|Dave Pelland has extensive experience covering the business use of technology, networking and communications tools by companies of all sizes. Dave's editorial and corporate experience includes more than 10 years editing an electronic technology and communications industry newsletter for a global professional services firm.|
Small Business Mobile Collaboration Technologies
Small businesses are increasingly relying on mobile collaboration to help their team members to access information and colleagues from nearly anywhere.
With many of us spending greater chunks of our days on the go, team members are increasingly using personally owned devices, cloud services and mobile applications to share and update company information, and to increase productivity and flexibility.
In addition to sharing information and tasks, mobile and cloud-based collaboration tools can help companies reduce the need for dedicated or contracted IT resources. Because these tools are easy to use, team members are more likely to take advantage of at least basic features to remain in touch and productive.
Collaboration on the Run
For most small businesses, mobile collaboration starts with critical tools such as email, calendars and shared contacts. Team members have been using mobile tools to access these functions for several years now, and the ability to connect to a small business information with a mobile device is probably an expectation as people join your company.
Moving beyond the basics, mobile collaboration tools and applications are available to fill a variety of small business roles, including office productivity, online meetings and video conferencing, document sharing, project and task management, private social networking, and more.
Some of the leading mobile collaboration tools include the following:
Office productivity suites combine web-based access to word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications and files. For example, two (or more) team members collaborating on a client proposal can each review the text on separate screens at the same time, insert any spreadsheets, and make comments through a text chat or voice call feature.
Popular productivity suites including Google Drive, Office 365, iCloud, Zoho and others can be accessed anytime people have a web connection, including via laptops, tablets and smartphones. Editing a document is more convenient on a device with a keyboard and larger screen, but can be accomplished via a smartphone in a pinch.
Cloud-based meeting platforms such as WebEx, GoToMeeting, Blackboard and others offer collaborative environments in which participants can see and hear each other, draw on interactive whiteboards, share presentations, exchange documents and exchange information via text chats.
Online meetings can be a convenient way for participants in different locations to remain up-to-date about projects, important clients, or tasks that need to be completed.
Trading documents via email can result in a number of potential problems, including someone working on an outdated version of a draft, or having to wait a long time to download a file on a mobile connection.
Document sharing services such as Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and others reduce this potential administrative challenge by allowing companies to create a central storage location from which documents can be "checked out," edited and returned. Anyone who accesses the document automatically opens the latest version, increasing convenience and reducing potential confusion.
Project and Task Management
Mobile collaboration apps allow companies to create dedicated workplaces for team members to share project documents and timelines, and update each other about the status of pending or completed tasks. Most services allow companies to vary access permissions by specific projects, and include the flexibility to invite clients to collaborate on specific projects if they desire. Popular choices include Basecamp, Asana, Trello, Podio and others.