3 tools to improve collaboration in your company

Collaboration is a necessity for businesses to function well, but you always don't need SharePoint to do the trick

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One company told me, "We like the use of Microsoft Live Meeting when it is internal (it's part of our BPOS [Microsoft Business Online Standard suite] plan) because it has recording functions, has built-in VoIP, and integrates with Outlook. However, when we want to give off a more professional look for outside clients, we go with GoToMeeting, which offers all the same features and has a crisper, more professional look."

You may be thinking that GoToMeeting is the über-tool of live meetings, and I love it myself -- but it lacks one key feature: videoconferencing, which Live Meeting has. Some shops go with a free tool like Skype for the videoconferencing side, but Skype is also limited in that it doesn't provide application sharing. All around, it comes down to choosing what you need for your meetings (check out Mike Heck's InfoWorld article on telepresence systems for some examples). Whatever you choose, the benefits to using desktop-sharing, app-sharing, and videoconferencing tools will boost your communication and collaboration tremendously.

Internal IM/microblogging: You may know what internal IM is all about, but microblogging might be something you only see happening in social circles with apps like Twitter that let people give mini-updates to friends and "followers." In this space, you might use a high-end product like Microsoft's Communicator for its presence awareness and a host of other business features, but that would also require having a hosted or in-house set of communications services on the back end.

For something smaller, you might try Yammer, a great tool I've been playing with lately. (Check out Mike Heck's InfoWorld article looking at Yammer and its competitors for more details.) It has a Twitter feel but only allows for communication with individuals within the same email domain. You can go through the Web site to post your Yammering (which doesn't have Twitter's 140-character limit, I might add), or you might download the Adobe AIR-based app for your desktop, which lets you Yammer without a browser.

In my case, I've also downloaded a mobile app for my Android smartphone to keep up on company Yammerings. If you want the likes of Yammer to be more than time-wasters for your people -- it's common for IM and microblogging apps to become venues for jokes and foolish talk -- you need to have a policy in place to ensure it is viewed as a serious tool.

There you have it: three ideas for improving both collaboration and communication among your people. These are the keys to the success of any business. You simply need to decide now on what technology fits your business and which products have the features you prefer.

Write in and let me know if you have some other suggestions InfoWorld's readers might benefit from. Or if your company uses the features covered here, fill me in on the blessings and maledictions of doing so.

This article, "3 tools to improve collaboration in your company," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows and enterprise applications at InfoWorld.com.

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