When looking for the best collaborative platform evaluate your needs and your expectations of the software. Most collaborative platforms offer basic communication features, data storage, file sharing, troubleshooting tools and conferencing facilities. Speed, ease of use, extra features and the costs involved should be considered as well.
The three basic and most important features of any collaborative platform are, centralized data storage, communication tools and troubleshooting tools. Centralized data storage eliminates the need for each collaborator to store data on his or her computer and helps data remain consistent and up to date. Live file sharing is another useful feature and makes it easy for collaborators to share documents or spreadsheets within the group.
Communication tools can include features such as web conferencing, group or private meetings, voice over internet protocol (VOIP), e-mail or instant messaging systems. Live streaming video is very effective for conferencing or online meetings, and some collaborative platforms offer the feature of a virtual whiteboard for demonstrations. You may also need to exclude a collaborator from a meeting, and some platforms will allow you to do this.
Troubleshooting tools are important when it comes to ensuring all collaborators solve issues quickly and easily. Some platforms feature an integrated help section, which can be accessed by any of the group collaborators. This feature helps cut down on the use of professionals or outside services and can save time as well as money.
Collaborative platforms can take various forms and can be software installed on a local machine or an installation that runs from a remote server. Some platforms are Internet based and collaborators can access the platform with a user name and password. The installation or kind of platform you choose can affect the speed and the platform's performance. Speed is an important consideration since lagging or slow performance can create problems during web conferences or VOIP usage.
In some cases it may be necessary to have a professional create or set up the collaborative platform for you. If this is the case it is wise to see whether the provider also offers training for the team members using the collaborative platform, as this will help the team understand how the platform functions and will ensure optimum productivity from the start. Most platforms are fairly easy to use, but the features and functions differ greatly from one platform to the next, so it may take some time for the collaborators to understand the system fully.
One last consideration would be whether you would prefer to use open source software or proprietary software. If you are on a tight budget, open source software is the best option, as these packages can be had free of charge. Most of these packages offer the basic functions needed, but if you require any additional features it may be in your best interest to opt for a paid software package.