By Doug Bonderud

Collaboration comes with great potential. It’s also one of the most over-used buzzwords in recent memory. Office networks and employees are often inundated with collaboration tools, some of which work as advertised and others which provide benefits in name only. According to the Harvard Business Review, many companies suffer from increased — and unnecessary — organizational complexity thanks to an overabundance of these tools. So what’s the solution? Ditch all digital collaboration and go back to pen, paper and three-hour-long staff meetings?

There’s a better way. Here’s a look at three top collaboration tools that might be a better fit for your operation.

File Forward

Want to empower your team and ensure they can get their work done on time, every time — and from anywhere? Then you need a solid file-sharing and collaboration solution. Best bet? Look for cloud-based tools which let staff easily access the most up-to-date version of any file, include plenty of room for file storage and provide the ability to easily add content and comments to the same file while preserving a record of all changes.

There’s no shortage of tools on the market claiming to hit this mark, so opt for one with a proven track record and that requires minimal oversight to get up and running.

Talk the Talk

Effective collaboration demands great communication. So how do your employees talk to one another? Chances are that email tops the list. Despite the increasing sophistication of instant messaging and social media tools, email remains the top method of “talking” for most office staff. But here’s the thing: you can do better. By deploying collaboration tools, like virtual meeting software — which empowers integrated chat, voice and video conferencing, and allow users to access these functions anywhere, anytime — it’s possible to shift the way your company communicates. And with the ability to reach out on demand, you might be surprised by what employees can accomplish; there’s only so much information you can cram into an email.

Multiple Management

How are teams performing? Are they on track to meet business objectives or falling behind? Often, managers and C-suite executives must rely on word-of-mouth reports from team leaders or team members themselves to get a sense of where projects are on the road to completion and if discrete goals have been accomplished. The problem? Teams are often reluctant to disclose any problems, and even accurate updates are significantly removed from real-time project status. As a result, it’s critical to leverage collaboration tools which both empower your teams to quickly and easily assess current workloads while simultaneously giving managers the ability to quickly check on project completion and offer assistance if necessary. Here, opt for a workflow management tool that lets you track projects from start to finish by clearly outlining the end goal, key responsibilities and critical next steps. Bottom line? The more you know, the better.

Collaboration is key, but too much of a good thing doesn’t always boost your bottom line. Be choosy about how and when you collaborate. Start with file sharing, virtual office and workflow management tools to empower employees and reduce total corporate complexity.

Doug Bonderud is the founder of Bond Copy. He has worked for the federal government of Canada and more recently as a member of the Edmonton Police Service. Along the way he became a husband, father and pet owner. Doug Bonderud is a member of the Professional Writers Association of Canada. @DougBonderud.