Transform Your Team With Better Collaboration Tools
Using two customer relationship management tools was a headache for SmartPM Technologies, an Atlanta-based construction technology startup. Employees were frustrated with syncing issues, integration challenges and duplicated data when the company was using both Salesforce and HubSpot for its CRMs.
“People hated that,” said Rohit Sinha, chief technology officer of SmartPM Technologies. Now, the company has switched over to just using one tool, HubSpot. It was a simple choice — the service desk functionality, question automation and attention to different aspects of the customer lifecycle pushed the team to fully convert the platform.
For teams looking to streamline, the best question to ask is: Will it make life easier? If it saves time and integrates with existing tech then it’s probably a good bet, Sinha said.
In the past year, SmartPM switched from GoToMeeting to Zoom for its robust centralized account management abilities. Zoom is integrated into Slack and also plays well with Jira and Github.
“Try and find a core set of tools that can do all aspects of your business,” Sinha said. “If you go with too many tools, you’re going to end up really backtracking and getting to that core set of tools just because it's going to be a nightmare to manage.”
Built In interviewed five tech companies from eight-person startups to organizations with 500 employees about what their collaboration stacks look like. Find advice on where to start from leaders in industries like fintech, telehealth and software development below.
What’s an Example of a Collaboration Tool?
Figure Out the Best Fit
Using a handful of tools might be ideal for small companies. But at larger companies, it isn’t always as straightforward and sometimes tools are repetitive. That’s the case at Vendavo, a global provider of price management and optimization software for business-to-business companies.
Kelli Negro, chief marketing officer at the 450-person company, recommends starting small when building a collaboration stack, but ultimately, she recognizes that different teams need different tools. The same goes for working with clients too.
“Try to find a way to see if you can have a collaboration platform that works across your company, but don’t force fit as well. Allow your teams to have appropriate collaboration tools that work for their departments,” she said.
Vendavo relies heavily on Microsoft tools, using Outlook, OneDrive, SharePoint and Teams. Yet, when interacting with clients, who are primarily $1 billion plus companies, she will defer to the clients’ preferred tools when sharing materials, often using the Google Suite.
“We’re really focused on our clients from an account-based marketing approach. Client communication starts at the prospecting level,” Negro said. “Ultimately, we’re constantly looking at how we can make that a full circle. Our communications programs go that deep.”
While much of the company uses Team for chat, some teams use Slack or Salesforce Chatter. Engineering teams use Altassian’s software development tools like Jira and Confluence, and the sales team relies heavily on the Seismic platform. Vendavo also uses the marketing automation software, Marketo, and Altify is used for account planning. These softwares are able to be integrated into the company’s CRM, Salesforce. Negro hopes to integrate their team-based work manager, Asana, into the platform as well.
“All of these tools are phenomenal, but without the integration points, or a person in there at all times, it can get really noisy,” Negro said.
Scaling Fast? Use Industry-Standard Tools
Since the start of the pandemic, telehealth startup, Nurx, has experienced rapid growth of its customer base, in turn, requiring significant expansion of its employee base to more than 250 people. Using some of the most common collaboration tools, such as Jira and Google Suite, makes onboarding much easier, said Lilia Martinez-Coburn, vice president of product at Nurx.
“Given the tremendous growth that we’re experiencing right now, and how quickly we are hiring, we need something to be super robust and super easy to implement. It’s also easier to onboard people when they have familiarity with the tools, so we are looking for tools that are universally known,” she said.
These tools include Atlassian’s Confluence, Figma, an interface design tool, and Whimsical, a visual workspace. Slack is the company’s chat tool, and Cordial is its cross-channel marketing and customer engagement platform.
“We heard loud and clear, especially as we were ramping up so quickly and bringing in new people, that we were kind of forcing them to learn new tools,” Martinez-Coburn said. “In this stage of growth, it’s really key to not have people then on top of learning our stack, on top of learning the organization and how we interact in the product, you’re also having them learn another ticket management tool.”
It’s important to use tools that employees can adopt easily and offer flexibility on mobile and desktop platforms, said Jim Darrin, founder and CEO of Valence.
Valence, based in Bellevue, Washington, works with companies of all sizes using technology to improve businesses. With 75 employees the company uses Microsoft tools and HubSpot for its essential needs, plus, Weekly 10 for employee engagement. The company also uses the HeyTaco app on Slack to send virtual tacos to colleagues (think of them like brownie points).
“I think people now are looking for productivity tools that allow [multiple] things to happen, whether it’s calling or communication or messaging or document storage,” he said. “They want everything in one spot.”
Manage Entire Projects and Assets
Air is a workplace collaboration tool for visual assets — it organizes items with smart search, version tracking and easy sharing. As experts in collaboration and workflow, the company has a streamlined approach when it comes to the tools their 40 employees use, said Shane Hegde, co-founder and CEO at Air.
“We believe in products where an entire process can happen,” Hegde said. “We believe in this future where there’s centers of work for fixed categories.”
With this in mind, of course, Air uses its own product for all of its visual work. For design data, the company uses Figma. Salesforce is its CRM, and Slack is its communication center. Google Meets is the company’s go-to for meetings, although Zoom is often employed when meeting with customers. Notion is an all-in-one productivity workspace the team uses.
“That’s the future that we believe in is that collaboration tools are developing into centers of work that are platform-based, that integrate with other tools, but I think are strengthened as they start to unify together,” he said. “That’s the goal of any collaboration product. It’s to tie together systems and people and processes to allow distributed, remote, real-time collaboration.”
In the last year, Air’s team has quadrupled in size. With continued growth, Hegde said he is reminding his team members of the benefits of using just a few all-in-one platforms instead of branching out into a bunch of other tools.
“There’s obviously trade offs with using monolithic collaboration tools. You could get a point-based solution and do X thing way better, but it doesn’t do Y and Z and A and B,” he said. “Even though this thing might be a little more challenging, it makes the most sense to keep the data all structured and organized.”
What Tools Allow You to Meet Client Needs
As Finch Money nears its one-year founding anniversary, the fintech startup is about to grow to eight employees. Being at a small size right now allows the company to continue using free collaboration tools like the Google Suite.
“We’re not at the enterprise level, so we can use a free tool where everyone has access to everything in a transparent organization,” said Kenny Soto, content marketing lead at Finch Money, an all-in-one checking and investing platform.
Yet, Soto said that growing your company size does not always mean you need to upgrade your tools. If your customer demand is staying the same, but you are growing your staff for goals like expanding social media and marketing outreach or building out a more robust technical support team, you might be able to continue on with your current tools.
“Is the company ready for this? Is there a particular demand… that can’t be met by the current software you have? You might have 100 people on staff and still not need that enterprise-level software,” Soto said. “You’re thinking about: What does the team need? But also you have to think about business principles. Will the customer see a direct benefit from this as well?”
In addition to using the Google Suite, Finch Money uses HubSpot for its CRM, Jira for issue tracking, Slack for internal communication, ClickUp for task management and Sprout Social for social media management. The company is looking into using Zapier for workplace automation.
Whatever software platforms a company uses, Soto recommends having someone in charge of managing the tools to make sure they get updated regularly. Even if there isn’t a project manager for the team, someone should hold the team accountable for consistently using the tools.