CollaborationCollaboration software changes the way businesses operate.

As the percentage of professionals who work remotely continues to grow — recent statistics by Forrester Research show that 34 million Americans now work from home, and that number is expected to grow to 63 million by 2016 — companies have struggled to find ways to continue fostering group collaboration in the workplace.

The days when employees could solicit feedback and debate the merits of various business ideas while standing around the water cooler have long since passed. Although the Internet provides a suitable environment for getting work done outside the office, it isn’t necessarily conducive for group collaboration. Businesses of all sizes, and particularly those in the small to mid-size category, are facing this issue head on. Some are doing away with telecommuting and asking employees to return to the office, but far more are looking for digital solutions to this problem.

Cloud-based collaboration tools are flooding the market, aiming to fill the void that’s been left by employees who regularly work from home. Managers have their pick of the litter when it comes to deciding which collaboration tool to choose. However, most experts recommend against taking a one-size-fits-all approach. Each collaboration tool has its own pros and cons, and there is no one single platform that will work for every company.

Collaboration Software – Four Important Things to Consider

Here are four issues to consider when selecting a collaboration software suite for your business:

1) How large is your company?

Most vendors that offer cloud-based collaboration tools charge for their software based on the number of users. Therefore, it generally costs more for a company with 100 employees to utilize collaboration software than it does a company with 25 employees. However, what most people don’t know is there that is another segment of the industry that offers flat pricing for businesses of all sizes. These vendors are often considered the better option for companies with 100 or more employees. Additionally, most vendors — including those with pricing based on the number of users — provide enterprise-level solutions designed for large businesses.

2) Should every employee have the same security clearance?

Whether or not a company intern should be privy to the conversations happening between senior level staffers is a decision best left up to a company’s executives. Companies that would like to to keep certain internal conversations private should consider utilizing collaboration software tools with role-based security features. These features enable multiple levels of authorization, ensuring that employees are only given access to the information they need in order to do their jobs effectively. Podio and LeanKit are two examples of collaboration tools that offer built-in role-based security features. Users can decide how private or public their conversations should be on a case-by-case basis.

3) How heavily do your employees rely on email?

Employees who rely heavily on email for daily communication tend to have a hard time adjusting to collaboration platforms. Businesses have two options to make the transition easier. One, they can ban all internal email for one week as a way to kick start the transition to using an online collaboration system. Within one week, most employees should be used to sharing ideas within the web-based system. The second option is to select a cloud-based collaboration tool that integrates with existing email workflows. Emails to unique addresses are automatically added to the group conversation, allowing employees to contribute without necessarily switching from the communication method they’ve grown accustomed to.

4) Does your company use Gantt charts?

Any business that uses Gannt charts on a regular basis should opt for a collaboration tool that enables their use. Using a collaboration tool like EasyProjects, for example, companies can create tasks and assign activities through the use of interactive Gantt charts. Businesses that already use Gantt charts to manage projects and tasks will generally find that employees are more likely to use a collaboration tool that offers this capability.

If you are looking for a collaboration software, you will like this article on the six best collaboration software to keep team organized.