

But the need for collaboration extends far beyond simply putting together a business plan. You can use collaboration to your advantage in everything from innovation, invention, design, marketing plans, accounting and finance, company and role reorganization, managing your supply chain and your warehousing, and a zillion other tasks.

"We are creating a new market for bionic exoskeletons and breaking new ground," explained Karl Gudmundsson, vice president of marketing at Ekso Bionics. "Our team has tripled in size over the last 18 months. With that kind of growth we have found MindJet to be an invaluable tool to communicate with confidence and clarity what our goals are, what our strategy is and where our emphasis lies."

Jive, a social collaboration tool

Figure 2: This screen shot show's how to get started using Jive, a social collaboration tool for small business.

ut not every small business will like or need the same tools -- nor should you adopt a tool on its popularity alone. Instead, try several before you settle on one.

"One of my favorite social collaboration tools is Google Cloud Connect for Microsoft Office (GCC)," said Terence Kam, the founder of eStrategyPro.com, an Internet Business Strategy Consultancy.

"GCC is a plug-in for Microsoft Office 2003/2007/2010 that lets me share and edit Microsoft Word, PowerPoint and Excel documents simultaneously with other people in my team," he added. "With GCC, I get the collaboration benefits of Google Docs, while still using Microsoft Office, which is the best of both worlds for offline editing and syncing when online."

Checking comparison services, such as Best Vendor, let you narrow the selection of tools you want to consider by reviewing a larger collection of comments and ratings from actual users.

"Our users rate Atlassian's Confluence as their favorite collaboration software," said Eric Metelka, a marketing manager with BestVendor. "They like it because everything on it is fully searchable, social, and easy to administer. A new mobile app called MYCO Suite is moving up our ranks. It stands out by offering CRM, project-management, billing, and document sharing tools all in one iOS app."

Just be careful not too get carried away with all the cool features you find, and instead focus on which tools will actually do the job you want to do. But also remember to fight the urge to stick with one tool. Mix them as needed to fit specific project demands and replace any that develop a marked security weakness.

"Social collaboration is not just about replacing email or sharing a document; it's about moving business ahead, solving problems and making strategic decisions," said Holly Simmons, senior director of marketing for SAP's cloud collaboration and analytics products.

Pam Baker has written for numerous leading publications including, Institutional Investor magazine, CIO.com, NetworkWorld, ComputerWorld, IT World, Linux World, Internet News, E-Commerce Times, LinuxInsider, CIO Today Magazine, NPTech News (nonprofits), MedTech Journal, I Six Sigma magazine, Computer Sweden, the NY Times, and Knight-Ridder/McClatchy newspapers.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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This article was originally published on August 02, 2012
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