It’s good to talk: top tools for business communication

We all have to work (well, most of us), and we all have to communicate with our colleagues (not always a good thing). But today’s office environment is a very different beast compared to that of even ten years ago. With flexible, home-based working on the rise, as well as the need to better communicate with colleagues across the globe, we need tools to be able to productively work together.

We often use a number of fragmented (and not entirely secure or business-friendly platforms) to fulfill these different needs. But a plethora of corporate communication tools have been developed that aim to boost efficiency, improve the way we (virtually) talk to each other, and make life easier. Here are a few that we think will help improve your workplace communication.

Slack

Slack is a platform for team communication, which pulls all internal conversations and communication into one, searchable place. This gives you a view into conversations between your co-workers, as well as immediate access to bugs, customer service tickets, and document sharing.

According to a Slack spokesperson: “Everyone needs to have visibility into what everyone else is working on to make things more efficient. Teams transition to Slack from a highly fragmented collection of tools they’ve cobbled together to build their own communication fabric: email, IM, Skype, SMS/iMessage, enterprise social tools, intranets, project management software, etc. Pulling all of those disjointed conversations into a single, organized, and searchable view radically increases transparency across teams. This ambient awareness means there’s less of a need for time-consuming stand up meetings, status reports, etc.

“Slack’s channel format allows you to quickly go from asynchronous to synchronous communication. When it matters, the real-time response cannot be undervalued, but Slack’s highly customizable notifications allow you to jump in and out when you’re needed. The centralized and searchable archive of messages is something that’s available not just to people on the team today, but the ones who start next week or next month or next year. Onboarding (new employee integration) ramp up times are dramatically reduced.”

Glip

Glip is a business messaging platform with built-in productivity tools. It starts with real-time chat from your desktop, tablet or mobile phone, and builds business tools such as shared calendars, distributed task and project management, video conferencing, and file sharing, into this stream.

Peter Pezaris, founder and CEO at Glip, explains the benefits: “By embedding the productivity tools in the stream, you’ll not only get things done more quickly and efficiently, because it’s so easy to transition from conversation to creation, you’ll start tracking all of the tasks that are probably slipping through the cracks today. We like to say that Glip is so easy, you’ll actually use it. In addition, because things like tasks, meetings and files are native first-class objects in Glip, powerful interactions become not only possible but effortless. Attach an agenda to a meeting invite; associate a set of tasks to an image to request changes; or @mention a person, a team, a file, a task or any other object to create associations between units of work.”

The company also recently launched Glip 2, which Pezaris says come with speed, stability and usability improvements, along with some often-requested features such as recurring tasks, project templates, advanced keyboard shortcuts, and an all-new task management application.

Flowdock

Flowdock is a chat tool for teams, which integrates with productivity apps to not only bring visibility into discussions, but work activity as well. Some of the unique features that this program offers include:

  • A team inbox. When a team integrates their tools with Flowdock, activity from their tools is combined to form a team inbox. The team inbox becomes a window into the team’s work, allowing them to react to work activity in real time.
  • Threaded chat. By being able to reply directly to a message, teams can have multiple conversations going on at once without confusion.
  • Tagging. Combined with search, Flowdock’s tagging capabilities help teams not forget anything.

HipChat

While HipChat may be primarily billed as a group chat application (for Windows, Mac, Android, iOS, and Linux), it’s much more than just that. For free (yes, at no cost), you get group chat and file sharing for an unlimited amount of users. For a monthly fee, you can also share your screens and make video calls , plus it integrates with a slew of other productivity tools such as JIRA (both are owned by parent company Atlassian), Google Hangouts, MailChimp, Twitter, and WordPress.

Yammer

Yammer is Microsoft’s Facebook-style social network for businesses (which it bought rather than built itself). It’s user interface is inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s social network, with a “news feed” with updates from your colleagues taking center stage, surrounded by information on your groups, recent activity, and a pop up chat window. It also offers cloud-based document storage and allows you to find colleagues that have the skills you need for a certain project through the search menu, thus aiding collaboration.

Facebook at Work

It’s hard to evaluate exactly how successful or good Facebook at Work will be as it’s currently only in beta and available to a limited amount of companies. Much like the consumer-focused main app, Facebook at Work has a news feed, the ability to send messages (to individuals and groups), groups, and events. You can set up a separate profile for the work option, meaning you don’t need to mix your personal and professional lives, and all the information you see will be specific to your company and what your colleagues are sharing (re work).

Which communication tools do you use in your organization? Let us know in the comments below.

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Follow me on Twitter: @karenmccandless

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