Nine of the best enterprise collaboration software tools 2016: Slack, Workplace, Microsoft Teams and more
Enterprise collaboration software is transforming the way colleagues communicate and is becoming an essential business tool.
The world's largest software maker is also probably the biggest provider of enterprise collaboration tools, but Microsoft recently hiked its enterprise cloud prices by 22 percent. Its competitors offer a tempting array of alternatives waiting to challenge for your cash. Here's our pick of the best ones available.
1. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Slack
Slack's real-time messaging across an attractive interface and easy integration with familiar applications such as Skype, Google Drive and Twitter makes it a user-friendly choice for workplace communication.
The company recently added video calling to the Mac, Windows and Chrome versions of the service, and now boasts a more integrated experience for customers thanks to deeper integrations with partnership with Google Cloud.
The partnership integrates the Google Drive permission process, document previews, Google Team Drives, and a new bot to manage notifications and comments.
The products costs $6.67 (£5.45) per user per month (pupm) for the "Standard" service and $12.50 (£10.21) for the "Plus" package. Slack is also available in a free trial version, but services such as unlimited message storage and group phone calls are not included.
2. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Facebook Workplace
The social media juggernaut recently made its move from the private sphere into the professional one with the launch of Workplace.
Workplace combines the familiar Facebook interface and functions including Messenger chat and the news feed with new tools including a dashboard with analytics.
Facebook has also added a new collaboration platform to the product to support custom integrations, which allows companies to create their own apps and include integrations with third-party products such as Box and Gmail.
Workplace costs $3 (£2.45) for each of the first 1,000 monthly active users, $2 (£1.63) per employee from 1,001 to 10,000 users and $1 (£0.82) for every additional user.
3. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Yammer
Microsoft entered the enterprise collaboration market with the £752 million purchase of Yammer in 2012.
Yammer lets companies compile messages, files and updates in a single destination and boosts information sharing through conversation groups. Users can interact in either open public groups or private ones for sharing sensitive information.
Microsoft is merging Yammer with Office 365 Groups and phasing out the Yammer Enterprise subscription, which will no longer be available as a stand-alone subscription to new customers from 1 January 2017.
Current subscribers with an active enrolment will remain covered until their agreement expires. To continue using Yammer beyond the expiration date requires a transition to one of the Office 365 Enterprise plans such as the K1 subscription, which costs $4 (£3.26) pupm and includes additional benefits such as Outlook email.
4. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Cisco Spark
The Spark messaging service includes text, voice, video, text, and content sharing options which can all be divided into individual "Rooms" for each separate conversation. It also offers integration with Cisco phones and products and free guest support.
Cisco Spark is now available in a free version that includes unlimited team messaging and in-app calls, any-time screen sharing, up to 5 GB file sharing, integration with up to 10 apps and end-to-end encryption.
The $12 (£9.54) per user per month premium edition adds integration with Exchange, Outlook, corporate directories and an unlimited number of apps. Locking message rooms, admin controls and live support are among the other extra features.
Spark can now be deployed in cloud, on-premises or hybrid services, and lets users find third-party apps that integrate with the product such as Salesforce through Cisco Spark Depot.
5. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Microsoft Teams
Microsoft launched its Slack rival Teams in November. It calls the new product a "chat-based workspace" within Office 365. Employees can direct message or be grouped together to discuss a topic and share and collaborate on documents.
Unlike the fairly stoic Skype for Business instant messaging platform, Teams comes complete with emojis, gifs and memes. Teams also allows for threaded chats. A common criticism of Slack is that chats can become disorganised, so finding a way to identify chats within chats could be a handy feature.
The advantage of Teams is that it naturally integrates with fellow Office 365 products like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, video conferencing with Skype and all of your files via Sharepoint.
Teams is available in a a beta version in 181 countries and 18 languages for Office 365 Enterprise or Business customers from £3.10 per month until a general release planned for the first quarter of 2017.
6. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Jive
Jive's interactive intranet software provides real-time communication and collaboration though live activity streams, groups, discussions and blogs.
Documents can be edited and read in real-time by multiple users and interactions assessed with in-built analytics capabilities, and the software integrates with Microsoft Office 365, SharePoint, Salesforce and Google Docs.
Compelling features in the Jive "collaboration hub" include the Recommender Engine that uses machine learning insights to personalise content, an Open Search feature that covers OneDrive storage and Jive communities.
The level of functionality available depends on which package is purchased. Contact the sales team for full details on pricing plans.
7. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: LoopUp
London startup LoopUp is becoming the go-to platform for conference calls. Users can see who is speaking in real-time and have no need to dial into the call, while call leaders can mute participants when necessary.
LoopUp promises an intuitive user experience combining easy integration with existing tools such as Outlook and enterprise security.
Recent additions to the remote meetings solution include a revamped user interface and one-click screen sharing across all devices and browsers without the need of any additional downloads.
The product is available in three pricing structures for customers: a "Professional" subscription at £15 per month, a "Power" version at £29 per month, and a pay-as-you-go "Enterprise" option with cost dependent on volume of minutes or a licence fee per month.
8. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Huddle
File management is one of the big strengths of Huddle. Users can control document approvals, share files, collaborate on content and manage projects on the cloud collaboration platform.
Huddle is know for interoperability, through integration with software such as Outlook, and its emphasis on security, a crucial issue for a service used in government departments in both the UK and USA.
Huddle is at the pricier end of the market, but it does come with an impressive array of features. Prices start at £15 pupm for the "Essential" package, which supports secure file sharing, content collaboration and project management for small teams.
Higher-end options are the enhanced "Plus" and "Premier" editions, which include extra security, customisation and admin controls, and a special version specifically for the government and public sector.
9. Best enterprise collaboration software tools: Salesforce Chatter
One of the earliest entries in the enterprise collaboration market was Chatter, which Salesforce released in 2010. The mobile-first solution structures discussions around groups, where files, videos and images can be shared, and new members invited.
The service supports integration with third-party or custom apps, and makes recommendations on people, files and information to follow based on the individual user's activity to create personalised feeds and profile pages. Topics pages add an additional method of collecting and presenting relevant content.
Chatter is free for all Salesforce users, and is also available to non-Salesforce users for $15 (£12.25) per user per month.
The price includes the Salesforce content library, the ideas and answers features of Salesforce CRM, read-only access to accounts and contacts, and the Force.com platform.
New migration tool aims to help enterprises simplify their social side
The two vendors struck a partnership in May to bundle the Cisco products with Jive's enterprise social suite
The new tools link Jive with the cloud versions of Outlook, Office, SharePoint and OneDrive for Business