A basic guide to collaboration tools for startups

As anyone who’s ever worked in a startup (or just read about them) will tell you, there’s almost always collaboration problems. At every scale.

Sometimes, it’s communication problems because of time and space, sometimes it’s collaboration problems because everyone’s wearing multiple hats and doing lots of things and it’s difficult to keep track of who’s doing what…the point is, no matter how big or small, teams need collaboration tools to keep themselves on track.

Online collaboration can help bring your team closer together

“Collaboration is a hot buzzword in the business world. And with good reason. Working with people who have different perspectives or areas of expertise can result in better ideas and outcomes. But collaboration does not always just happen. Sometimes it needs a little nudge.”

You might wonder why exactly you need to put in so much effort to find the right collaboration tool – you might even wonder why I’m telling you this because you typed in the search term, you’re aware of where this is going – but the right collaboration tool can really help your team put their heads together in unconventional ways to solve conventional problems. Some companies centralize bathrooms and cafeterias, other people put effort into finding the root cause and good collaboration tools. You take your pick.

Typically, the two types of collaboration tools that are necessary in a startup – and this is a barebones list:

  • Coordination tools aka project/task management tools
  • Communication tools aka team communication tools

Let me elaborate a little further. Coordination tools help startups centralize information so that people can log in and easily find out anything they need to know. With a common coordination tool, teammates can easily keep track of each other’s progress, know what’s up next, where the project is heading and who is needed at each step.

Key features of coordination tools

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: coordination tools need to be easy to use and easy to set up. If it takes a considerable amount of time to find anything, your team won’t use it and information will end up being stuck in siloes, conversations, emails and docs.

Secondly, we’d recommend you get something super flexible and adaptable.

As collaboration tools go, we love working with Airtable. Airtable offers spreadsheet-style templates for teams working on all types of projects, tasks and ideas. When you are just starting out, you don’t really know what type of structure you’ll need. The beauty of Airtable is that it’s super adaptable and flexible.” – Andrew Askins, CEO of Krit

Thirdly, document storage, a way to maintain a calendar and email notifications will hold you in good stead.

Collaboration/communication tools for startups

When we talk collaboration as communication tools, we’re referring to collaboration tools that help teams communicate with each other in real-time, whether it’s through chat or video. Collaboration tools help teams sync up with each other and stay connected. This might be a straight forward chat-based system or an internal social network so keep your mind open. Key features to look out for:

  1. We urge you again to not compromise on the easy-to-use factor when picking a tool.
  2. Feature sets that work for your team – if your team prefers chat based communication, pick a chat tool. If your team prefers video comms, video tools. If your team prefers a tool that helps them collaborate inside another tool they use so they don’t have to waste time switching between tools, be prepared to build it/find it. Team comm tools live and die because of people’s preferences. So when you’re choosing a tool, get your team to try it for a couple of days before signing the dotted line.
  3. The more free flowing it is, the better. Your collaboration tool should feel like your office.

So, TL;DR: you need two types of collaboration tools – a coordination tool and a communication tool. Trying to figure out what’s a good collaboration tool? We made a handy guide to help you choose between different collaboration tools in the market currently. You can find a comprehensive list of collaboration tools here as well.