The Collaboration Challenges of Remote Work
A key topic of conversation that comes up again and again with our customers is the challenge of collaboration in a remote work environment. Too many channels of communication or documentation are ineffective, and IT professionals are starting to feel fatigued by never feeling quite “in the know” with business decisions that are happening in real-time. When separated from colleagues, teams can feel distant and unmotivated or find it hard to stay focused. Below we have outlined some of the most common collaboration tools that teams are using to communicate effectively and, ultimately, find balance in a work-from-home lifestyle.
Best Online Collaboration Tools in 2020 for IT Teams
During Spicework’s annual conference, Spiceworld, our product expert asked Spiceheads what collaboration tools they are using, if they are satisfied, and what features are most important. 46% of respondents said they are using MS Teams, 29% Zoom, 10% Slack, 5% Trello, 5% Gsuite, and the remaining 5% spread out over Asana, Monday, and Webex Teams. Many of those polled admitted to using a combination of these tools, however, as one tool may only fit a specific business need or serve a unique part of the organization.
Microsoft Teams was the most common response, but what is MS Teams? MS Teams is a chat-based collaboration tool that allows organizations to work together and share information in a common space as part of Microsoft’s robust Office 365 product suite.
Public and private chat is a core feature, and the deep integration of Skype video allows for popular social features such as emojis or custom memes.
‘Hub’ is another important capability that offers a shared workspace for various Microsoft Office applications such as PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Planner, OneNote, SharePoint, Delve, and Power BI. Teams can remotely work together in one space without having to toggle between applications.
The users of Microsoft Teams that we polled recognized the ability to share documents across multiple locations as well as chat across multiple offices as the most widely used application of the tool, and also acknowledged the options for screen sharing or whiteboards.
Video conferencing and online meetings can include anyone outside or inside a business and is also an important feature of the tool. However, many offices are using online video calling and screen sharing internally and using other tools such as Zoom for externally facing meetings.
As IT organizations implement a collaborations tool like MS Teams, the ability to deliver monitoring alerts directly into the MS Teams chat is a common need (LogicMonitor can utilize the Microsoft Teams API to deliver alerts via a Custom HTTP Integration). Monitoring user activity, quality of calls, private messages, team messages, and types of devices is also important.
Looking ahead, LogicMonitor will be taking more of a cloud approach when monitoring MS Teams to pull important data such as call quality metrics. Stay up to date by subscribing to our release notes here.
At the end of the day, if a company is using Microsoft Office 365, MS Teams is probably a good solution for collaboration, as it is accessed easily through O365’s centralized management console. MS Teams is included for free with Office 365.
Microsoft Teams vs. Zoom
Zoom is the most commonly used video conferencing tool, especially for externally facing communication. When compared to MS Teams, both tools enable online video conferencing, private and public chat, virtual meeting spaces, screen sharing, and file sharing. The difference between the two comes down to the power behind Microsoft’s Office 365 product suite that enables MS Teams to be part of a one-stop-shop. However, this precise value can make accessibility tricky, so many organizations opt for Zoom when meeting with participants from outside the company. Zoom’s interface is simple, and end-users can get up and running quickly and easily.
Security seems to be the main question of concern when comparing Zoom vs. MS Teams. MS Teams is data encrypted end-to-end both in-transit and at rest and features multi-factor authentication and Rights Management Services support. The security features apply to file-sharing as well, protecting sensitive information. Zoom has recently added two-factor authentication and enhanced data encryption policies, but Zoom’s privacy policies and security practices have been the subject of much scrutiny in 2020.
Microsoft Teams and Zoom both offer free versions of their platforms, with upgraded features available on paid plans at a relatively inexpensive cost per user. There is no clear winner here, as the choice comes down to your own organizational needs and requirements. In many cases, teams will use both tools in tandem, using MS Teams internally and Zoom externally. They integrate with each other, and with clear guidelines, a company can easily identify scenarios for either.
LogicMonitor offers out-of-the-box monitoring for Zoom, and our Zoom package is compatible with any Zoom account. Read more about how we monitor Zoom here.
Microsoft Teams vs. Slack
Slack is a chat and channel-based messaging platform that is fun and easy to use. Slack shines with its bot and app integrations that improve the user’s workplace experience. Onboarding is easy, and there are shortcuts and productivity hacks for just about anything. In terms of features, both MS Teams and Slack are fairly evenly matched. Both offer private and public chat, searchable message history, screen sharing, file sharing, and fun integrations to generate gifs and memes. Both offer free versions of their platform, with upgraded features and integrations on paid plans.
MS Teams has Slack beat when it comes to online audio and video sharing, and also wins out where security and compliance are of concern. Not only does Microsoft’s data encryption and compliance come into play, but the admin controls are more extensive than any other platform.
We recently updated our Slack integration, and it is now bidirectional. Click to read more.
Other Collaboration Tools for Consideration
The Google product suite has its own collaboration tool, Google Meet. In the same way that MS Teams is available right from O365, Google Meet is available to any business or individual with a Gmail account or G Suite Essentials account, though some features such as recording meetings or going over the 60-minute mark are reserved for paid plans. If your business already has G Suite, Google Meet is a great solution, and some find it slightly easier to use than MS Teams.
Cisco Webex is also a leader in online meetings and video conferencing solutions. It has features similar to MS Teams, Google Meet, and Zoom such as one-to-one or group conferencing, file sharing, and a vast library of integrations. The security features are robust, and there is a variety of protection tools to keep data safe.
Trello, Asana, and Monday are all popular project management applications that are most commonly used in marketing, customer support, sales, and HR. They allow teams to create, track, and manage complex workflows in a centralized hub, and are often used in tandem with some of the video, chat, and file-sharing tools discussed above.
Using More Than One Collaboration Tool
It is extremely common for companies to use multiple collaboration tools to support their workforces, especially as many companies in 2020 have struggled to maintain their culture and productively as employees are remote. Some tools even work better together, as each has pros and cons or ideal use-cases. For example, LogicMonitor uses Slack for internal chat, G Suite for e-mail, calendar management, and file sharing, and Zoom for both internal and external video calls. It will all depend on your company’s size, budget, and needs.
See LogicMonitor’s support for these tools and more on our integrations page.