The Agency/Client relationship has always been a precarious one. It might be the “client-treating-agency-like-vendor” relationship or “agency-is-my-best-and-only-friend” kind. Or sometimes it can swing between both just in one day! Whatever kind of relationships you might have, collaboration is critical for both parties to succeed. Whether it is an expensive homegrown system or free cloud-based platform, collaboration tools have been shown to improve project management and client satisfaction. And in today’s market, in which more and more people are working remotely, collaboration systems are more important than ever. Thankfully, there are many collaboration tools available at no to minimal cost. Here are several web-based platforms you should test drive with your teams.
Touted as the “World’s Most Popular Project Management” app with over 8 million projects managed, it’s easy to see why Basecamp rules the roost when it comes to online collaboration. It is incredibly easy to use and works with your existing technologies (read: no software to download). Post messages, create schedules, upload files and create to-do lists on the free plan. However, this is to manage one project only. Packages then range from $24/month for the Basic plan to $149/month for the Max plan, which are based on the number of projects and file storage needed. Premium plans also come with time tracking, so maybe team members will actually submit their timesheets on time!
Tired of emailing each other large files or digging around for a thumb drive to leave behind your presentation? Check out Dropbox, an easy and low cost, file-sharing and backup solution. Simply download Dropbox from the company’s website and start uploading files to your Dropbox folders. Dropbox syncs and stores your files in the cloud so you can access your files on any device that has an Internet connection. Although you cannot collaborate on a file in real-time, you can share access to files or folders and team members can save changes to Dropbox. You can get a Dropbox account for free with 2GB of storage (and earn up to 16GB through referrals). If you need more space, you can pay $9.99 per month for 100GB or $49.99 per month for 500GB.
Google Drive is Google’s answer to Dropbox, but outshines its competitors in the cloud storage space with its collaboration features. Google Drive supports real-time collaboration. The names of every editor currently working on a document, worksheet or presentation appears at the top of the screen. And continuous saving is a huge plus when working in the cloud with up to 50 users at the same time. Word of caution for Microsoft Office disciples: you can’t edit the native files directly from Google Drive. You can read them, but to edit, you need to “save as,” edit in Office, and then re-save back into the Google format. A little kludgey, but worth trying for the price: Free for 5GB of space and at a maximum, pay $49.99 per month for 1TB.
So, after what is sure to be productive collaboration sessions and on-time deliverables, you are ready to make a presentation. There are several presentation-sharing services out there (including Google Drive), but one stands out if you need to make a presentation remotely to a gaggle of people on different web browsers and devices. With Black Tonic, as the presenter, you get to control the pace of the presentation from your computer. No more “where are we?” or “I’ve seen everything already.” Because the presentation is a webpage: just send a url and it works everywhere instantly. I only wished it supported other formats besides images (jpg, tff, png). So if you have a PPT deck to present, you will need to convert each slide as an image. But word is they are working on supporting other formats. Sign up for a free 14-day free trial or sign up for a regular account for $12 per month (paid month-to-month). And then there are new online collaboration tools popping up that specifically cater to marketers specializing in social media. Companies like GraphEffect, Springpad, Hootsuite and even Facebook are leveraging feature sets of social media to foster more internal collaboration among marketers. Whether you “Like” it or not, we are being asked to make more with less. And to do this successfully, we need to be in it together.