Why Integrated Collaboration Tools Make Sense

It’s very easy to wind up with very different tools for tasks like project management, customer relationship management and team communication. That can mean spending time copying information from one tool to another, and if one of your team members needs to contact a customer, for example, at the very least he’ll need to switch tools.

At first, such a situation can seem manageable. Your team will get used to it. But that doesn’t mean that it’s an efficient approach or that you can’t improve the way you do business by looking for an integrated approach.

Integrated Options Do Better

Most of the collaboration tools that are considered brand names offer an integrated approach. Basecamp works with Highrise, Backpack and Campfire. Google’s enterprise tools all work together. Microsoft offers software that plays nicely with its components. It’s not just web applications that work well together.

There is a reason we hear more about these tools than other software. Because each piece of the whole works together, more users are happy with their tools. It’s true that there are more standalone web applications that are moving towards being able to integrate with other tools, through groups like the Small Business Web, but you should explore just what sort of integration is available before making a decision one way or the other.

It’s a Practical Decision

When you bring in a new team member, how long does it take to get them up to speed? If they need to learn how to use three very different tools, it’s going to take longer to turn them into a productive member of the team.

It may mean more wear and tear on your IT team as well. Getting a new user set up on tools that are not integrated can require setting up multiple accounts, in contrast to the many integrated programs that only require one login.

Lastly, there is a matter of expense. If you’re paying for three different tools, whether you’re looking at subscription payments for web applications or a flat rate every time an upgrade comes out, you probably won’t get a set rate for all your tools. With an integrated solution, you can likely get one price. Even if it isn’t much lower than what you would pay for multiple tools, it will still make the accounting department a little happier at the reduction in paperwork.

When Integrated Isn’t Enough

There are some cases when having an integrated toolset isn’t enough. If you need specialized tools for your industry, you may find that industry-standard software is your best bet. There may be ways to tweak an integrated tool, especially one with an API, but that simply isn’t always an option. But, when it’s possible, getting tools that work together and share information can make managing your projects easier.

Image by Flickr user Alikai

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): Report: The Real-Time Enterprise

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