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Web collaboration tools come in all shapes and sizes. Which one is right for you?

Collaborative technology vendors all talk about supporting work team collaboration and web meetings. And in fact, they all do. So how do you decide which tools to use? It depends on the need you are trying to address and the objective you want to achieve.

Web-based collaboration tools offer great flexibility and potential cost savings to an organization by liberating team members from the constraints imposed by schedules, location, and time. As e-mail is to the traditional paper letter, web collaboration tools are to the meeting space. However meeting tools come in many varieties, and just as using a using a screwdriver to hammer in a nail wouldn't work; using a web meeting tool for the wrong purpose can be ineffective. See collaboration comparison chart below.

  • Is your objective to present data to your audience during a teleconference? Web conferencing services may be the answer.
  • Is your objective to engage participants in idea generation and decision making during a meeting? Meeting facilitation software may be the answer.
  • Is your objective to build trust and cooperation in your work teams? Social networks and instant messaging can help.
  • Is your objective to gather all the documents and materials needed to support a work team in one easily accessible place? Team workspaces may be the answer.

Features and functions are confusing. Here’s a way to compare the options by collaborative activity (in other words, by what people really do). In the end, the message is the same – blend the right technologies to achieve your objectives.

√√√ = Sweet spot – excels in this area
  √√ = Good tool for the job
    √ = Complementary tool – supports this activity

  Web meeting & facilitation software Web conferencing Social networks Wikis Team workspaces Instant Messaging
  e.g. FacilitatePro e.g.
Live Meeting
e.g. LinkedIn, Twitter e.g. MediaWiki e.g. SharePoint, Novell e.g.
Real-time Meetings √√√ √√√ √√   √√√
Asynchronous Collaboration
(different time)
√√√   √√√ √√ √√  
Presentation Delivery √√√        
Application/Desktop Sharing √√√        
Brainstorming/Idea Generation √√√   √√    
Group Decision Support √√√          
Distance Learning √√√ √√  
Group authoring √√ √√   √√√    
Instant Polling √√√ √√√        
Researching √√√     √√    
Surveys √√√          
Documentation √√√ √√ √√√ √√√  
File sharing √√     √√√  
Networking/Informal Communication   √√√     √√√
Chatting √√ √√       √√√
Blogging   √√√    
Messaging     √√     √√
Video conferencing         √√
Podcasting   √√√  
Team Building √√√ √√√
Team Communications √√√ √√√ √√

Brainstorming Categorizing Prioritization/Voting Action Planning Surveying documenting