Recently a couple of projects I’m part of have been trying out collaborative digital workspaces for communicating with large groups, sharing documents, and scheduling. In both cases the desire is to streamline communication, avoid excessively long email chains, and facilitate collaborative digital projects. The two platforms I’ve been using are Slack and Basecamp.
Branded as a communication tool for teams, Slack allows groups to organize conversations using ‘channels.’ Channels are ways to categorize discussion based on project, team, topic etc and can be created to suit your group’s needs. You can also use Slack as a file sharing tool and it integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox. Similarly you can sync an existing Google Calendar into the slack interface.
Slack is available as a desktop program or as an app. I’m still new to this product and the slack ‘team’ I’m part of is still working on how Slack might fit into our workflow. I do like the mobile app and the way you can customize notifications based on your preferences. We’re only using the free version, so there is a limit to the number of messages that are searchable (10K) and file storage is limited to 5GB. But as a communication cool even the free version seems to be fairly agile and good at aggregating conversations. It also has hashtag functionality to help facilitate after the fact searching and navigation.
Basecamp is a more robust digital tool than Slack. It is a project management and collaborative workspace than simply a communication tool. Similar to Slack it’s available as a desktop and as a mobile app. The pricing model for Basecamp is slightly more aggressive than Slack, the first Basecamp you setup with an account is free but beyond that is $29/month. Basecamp is simple to use and has a fairly clean interface that facilitates the creation of to-do lists, message boards, group chat spaces, the uploading and sharing of files, and scheduling. It has some basic reporting functionality an some search functions.
There have been some criticisms of Basecamp’s functionality as a project management tool – it doesn’t allow the assigning of tasks to multiple people and it doesn’t allow time tracking. Outside of those flaws I think Basecamp works well as a collaborative space. It’s been incredibly easy to share documents on and to facilitate conversations among a dozen people. I could see larger groups having difficulty keeping up with content on Basecamp – in my mind huge message chains on a message board are only marginally better to keep on top of then a lengthy email chain. Similar to Slack I like the app functionality of this particular platform which is easy to update and review while not physically at a computer.
What digital collaboration tools have you found useful in streamlining group workflows?