The best enterprise collaboration software

Office collaboration and communication software is becoming instrumental in changing work practices and boosting productivity. Here's our pick of the best tools on the market.

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Front
© Front

Front

Front is a collaborative inbox tool that was founded to try and take the headache out of shared email inboxes.

In its original iteration, the software enabled teams to work together using common email addresses, allowing users to view and edit all emails sent to a specific address in the style of Google Docs. Front also lets users assign emails to specific team members, @-mention someone and comment on different threads before finalising and sending a response.

Since its inception in 2013, Front has continued to evolve and now supports collaborative inboxing for SMS texts, Facebook, Twitter, website chat and offers integration with a number of third party services like Asana, Dropbox and Github. It also provides inbox analytics, allowing users to gain actionable insights around message volume, response time and team performance.

Front offers users a free trial and has a tiered pricing structure starting at $9 per user per month for team inboxes of up to three people, to $39 for its Pro package for 25 person inboxes, integrations and analytics. There is also a new light account for users that don't need access to team inboxes, which costs $10 per month per user.

Slack

Slack

Slack'sattractive interface and easy integration with familiar applications such as Skype and Google Drive make the messaging service a user-friendly choice for workplace communication and has seen the software skyrocket in popularity.

The company recently added video calling to the Mac, Windows and Chrome versions of the service, and now boasts a more integrated experience for customers thanks to deeper integrations with services including Google Cloud.

The partnership integrates the Google Drive permission process, document previews, Google Team Drives, and a new bot to manage notifications and comments.

The product costs £5.25 per user per month for the standard service and £9.75 for the plus package. Slack is also available in a free trial version, but services such as screen sharing and group calls are not included.

Read next: Microsoft Teams vs Slack: A comparison between the chat-based workspace programs

Threads
© Threads

Threads

San Franciso-based startup Threads has created an asynchronous alternative to business messaging apps such as Slack that offers a more coherent structure for discussions and decisions. The service aims to bring order to the chaos of online communication by separating conversations into threads.

Users first create a space that serves as their team's virtual meeting room and invite colleagues to join the discussion. They can create a thread for any individual topic in which every member can ask questions, offer feedback and develop ideas that draw on all the context necessary to make better decisions. When all contributions have been taken, the thread starter marks it as a decision and everyone can move one.

Threads launched in beta in February 2019. The free version offers access to the 150 most recent threads and up to 5GB of file storage in total for up to 15 users, while the $10 per user per month standard package includes access to unlimited threads, with 20GB of file storage per member for 40 users.

Webex Teams
© Cisco

Webex Teams

Cisco rebranded Spark as Webex Teams in 2018, keeping the old tool's features while adding integration with Webex meetings.

Webex offers text, voice and video messaging as well as white boarding and content sharing options, all of which can be divided into individual rooms for each separate conversation. Cisco has emphasised the application's strong security features as a competitive advantage, pointing to its end-to-end encryption, space locking, moderation controls and secure, encrypted search.

The product is available in four separate pricing plans: an £11.25 per user per month (PUPM) starter package, a £14.85 PUPM plus package, a £22.50 PUPM business version, and an enterprise edition, for prices available on request.

Trello
© Trello

Trello

Have you ever jotted down 'to-do' list items on multi-coloured post-it notes? This is the staggeringly simple idea behind productivity and collaboration tool, Trello.

Write a note, stick it on the board, and then move it through stages from 'to-do' to 'in-progress' to 'completed', and tag any relevant team members along the way, as well linking to any other relevant content.

Comments and attachments can be added onto any 'card' on the Trello board by team members. For different teams and projects, there may be multiple boards across which different team members are shared into. Again, a range of third-party apps can be integrated such as Slack, Bitbucket or Google Drive.

While primarily marketed towards business users, Trello also presents itself as a useful tool for any personal projects that involve planning too.

Trello offers a free packagefor personal use, and a Business Class option for $9.99 per user per month.

Jira

Jira

Jirais a productivity tool firmly aimed at development teams, primarily geared towards making the journey of planning, tracking and releasing software more seamless.

It integrates other useful developer tools like Bitbucket, Bamboo and Confluence, as well as over 3000 additional third-party apps available through the marketplace.

Jira allows teams to create customised workflows to organise tasks or select an 'out of the box' option. Parent company, Atlassian, has also recently announced the discontinuation of its own workplace chat tools, Hipchat and Stride, in favour of integrating Slack - great news for any company already using the in-office messaging service.

In addition, Atlassian also recently announced the launch of Jira Ops, an incidence response tool to help IT teams manage major incidents such as outages and coordinate a response, as well as preserve a timeline of events to inform future response plans.

Jira plans are availablefor small teams of up to 10 people ($10 per month) and growing teams of between 11-100 people ($7 per user, per month).

Read next: How Sky UK uses Jira to improve communication

Blink

Blink

Blink is a mobile app that takes the data from the tools used by employees and presents it all in one easy to use place. It was designed to replace pre-existing, legacy intranet systems with a mobile-first intranet and employee portal.

Where most collaboration tools are built for employees who sit in front of computers for eight hours a day, Blink was specifically designed for frontline, deskless workers – those in construction, transport or hospitality, for example.

The Blink app is made up of a Feed, where colleagues share updates, photos, videos, polls, documents and links; a Hub, that holds your key content, documents, policies and guides; and a Chat window where you can all communicate. Blink also integrates with a wide range of third party apps and has the functionality for users to develop and create their own micro-apps.

Blink provides a free Team package, allowing for up to 20 users and offering Web, Desktop, iOS, Android apps. Its Business package costs $1.87 per user/per month while costing for its Enterprise package is available upon request.

Smartsheet
© Smartsheet

Smartsheet

Smartsheetis a cloud-based platform designed to help organisations collaborate, plan projects, manage tasks and report on work.

The user experience looks a lot like a shared Excel spreadsheet, and features include live reports, customisable forms, dashboards that display real-time project data, activity logs, shared views, and automated notifications.

It also integrates with a wide range of enterprise apps, including Google G-Suite, Microsoft Office 365, Trello, Box, DocuSign and Salesforce. The company claims to have users at 90 percent of the world’s Fortune 100 companies.

The Washington-based company filed for an IPO in March 2018, aiming to raise $100 million. The filing revealed that revenues and losses have both been growing rapidly at the 13-year-old company. In the fiscal year that ended in January 2018, revenue had risen from $67 million to $111.3 million, but net losses had ballooned from $15 million to $49 million.

Customers can choose from a standard version of the tool that costs $14 per month for individual users and $25 per user per month for businesses or an enterprise edition, at prices available on request.

Microsoft Teams
© Microsoft

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft calls its Slack competitor Teams a "chat-based workspace" within Office 365. Employees can direct message or be grouped together to discuss a topic and share and collaborate on documents.

Unlike the fairly staid Skype for Business instant messaging platform, Teams comes complete with emojis, gifs and memes.

Teams further distinguishes itself from Slack by supporting threaded chats. A common criticism of Slack is that chats can become disorganised, so finding a way to identify chats within chats could be a handy feature.

Microsoft announced a range of new features for Teams in March 2018. These include in-line message translation for conversations involving multiple languages, Cortana voice interactions for Teams-enabled devices and mobile sharing of live video, photos or device screens.

Microsoft also unveiled cloud recording for meetings with automatic transcription and timecoding, enabling staff to read captions, search within the conversation and playback parts of the meeting. In the future, the company plans to add facial recognition to attribute remarks to specific meeting attendees.

Read next: Why Slack is right to be scared of Microsoft Teams

The chief advantage of Teams though is that it naturally integrates with fellow Office 365 products such as Word, Excel, PowerPoint, as well as Slack for video conferencing with Sharepoint for file sharing. Teams is available for Office 365 Business subscribers as a free add-on.

Hangouts Chat
© Google

Hangouts Chat

Hangouts Chatis Google's messaging platform for the workplace. The Slack-rivalling service provides chat in direct messaging and group conversations, and integrations with a host of G-Suite applications and third-party products such as Xero and Salesforce.

Users can schedule meetings, create documents and search threads across desktop and mobile devices using the web browser or mobile apps.

Google has put bots at the core of Hangouts Chat. The @meet bot can schedule, modify and cancel meetings, as well as look up what's on your schedule, while the @drive bot gives notifications for updates to Docs, Sheets, or Slides.

The platform also promises strong security through two-factor authentication, mobile device management, single sign-on, admin settings and other features. It's available to anyone with a G Suite account.

Facebook Workplace
© Facebook

Facebook Workplace

The social media juggernaut recently made its move from the private sphere into the professional one with the launch of Workplace.

Workplacecombines the familiar Facebook interface and functions such as Messenger chat and the news feed with new tools including a dashboard with analytics. It also supports custom integrations, which allows companies to create their own apps and include integrations with third-party products such as Box and Gmail.

Newer additions to the tool include a Workplace Chat desktop app for PC, Mac, Android or iOS and support in Workplace Chat for group video on desktop and on mobile.

Workplace is available in a free version and an enterprise edition that costs $3 per user per month and adds features including administrative controls, monitoring tools, APIs for custom integrations and bots, and integration with G Suite, Okta, Windows Azure AD.

Notion
© Notion

Notion

Founded in San Francisco in 2016, Notion bills itself as an "all-in-one workspace", combining a clean interface to write notes, documents and spreadsheets with project and task management tools and a searchable shared knowledge base across devices.

Notion already integrates with Slack and 50 other popular enterprise apps and has established a loyal following in the tech sector. It costs $8 per user per month for the team version or $16 per user per month for the enterprise edition.

Prysm Software Platform
© Prysm

Prysm Software Platform

The Prysm Software Platform provides a standardised communication experience across devices and locations that encompasses video conferencing and content sharing and document collaboration.

The cloud-based visual workspaces can be accessed by participants from up to 25 locations simultaneously and come with a variety of collaboration tools, including onscreen annotation, digital whiteboards, device sharing and support for web-based applications

A core benefit of Prysm is that it can integrate software from multiple third-party vendors. This would allow an employee using Google Docs to collaborate with a colleague using MS Word in the same Prysm meeting screen.

The software is available for $16 per user per month for up to $100 users and $13 per user per month for more than 100 users.

Hangouts Meet
© Google

Hangouts Meet

Hangouts Meetis the business meetings version of Google's popular Hangouts messaging platform. The software supports impromptu video meetings on the go, virtual training classes, full-screen presenting and document sharing.

It's fully integrated with Google's G Suite, so users can join meetings directly from invites within Gmail and Calendar events, and the information from each is automatically added to Meet.

Google recently expanded access to the Hangouts Meet hardware to a total of 14 countries, allowing staff in the UK to collaborate with colleagues abroad. The search giant has also updated the hardware options to make the product work better for large rooms and more people.

The new large kit can accommodate up to 20 people and comes equipped with a Logitech PTZ Pro 2 camera that can capture details with 10x optical zoom, and lets users pan and tilt to focus on participants. Also on offer is a new standalone Meet speaker, which is designed to keep audio quality crisp in bigger rooms.

Hangouts Meet can be used in conjunction with Jamboard, another of Google's collaboration tools. This one is a cloud-based digital whiteboard. Users can drop images, add notes, and pull assets directly from the web on to Jamboard, while collaborating with team members from anywhere.

Jamboard has also been given a new feature called AutoDraw that auto-detects sketches made by users and then pairs them with images.

Yammer
© Microsoft

Yammer

Microsoft entered the enterprise collaboration market with the £752 million purchase of Yammer in 2012.

Yammer lets companies compile messages, files and updates in a single destination and boosts information sharing through conversation groups. Users can interact in either open public groups or private ones for sharing sensitive information.

Microsoft has now merged Yammer with Office 365 Groups and phased out the Yammer Enterprise subscription, which is no longer available as a stand-alone subscription. Current subscribers with an active enrolment will remain covered until their agreement expires.

To continue using Yammer beyond the expiration date requires a transition to one of the Office 365 Enterprise plans. Yammer can be activated as part of an existing Office 365 license for free.

Jive

Jive

Jive's interactive intranet software provides real-time communication and collaboration through live activity streams, groups, discussions and blogs.

Documents can be edited and read in real-time by multiple users and interactions assessed with built-in analytics capabilities, and the software integrates with Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, Salesforce and Google Docs.

Compelling features in the Jive collaboration hub include the Recommender Engine that uses machine learning insights to personalise content, an Open Search feature that covers OneDrive storage and Jive communities.

The level of functionality available depends on which package is purchased. Contact the sales team for full details on pricing plans.

LoopUp
© LoopUp

LoopUp

London startup LoopUp is becoming the go-to platform for conference calls. Users can see who is speaking in real-time and have no need to dial into the call, while call leaders can mute participants when necessary.

LoopUp promises an intuitive user experience combining easy integration with existing tools such as Outlook and enterprise security.

Recent additions to the remote meetings solution include a revamped user interface and one-click screen sharing across all devices and browsers without the need of any additional downloads.

The product is available in three pricing structures for customers: a professional subscription at £15 per month, a power version at £29 per month, and a pay-as-you-go enterprise option with cost dependent on volume of minutes or a licence fee per month.

Huddle
© Huddle

Huddle

File management is one of the big strengths of Huddle. Users can control document approvals, share files, collaborate on content and manage projects on the cloud collaboration platform.

Huddle is known for interoperability, through integration with software such as Outlook, and its emphasis on security, a crucial issue for a service used in government departments in both the UK and USA.

Huddle is at the pricier end of the market, but it does come with an impressive array of features. Prices start at $10 per user per month for the starter package, which supports secure file sharing, content collaboration and project management for small teams.

Higher-end options are the enhanced "Plus" and "Premier" editions, which include extra security, customisation and admin controls, and a special version specifically for the government and public sector.

Salesforce Chatter
© Salesforce

Salesforce Chatter

One of the earliest entries in the enterprise collaboration market was Chatter, which Salesforce released in 2010. The mobile-first solution structures discussions around groups, where files, videos, and images can be shared, and new members invited.

The service supports integration with third-party or custom apps and makes recommendations on people, files and information to follow based on the individual user's activity to create personalised feeds and profile pages. Topics pages add an additional method of collecting and presenting relevant content.

Chatter is free for all Salesforce users and is also available to non-Salesforce users for $15 pupm. The price includes the Salesforce content library, the ideas and answers features of Salesforce CRM, read-only access to accounts and contacts, and the Force.com platform.

Hive
© Hive

Hive

Plucky New York contender Hive entered the enterprise collaboration fray in 2016. The company sets itself apart from the competition by emphasising action over conversation in a streamlined a tool combining messaging, task management, and files in a single simple drag and drop dashboard.

The productivity hub also includes an AI capacity that automatically recommends the next steps to take based on user conversations and helps automate tasks and prioritise projects.

It integrates with more than 100 other tools, including Dropbox, Salesforce, WordPress. Nike, Deloitte, and Uber are among the clients to have signed up to the service in its short time on the market.

Hive comes in a $12 per user per month professional edition for desktop and mobile with unlimited projects, standard integrations for up to 100 users and an enterprise version available on request. Both plans can also be tested in 14-day free trials.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.