At the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve come to realize certain things.
We knew that we could get infected, it would be harder to travel and politics, as well as economics, would be chaotic. But one thing we didn’t see coming was an epistemological crisis.
Being an unknown type of virus, there wasn’t any data on the COVID-19 and the amount of fake news due to this fact was huge. Information became a lie, communication was lost.
Likewise, a similar situation took place in the realm of the workplace.
As many companies and businesses took work home, especially the efficiency of work done by and in teams plummeted.
Wouldn’t everyone feel more comfortable working at the comfort at their own homes?
Wouldn’t taking the commuting out of the picture help with efficiency and saving time?
Weren’t home offices the future?
There is a lot to unpack there, but one thing is for sure. Team members can’t act individually. Without sharing the same work environment, it is not a surprise that most companies reported dropping efficiency rates.
But thankfully, the pioneers of technology took the wheel and introduced tools to create the perfect team environment once again. While 2020 was the year we found the solution, 2021 seems to be the year we will master it. Today we are looking at the best communication tools for teams in 2021.
Before we start with our list of the best team communication tools, let’s remember what they really are and why are they so important.
What is a communication tool?
A communication tool or communication software is a tool that helps two or more parties communicate with one another. Although it may sound like it only involves tools like chatrooms and e-mail tools, it in fact encompasses video conference tools, file sharing tools, and project management tools likewise. The communication is not necessarily verbal, and it can take the form of a presentation collaboratively prepared with the help of such software.
Why do you need communication tools?
A team’s main deal is always communication and collaboration.
You can have a beautiful picture at hand, but if it doesn’t fit the frame you can’t hang it on the wall.
Communication tools were always vital but the lack of proper tools and/ or not being able to use them to the maximum cost businesses a lot of money during the pandemic. Last year became physical proof of the importance of communication tools for teams. No matter the size, all companies are in search of the optimal pack of tools for their business now. But without knowing why it is important, you can’t work the tool to the fullest.
Benefits of communication tools
A micro office
First and foremost, you can put all the office onto a communication tool.
The hustle of back and fort office trips can be reduced. Even better if you work from home. It’s the same for when an employee couldn’t make it to work. The big idea is that we all have access to the tool even when we aren’t physically there.
The palest ink is better than the sharpest memory – or in our case, the tiniest pixel is better than the sharpest memory.
Just as it was with the frenzy over e-mails back in the day, we once again remember with communication tools that the written word is safer than the spoken. As misunderstandings are way more common than you will expect in the business world, it is best to take the safe lane and keep the convo going on the tool.
Although the benefits are way more than we could list here, lastly, a communication tool is the best for producing, sharing, and keeping meaningful data.
A communication tool encompasses the notion of “talking over a tool” and covers the types of tools that will let you collaboratively produce content and products, share files instantly and store them permanently. All proven to come more than handy in lockdown conditions where all we had were online tools.
What types of communication tools are there?
Although the definition of a communication tool is pretty straight, it is true that this definition covers various types of tools. In fact, any tool that sees communication as its primary or sometimes secondary forte can be considered a communication tool.
Not all communication tools are identified as one specific type of tool and most serve several purposes. However, the main and most important tool types are:
- Real-time chat tools that focus on real-time verbal communication of the team members
- Voice & video conference tools that let members host meetings when physically meeting is not an option
- Project management tools that help visualize the workflow of specific projects in a team
Though there are several other types of tools such as file sharing tools, document collaboration tools, and internal communication tools, most tools that fall into the categories listed above tend to have these types of features and thus, not given priority most of the time. Today we are focusing on the main three types.
Now without further ado, here is the list of communication tools you need to skyrocket your team’s performance, in and out of the office.
Real-Time Chat Tools
We all know the role e-mails play in business life.
It’s a huge and – for now – seemingly irreplaceable role. However, teams do need the comfort of a real-time chat, especially when not sharing the same environment all the time. So, if your team still doesn’t have a real-time chat tool, getting one will work wonders.
But which one to choose?
Slack was one of the leading team communication tools before 2020 and it seems like it will only keep getting popular in 2021.
It is essentially good for the real-time communication of the team, but it doesn’t stop there. Slack can be integrated with over 2,200 apps and tools, help you create automated workflows, and lets you share files. One feature I especially love is that it lets you work with different teams the same way you do with your own team, even with teams from different companies.
This Swiss army knife of a tool comes at a price of $6.67 / month for small to medium businesses and $12.50 / month for bigger ones. With the Enterprise Grid tier, you can get up to 500,000 people on Slack, and worry not, it has a free version for singular teams that’ll be more than enough for starters.
To top it all, Slack is available on your computer and as an app. Do it on the go!
Being a great option for education during the pandemic, Microsoft Teams became even more popular last year.
It was already great for team communication and collaboration but with the latest updates, it became a must for all teams. Although Microsoft Teams is also a mainly real-life communication-based tool, there are certain features that make it even more appealing. With MS Teams you can host meetings in the form of video conferences or calls, you can collaboratively work on files in real-time as well as share and store them. But the best part of MS Teams is probably that it is a Microsoft product. If you have a team that is familiar with MS products, Microsoft Teams is the one for your team.
Sold as a part of the Microsoft 365 Business bundle, Microsoft Teams comes at a price of $5.00 user / month for the basic tier. The standard tier has a price of $12.50 user / month while Office 365 E3 tier is $20.00 user / month. Just like Slack, Teams also has a free tier that covers the very basic versions of each feature with a capacity for fewer team members.
Voice & Video Conference tools
Although tools like Slack and Microsoft Teams cover the need to have meetings, they may come short for bigger teams, or the teams that can’t afford such tools yet.
Furthermore, as the pandemic got us more aware of the opportunities of online meetings, we might now need more options for a voice or video conference. One more thing to remember is the chance that we might be working with someone outside of the team. It’s best not to get the person entangled in intricate team tools. In any scenario, it’s best to have a separate and specific tool for conferences.
Here are some we love.
There are no words to express the kind of increase in demand Zoom had last year.
Obviously, it’s still a top-notch, highly demanded tool and the features only get better. Zoom is a tool where you can hold meetings with video or just audio. The participants can chat on the chatbox, raise hands, and share screen. The host can create polls for the team, put participants in breakout rooms and create a waiting room for extra security. The best part is all the features are adaptable and customizable.
The pro tier for Zoom comes at a price of $149.90 / year / license and is the best option for small teams while the business tier comes at $199.90 / year / license and the enterprise tier is $240 / year / license. As usual, Zoom also has a free version with which you can hold up to 40-minute-long meetings or unlimited ones one-on-one.
Cisco WebEx Meetings
Cisco WebEx is very similar to Zoom, only less popular.
Not because it lacks anything in particular but because Zoom did a better job at marketing during the most crucial times. In fact, Cisco WebEx is more preferred by relatively bigger enterprises according to reviews. Big clients like CNN and Jimmy Kimmel Live – wow – use Cisco WebEx.
But what exactly makes WebEx comparable to Zoom?
It has a couple of unique features. For example, WebEx has an attendance detection tool and lets you see more insight on the participants overall. Another very innovative feature WebEx introduced is a digital in-meeting assistant that can take notes for you and more. Good alternative indeed.
Cisco WebEx comes at a starting price of $13.50 per host/ month, the plus tier is $17.95 per host/ month and the business tier is $26.95 per host/ month. Just like its more popular counterpart, WebEx has a free version where you can host 40-minute meetings, with up to 200 participants.
Managing a project is not something you can do on paper or through e-mails.
Even when the whole team is in the same room, some work has to be done individually. With a project management tool, you get to see what your teammates are up to in real-time as well as follow and contribute to specific tasks and files.
Having Disney, Netflix, Spotify, and PayPal among their clients, Teamwork proves worthy already.
On the level of the product, Teamwork has everything you expect from a project management tool. With the ease of use of the software and a big load of highly customizable features, it offers ways to create integrity in the team and do it with one click. One very anticipated feature is the “workload” feature that lets you see the tasks given to the members of the team and the whole capacity.
The pro tier comes for the price of $10 user/month (billed annually) while the premium tier is $18 / user/month (billed annually). There is a free version where you can work on up to 2 projects with 5 members.
Another powerful tool with big-name clients like HubSpot, Domino’s, Michelin, and Pepsi, Kissflow Project offers perfectly organized workflows with effective collaboration at the center.
With Kissflow Project you get a clear view of everything going on in the team thanks to specialized views like my personal favorite, Matrix mode. The members of the team get to tag the tasks as in progress, on hold, and done, which is a great time saver for the whole team. Another strong suit of Kissflow Project is its reporting features that take into account numerous factors that might affect projects drastically.
Kissflow Project has a free tier for 3 users and 1 project and it includes simple reports, a 10 GB storage limit, and deadline functions. The starter tier for 5 users and 5 projects comes for a price of $35 / month while the enterprise tier’s price is set exclusively.
ClickUp helps you “save a day every week.” Although this is their own saying, as a member of an organization that utilizes ClickUp for daily tasks and project management, I can say that the tool helps us save a bunch of time.
It doesn’t have major differences compared to the other project management tools, but the ease of use and the friendliness of the What is UI? A User Interface (UI) is the medium through which a user connects with the hardware or the software. When a user interacts with a hardware or a… helps you navigate the tool easier, making managing your daily tasks an easy job.
Also, with many functions such as Time Tracking, Overload Management, Automations, etc., it helps you get valuable insights about your team and automate repetitive processes.
Choosing the right tools is critical for all businesses.
Also, one must consider the size and sector of the company very carefully. Even when you think one tool is the best and that you need it, there might be another tool out there that could offer the features of two separate tools.
Now that you know our suggestions for the most important types of communication tools, you are all set to decide what your business needs.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why should I use a team communication software?
A team communication software can help you increase accountability among your organization and ensure a healthy line of communication between team members and different teams.
Which communication tool works best as a way to answer questions from team members?
Most team communication tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams enable you to engage in conversations with teammates, while project management tools such as Notion, ClickUp, or Asana can provide similar functions.