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How to make sense of all your collaboration tools and work smarter

How to make sense of all your collaboration tools and work smarter

Jonathan Davies


See how an intranet works

Learn how an intranet works with this short video.

15 mins read

Wed, Apr 3, '19  

We talk a lot about better team collaboration and digital workplace solutions in this blog, and there’s a reason for that: one of the biggest factors contributing to the success of any business is its people’s ability to perform together as a team, not a collection of ego-driven individuals.

Better team collaboration can lead to a more productive and efficient workforce, and when you enable this through a digital workplace built on Google apps for work, you can bring anyone, anywhere into the wider team. It can make employees more responsible, build transparency and authenticity, and help all teams to work towards a common goal or mission.

“With the digital revolution, work collaboration became commonplace,” writes the team from Smartsheet, incidentally one of the many Google collaboration software for work available in the Google marketplace. “The internet increased cross-organizational knowledge sharing and provided the opportunity to work anytime, anywhere – this is referred to as the digital workplace. As Deloitte reported, “the digital workplace breaks down communication barriers, positioning you to transform the employee experience by fostering efficiency, innovation, and growth.” Ultimately, the goal of workplace collaboration is to increase success by fostering open communication among all team members across all departments and management levels.”

Your Google intranet acts as a portal to all of your collaboration tools, helping you to maximize productivity and efficiency by enabling better team collaboration. Through cloud-based integrations, Google apps for work from the Google marketplace can supplement your digital workplace and drive smarter working.

How, exactly? There are thousands of apps and collaboration tools on the Google marketplace, but we’ve trawled those to bring you a selection of cloud-based integrations from Google apps for work that could help your team work smarter, not harder. Note: some of these apps may require a subscription to access the full range of functionality.

Team collaboration through better communications

The biggest enabler for smarter team collaboration is the ability to speak to each other easily, and to get instant responses to your questions. Thankfully there are plenty of Google apps and collaboration software for work to help you canvass opinions and share knowledge (as well as the odd gif).

Ubiquitous messaging app Slack is an official partner to Google and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite), and is also one of the Google Workspace integrations we feature in our Google intranet. Chat to colleagues, create rooms based around topic, control access, and seamlessly integrate with your Google Workspace so you can access Google Docs or your Google Drive from within Slack. Get it here.

If your digital workplace communications are built around Zoom, you can make user of its Gmail integration. Instantly escalate any chat to a video collaboration system straight from your inbox, whatever device you’re using.

Or maybe you’d prefer to delve into something native to Google Workspace, the team has invested a lot in the Meet premise to ensure it works seamlessly across all Google apps for work. Start a chat or even a a meeting from directly inside Gmail, or use the apps standalone to keep your team conversation flowing.

Google apps for work can facilitate brainstorming

Also native to Google apps for work is Jamboard, a digital whiteboard that can help bring your remote team together to brainstorm, work on projects, or even discuss the company’s mission and vision. That said, Jamboard works best with additional kit, and Google marketplace has other apps - both paid and free - that can also crowdsource ideas and help facilitate brainstorming, that most essential of collaboration tools.

Purists can draw flowcharts, UML, mindmaps, UI mockups, sitemaps and network diagrams using Creately. They claim to help you draw diagrams up to three times faster compared to traditional software, but this is a paid tool so you’ll want to be a real diagram nut to shell out.

Miro, formerly RealtimeBoard, calls itself the most intuitive visual collaboration and whiteboarding platform for agile teams. Brainstorm and organize ideas, create flowcharts and diagrams, manage your backlog and create user story maps using the tool, which integrates with Google Drive and Google Contacts for easy sharing.

The diagram fiend is truly spoilt for choice with Google apps for work; draw.io is a free online diagram editor built around Google Drive, enabling you to diagram to your heart’s content and store it only in your own system – your data privacy manager will love that bit.

If you find diagramming apps a bit fiddly, Sketchboard uses real-time sketch diagramming and lets you model like you would using a pen and paper. Use it to solve problems and communicate ideas with a tool that is made for fast, real-time collaboration.

The daddy of all mind mapping applications, MindMeister also has a Google apps for work integration. Brainstorm online with your team, create project outlines within minutes, and work together to increase innovation and creativity. It’s the ultimate in Google team collaboration.

Increase efficiency and be more productive

The thing with team collaboration is that there are a lot of cogs spinning one wheel; if any of them go off track, the whole thing can come crashing down. It doesn’t need to get to that point though, as there are Google apps for work that cover document and workflow management, action planning and team efficiency.

If it’s just the actions and files you want to track, Hive brings it all into one powerful dashboard. A simple to use home for busy teams that helps you build action lists, share documents and get notifications in one place. The Kanban-style status view will set project manager hearts a-flutter.

Approvals and workflow can also be tracked with Collavate, which integrates not only with Google Drive but also Google Sheets and Google Docs. Covering the entire document life cycle from brainstorming to creation, collaboration to approval and publishing, Collavate allows you to streamline approval workflows, increase efficiency and be more productive.

Keeping projects on track with cloud-based integrations

Project management systems are a dime a dozen, really, and which of the PM-based Google apps for work you choose will come down to personal preference and budget. We often rave about the power of Asana as a project management tool - and it integrates with Slack and the Google Workspace, too - but there are some lesser-known tools you might want to add to the long list:

Kanbanchi lets you plan your workload with Gantt charts, track time and manage projects based around the Kanban system. It’s built specifically for Google Workspace, working on Google sign-ins, letting you manipulate projects boards as files in Google Drive and push dates to Google Calendar. It’s a native app, and can be pushed to all users from your Admin console.

Dooster’s Google Marketplace page features one very prominent rave review that says it’s “head and shoulders above the others out there, including Basecamp”. High praise indeed! They say their online project management and task collaboration tool will help your team get more productive, featuring easy-to-create tasks with tags, quick assign and auto-reminders, all integrated into Google Workspace. It’s easily customised and very visual.

Of course, you might not want a fancy, highfalutin project management system for your business; you might be happy with a simple spreadsheet. In that case, we present for your project needs Google Sheets – so simple to use, and with real-time collaboration built in, Google Sheets is of course native to Google apps for work.

And your own workload? Take care of it here

You won’t be a Google team collaboration hero if you can’t keep track of your own work. Collaboration tool Trello has been a go-to for many years, and its Google integration works with Gmail, allowing you to create new cards for our Trello boards without leaving your inbox.

For a more full task list app, try Any.do, which integrates with Google Drive and seamlessly syncs across all devices. Drag and drop tasks to plan your agenda, add reminders, and easily share lists and tasks with others to improve your team collaboration skills.

Collaboration tool Flowlu works in a similar way, and also integrates with Google Drive. This one has the added bonus of time tracking, instant messaging, and powerful reporting, helping to feed information into team leaders to guide efficiency and productivity.

Smart working with a Google intranet and Google team collaboration tools

You’ll want to make it easy for your disparate workforce to access all of these amazing Google collaboration software, and a Google intranet acts as a portal to all your team collaboration tools. And there’s the added bonus of this portal doubling as an intranet, helping keep your digital workplace informed of company developments, keeping your people easily accessible and identifiable through organization charts, and your whole digital ecosystem available from any device, any time, anywhere – even on the go.

The smart way of modern working is through a digital workplace. How are you enabling your employees to work smarter, not harder?