You know the story, you need to choose a collaboration tool for document sharing. Which tool do you use?

I would assume that you would have many ideas and questions to help determine what should be used. Should it be something within Office 365, should it be a 3rd Party vendor or should you even write something custom. All are valid options. However, knowing what capabilities exist within the services and what the expected behavior and feature set are will be the determining factor.

So, the first question should be, what type of collaboration do you need?

Knowing what you need first is always the best start. Too often within organizations, a technology is selected without defining what it will actually be used for. The real reasons to implement some type of collaboration solution are these:

  • To make communication easier, clearer, more persuasive, and more productive
  • To allow communication at times and in places which otherwise would be impossible
  • To allow telecommuting
  • To minimize if not eliminate travel costs
  • To allow various perspectives and expertise in one discussion
  • To create groups that have common interests where it would be hard or impossible to assemble enough people face-to-face
  • To cut down time and cost in facilitating group work
  • To coordinate group problem-solving
  • To allow new modes of communication, including anonymous interchanges or structured interactions

When you think of these reasons for collaboration, you can quickly come up with technologies that fit either all or parts of this list. When you think of SharePoint On-premises, you can see that quite a few of these are not covered. Now I am not saying that SharePoint does not work, what I am saying though is that on its own it will not succeed beyond a document repository. Now, combine SharePoint with other components it becomes a more compelling solution. Hence, Office 365 enters the arena as SharePoint On-premises big brother.

When choosing a collaboration tool, you need to keep mind that it needs to cover three core areas (as well as the list). Communicate, Conference and Coordinate. These three words will help you determine how success a collaboration tool is in helping you and your organization achieve collaboration.

There are generally two types of collaboration solutions that are looked at, asynchronous and synchronous solutions.


The most common tool here is Email. Email is the old skool way, the failsafe, the “always works” option that if in doubt you email. It is the most commonly used way of working and in reality, the most successful, whether in the corporate or personal world. Next would be Mail Lists and Newsgroups, which are very similar to email, except it moves from a one-to-one communication to a one-to-many or even a many-to-many relationship. When software vendors realized that email was king, they found that if a workflow solution was combined with the email, it would become more appealing for all types of collaboration. The power of email communication combined with a process flow that can send approvals and request updates by email makes it a very powerful and compelling collaboration solution. Finally adding Group Calendaring, allows you as a company to schedule, manage projects, coordinate people ensuring that deadlines are met.


Real-time or synchronous collaboration solutions allow multiple individuals or groups to view and edit documents and information instantly. Video communications, allows for two-way or even multi-way live video connections with teams or groups to work instantly on projects or even content allowing for a faster delivery time, this removes the lag of the “waiting on the email response”. Chat systems have bought the ability to quickly question to discuss work at anytime and anywhere. When you combine Vide and Chat with a decision support system, you can then start to make decisions quicker, brainstorm, analyze idea, weight work and even voting to get the answer needed.

When you think back to SharePoint On-premises, you quickly realize that this was and is not the answer to all your collaboration needs. Bringing Office 365 to the table now you have a solution that can meet both the Asynchronous and Synchronous collaboration that you need. As an example, just taking a few items within Office 365, you can see that some of the services span both Asynchronous and Synchronous collaboration.

Office 365, does fit squarely into both areas offering both Asynchronous and Synchronous collaboration that is both familiar and easy to utilize.

There are many benefits to choosing the right collaboration tool, especially one that meets all the core requirements for your organizations. The top five are:

  1. Keeps company, project, plan or just work moving forward
  2. Allows individuals, groups and company to be more flexible
  3. Encourage younger and more tech-savvy people to join the company
  4. Allow for remote working
  5. Get employee up to speed faster

As you look to a best set of collaboration tools that will help facilitate true collaboration you will see maturity with tools and overall collaboration together.

Of course, it would be remiss of me to not push you in the direction of Office 365. Just looking at the waffle options you can see that it is truly becoming (not quite there yet) the best choice for collaboration within your organization.

Check it out for yourself, get a trial tenant and collaborate like crazy.