Team Messaging and Collaboration Apps Basics

Recently I took a deep dive into several team messaging/collaboration apps. For the most part, they are relatively the same with only minor differences between the ones I tested. Instead of reviewing individual apps, this blog will cover their basics and debate their necessity as part of your organization's unified communication program.

So - what are team messaging/collaboration apps? These apps allow the user to collaborate with teammates while not needing to be in the same location. A group of users are a team and this team can create and be a part of rooms where collaboration, file sharing and video chatting takes place. Most of these apps are cross platform and work on PC's and Mac, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices.

Teams and Rooms
A Team is comprised of a group of users, whether within an organization or a group of friends wanting to collaborate or share ideas. Team mates can be members of one or more "rooms" which are areas created to separate tasks, projects or others. For example, your entire engineering department would all be a team, but rooms dedicated for software development, hardware design and R&D would only have the relevant team members in them. Using this method, everyone in the organization doesn't have to weed through non relevant information to get to what's pertinent to them.

Within these rooms, the apps have slightly varying features. Some include:

The chat function works as one would expect. Everyone in the room sees the chat stream in real time. The ability to add gifs, emojis and to bold or italicize text is present in several apps. Also included is the ability to tag teammates.

File Sharing
Content sharing with teammates is an important part of collaboration. Having your team be able to work on them remotely is critical. Microsoft Teams for example has the ability to integrate documents or spreadsheets directly into the room. Others integrate with Dropbox, Box, Google Docs and other file sharing services.

Video Chat
Most team messaging apps include video chatting. The quality varies depending on solution and platform so again, it's important to test every scenario. Some apps work well over desktop but are lacking on mobile. For others, it's just the opposite.

Integrating third party apps into the chat stream has many uses and the messaging apps have many of these available. Common project management integrations are those from online services like Trello, Jira, Smartsheet and others. Most of these collaboration apps have dozens of integrations to use. The purpose of these are to keep the user in one single program (the app itself) without going to a different online service for information.

Screen Share/White boarding
Some of these programs contain screen sharing, apps sharing and white boarding
Note that many apps have a limited frame rate on screen sharing and aren't appropriate for sharing video content.

If you're in need of a team messaging solution, make sure the app covers all platforms used by your organization. The experience varies between solutions over the different platforms so testing them is critical. Windows, Mac OS, Android and iOS all have their different quirks. Some products provide a desktop app while others are browser based, with not all browsers supported.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line here is that you need to try them before making a monetary decision that will affect your organization. The good news is that most of these apps have a free level of service or a free trial period to test it out. This is what you need to do.

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