After 18 months, it’s undeniable that the pandemic has reorganized the way we work. According to McKinsey, the digitally enabled productivity gains of remote work have sped up what they are calling “the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”
But while the move to WFH has called on us to be creative and resourceful in order to get stuff done, there’s no denying that some challenges remain. And without the right tools, document collaboration can be one of the prickliest.
Here at Charli, we’re passionate about the future of collaboration—and we’re always looking for new systems and methods. In this article, we’ll share our top 5 collaborative document management systems so that you can pick the right tool for your team.
Why Use Document Collaboration?
Getting smart about remote work is a must for businesses, professionals, and entrepreneurs. And what better way to start than by finding a future-proof document collaboration system?
Document collaboration systems are software or apps that allow remote team members to work on a document together in real time. With the right tool, you can expect to:
- Increase teamwork: Document collaboration allows team members to view, edit, comment and update a live document. This increases collaboration and eliminates the dreaded, “Wait, there was a newer version?” conversations.
- Foster creativity: Studies have shown that diverse teams are more focused, thoughtful, and innovative. A good document collaboration tool can help you involve more team members with differing perspectives in a project, and can lead to more creative solutions and ideas.
- Reinforce common goals: Most people place a high value on finding meaning in their work. Fostering collaboration can help people feel connected to your mission and their team. It also allows them to see how their work fits into the larger whole.
- Reduce costs: When you have a great document collaboration system, you reduce in-office expenses. For one thing, no need to print and mark-up physical copies. And, if you use collaboration tools to take your company to a hybrid or fully remote model, you can save further on your physical office costs.
- Limit the number of unnecessary meetings. It’s the professional’s favorite meme: “This meeting should have been an email.” Many knowledge workers end up with days crammed with meetings and little time to do their actual work. Creating a culture of real-time collaboration reduces low-productivity meetings and helps you shift projects forward.
Best Document Collaboration Systems for Your Business
There’s no “one size fits all” for selecting the best collaboration system for your business. What’s best for you will depend on many factors: your industry, size of business, existing infrastructure and more. However, this doesn’t mean you need to lose months finding the perfect tool for your business. We’re going to save you the legwork of scouting out all the many options out there and present you the top 5 systems.
Bit.ai bills itself as “the world’s most powerful workplace and document collaboration platform.” Cloud-based and interactive, Bit.ai is chock full of features, including a comprehensive document editor. Use Bit.ai to create, format and brand documents, easily collaborate and share, and even to set up linked wiki documents. Another notable feature of Bit.ai is the ability to connect with over 80 popular applications, allowing you to embed videos, playlists, calendars and more into your documents.
Users rate Bit.Ai for its ease of use, its tools for collaboration, and timesaving functionality. And while some users wanted a bit more flexibility in design and a desktop or mobile version, they still love the platform overall.
Bit.ai offers both free and paid plans.
2. Google Docs
Google Docs is one of the most widely used word processors in the world. The app lets you share online documents, edit and comment in real time, as well as tag users to send them notifications.
Google Docs also syncs seamlessly between your devices, meaning you can access your content from anywhere.
Google Docs offers an excellent free version, as well as affordable paid plans. However, the software is more lightweight than some of the other options on our list, and may lack some of the functionality you’re looking for.
One way to get more out of your Google Docs and Drive is to use Charli to take your collaboration game to the next level. Charli integrates directly with your Google Drive and makes it easy to organize, tag, find, and share your key content.
3. Zoho Docs
If security is a key consideration, Zoho Docs provides a secure and collaborative workplace for your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. You can set password protection when you’re sending files, and all files are encrypted in transit.
With Zoho you can work on the cloud and sync to your desktop, giving you maximum flexibility. To foster collaboration, Zoho also offers an in-app chat feature, and the ability to set tasks and reminders for fellow team members.
Users rate Zoho for its simple design and its robust functionality, which includes a wide range of document templates and features, such as document signing. Some users note it can be hard to keep their files organized, but as we know at Charli, this can be an issue regardless of what platform you’re using.
Zoho has both free and paid versions and offers a free trial for new users.
FileStage is a collaborative document management system which works particularly well for anyone who needs clients or team members to review and approve documents. Designers, ad agencies, marketing teams… this one’s for you.
With a clear and accessible user interface, you simply upload your document, images, video, or audio and then share with anyone who needs to give input or approval. With customizable workflows, task automation, and in-built version management, FileStage makes it easy to collaborate on creative projects.
Users love how easy FileStage is to use and the way it streamlines the review and approval process. Other pluses included the intuitive visual approach, and the elimination of long and confusing email chains and unproductive meetings. And while some users noted that load times can be slow, they also noted that FileStage’s customer service team responds to user feedback.
FileStage offers both free and paid plans.
Box is a secure collaboration tool that seamlessly integrates with over 1500 third party apps. This includes all your favorites, such as Zoom, Slack, Salesforce, Google and Office365. Box promises to help you streamline your workflows within one window, letting your teams collaborate effortlessly—and get more done.
Users rate Box for its security, speed, and its ability to foster collaboration and sharing for even Enterprise clients. And while some users may find that its robust offerings may be too much for smaller businesses or individuals, there are evidently many use cases for businesses of all sizes.
Box offers free and paid versions. There is also a free trial available.
These are just our top five options for collaborative document tools. Remember, the best tool is the one that works best for your business—and luckily there are plenty of great options available for companies of all shapes and sizes. (And if you already have a favorite that wasn’t on our list, let us know! We love getting your recommendations).