There’s no shortage of communication tools on the market.
In fact, a 2017 market research report valued the collaboration software market at over 8 billion USD in 2017, with a projected CAGR of over 9% from 2018 to 2025. And with more than 31.7 million small businesses in the U.S., there’s no shortage of people looking for the right tool for their business.
In such a massive industry, how do you find the right communication software for you and your teams?
Look no further—in this post I evaluate tools designed specifically for online communication at work to help you choose the right tool to elevate your team’s communication to the next level.
Overviews of the Best Communication Tools
monday.com is an intuitive platform where teams can track processes and workflows, communicate within and across teams, and bring all of their tools together under one system. Its simplistic design and flexible features mean teams can get started in minutes.
Teams can communicate easily by mentioning one another on updates and host conversations in context around certain projects or tasks. Sharing files is easy with Google Drive and Dropbox integrations and continuing the conversation on other platforms is made simple with Zoom and Slack integrations.
monday.com acts as a central place for teams to track projects, manage time, build and share reports, send messages, and easily understand and improve their workflow.
monday.com has over 40 integrations including Google Calendar, Jira, GitHub, Trello, Zendesk, Typeform, and many more that are accessible via Zapier. monday.com allows teams to collaborate and communicate from everywhere—ensuring transparency and real-time updates.
monday.com costs from $17/month for two users.
Volley gives project teams a new way to move work forward using asynchronous video messaging. Unlike text-first communication methods, Volley’s video-first approach provides teams a way to communicate faster with more context, richness, and humanity.
Volley was built specifically for remote teams who are collaborating on projects. You can easily create a workspace and invite your team which will allow them to create channels and conversations with one another. Your team can use both the mobile (iOS, Android) and desktop (Mac, Windows) apps to stay connected. You can also publish volleys directly to Slack channels with a simple integration.
With Volley, teams and project managers can do everything from sending a video volley for a standup, kicking off code review with a screen recording, explaining a concept on your whiteboard, and/or forwarding praise from a client in a team channel. You can organize videos by workspace or channel, mark items for follow up, and integrate with tools you already use (like Slack and MS Teams).
Volley is a relatively new product which is free for teams to use with their “free forever” version. There isn’t one yet, but a premium version is said to be in the works.
TeamGantt is an online project management solution that works right in your browser, making it compatible with any OS. Users can plan and manage projects using Gantt charts and invite co-workers, teammates, and friends to view and collaborate on your work.
Users can see every project update and document on a single page and quickly share them with both internal and external stakeholders, making communication efficient and reliable.
TeamGantt’s project management software lets you keep all of your tasks, documents, conversations, and team availability in one place. You can also connect documents and conversations directly to the associated task or milestone.
TeamGantt integrates with Slack, Trello, Basecamp, Google Calendar, iCal, and Outlook. Or, build a custom integration using TeamGantt’s public RESTful API.
TeamGantt is free for up to 3 users and 1 project. Paid plans cost from $24.95/month.
Created in 2002, ProWorkflow was designed as a project management and communication solution. An internal messaging system connects users to one another as well as external clients. Make messages public or private, according to need, and facilitate workflow by attaching images and files. Incorporated, as well, is a WYSIWYG editor.
This tool also supplies comprehensive messaging features that are integrated with your existing email. Recipients can reply to the message from their email client and replies are added to the project discussion. The ProWorkflow mobile app works with a touchscreen smartphone or tablet and offers core features like message notification alerts, shared notes, internal project requests, and free client & contractor access.
ProWorkflow integrates with tools like Xero, Quickbooks, KashFlow, FreshBooks, MYOB AccountRight, Box Storage, DropBox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, and hundreds more through Zapier.
ProWorkflow costs from $10/user/month, which includes a maximum of 10 active projects.
Used by over 20,000 companies, Teamwork has all the project management functions you would expect plus features keyed-in to communication needs, like Teamwork Chat, a centralized work board, templates for project consistency, and user capacity check-ins.
Teamwork Projects excels in levels of collaboration that any marketing team will find useful, like task-specific communication channels, social media content channels, real-time activity logs, and “notebooks” for additional data compilation.
Integrations include Gmail, HubSpot, Slack, Float, Numerics, Automate.io, timeBro, Userback, Easy Insight, Integromat, Chatify, PieSync, and hundreds more through Zapier.
The user interface can be intimidating compared to alternatives, which may be difficult if you need to onboard a variety of external clients. Additional graphics or more digestible data on the dashboard, for example, would be welcome. This lost them a few points in the UX category of the review.
Teamwork Projects costs from $9/month and has a freemium version of the software for up to 2 projects.
Nutcache is a project management tool with a suite of communication and collaboration tools built into daily workflow processes.
Use the Gantt chart to plan, track, and visually organize your tasks with easy drag, drop, and, click editing techniques. Nutcache offers tools to prioritize and focus on critical tasks: build custom workflows and attach multiple assignees to a task, break down each phase of your project, make adjustments to reschedule your tasks, and visualize project deadlines.
Integrations include Dynacom Accounting, PayPal, 2Checkout, Stripe, Authorized.Net, QuickBooks Online, Google Sign In, Google Drive, GitHub, Slack, and hundreds of other apps through Zapier.
Nutcache costs from $6/user/month with a “Pro” plan that requires 5 users.
Pastel is a communication tool specifically made for website design and feedback. Type in a website URL and share a link with anyone to invite them to comment on elements of the website. Every comment is pinned to a specific element and records information like screen resolution and browser type to solve UX/UI issues faster.
You can toggle between commenting and browsing to navigate your website projects and take note of all suggestions and feedback. Make any changes to your website and Pastel will pull in the latest version to keep everyone in the loop-this is a pretty cool feature.
In addition to live websites, you can upload wireframes and mockups to get fast design feedback from your clients and teammates. You can also make your conversations more actionable by exporting comments, screen size, browser type, and screenshots to enrich each task.
Pastel integrations include export options for Trello, Asana, Monday, Jira, as well as additional export possibilities to a webhook or Zapier.
Pastel is free to use for 1 user with unlimited canvases. Paid plans start at $49/month.
Gain is designed to bring content producers and their clients together. Seamless communication with excellent feedback loops and collaboration prompts allow product approvals to move faster, so no notes are missed.
With this tool, you can share your content with your clients no matter what program it was built in originally. Whether it’s a JPEG, PDF, Photoshop file, PowerPoint, or even a Google spreadsheet, Gain will create previews for your approvers and team members to review and collaborate on.
Communication in this tool is easy: share feedback, tag team members, assign tasks and keep a complete record of every activity as you track progress.
Gain integrates easily with Canva. No additional integrations are noted.
Gain costs from $99/month. If you pay for a full year up front, you can get 2 months free.
Hive is a robust tool for project management, collaboration, and flexible task coordination. It lets users organize projects in a Gantt chart, Kanban board, table, or calendar, and also easily switch between each layout, depending on the communication style they prefer. Updates are reflected across all project views so the whole team is informed no matter what option they use.
Hive enables users to easily collaborate by sending messages directly to individuals or groups. Need to share a document? Upload it directly to a task, project, or message. Hive’s Forms feature eliminates constant emails and collects all necessary information through simple fill-in-the-blanks.
It’s worth noting that if you’re switching to Hive from another tool, you can import tasks from tools including Asana, Trello, Basecamp, Smartsheet, and a few others. Hive integrates with Google Drive, Salesforce, Jira, Dropbox, Slack, Zoom, One Drive, Box, and more than one thousand other tools through Zapier.
Hive costs from $12/user/month.
Next, we have a Slack alternative communication software that openly presents itself as Slack’s biggest competitor. Ryver is more of a hybrid tool, supplying both communication and task management features. On top of its communication arsenal, Ryver offers task management features like task boards, file sharing, task checklists, etc.
Ryver supports video and audio conferencing; group, private and guest messaging systems; and screen-to-screen sharing. Ryver’s streamlined threading of communication data is top-notch, but the push notification system might require a third-party app to work flawlessly, depending on how you’ll be using it.
Ryver integrates with a whole bunch of popular apps, including Jira, Trello, Google Docs, SalesForce, GitHub, Asana, Dropbox, Google Drive, and OneDrive.
Ryver costs from $5/user/month.
Communication Tools Summary Chart
7 Benefits Of Communication Tools
Communication tools are apps that act as virtual, online meeting rooms for team members, enabling remote team collaboration. They help your team have conversations, exchange vital project data, update others on progress, and share files, making remote work an option for just about every company. Benefits of online communication tools include:
- Organizes conversations
- Provides context for discussions
- Enables asynchronous communication and remote working
- Keeps you working in real-time
- Minimizes costly mistakes
- Enables better management
- Boosts accountability
You can find out more about these benefits of communication software below.
All in all, if you are in the project managing game even for just a day, you know the important role that good communication plays within a team. Some of the more robust project management software tools out there already include functionality for team communication, but here, we’re exploring the best in class tools that specialize in communication. Nowadays, being online and connected with every team member is not a luxury, but a standard—and a good one at that.
In the modern workplace of today, many communication apps are inexpensive (or free)—it’s a no-brainer for agencies, studios, and startups who need to coordinate effort on fast-paced projects performed by distributed teams. In fact, many young companies rely heavily on instant messaging work communication apps until they’re ready to scale and upgrade to something more comprehensive.
Communication Tools Selection Criteria
I evaluated the tools on this communication software list based on the following criteria:
- User Interface (UI): Clear displays and intuitive navigation.
- Usability: Is this an effective business communication software in that it’s easy to learn and use? Company communication tools should come with supplementary tutorials and training to help employees make the most out of its features.
- Features & Functionality: How many of the key business communications features and functions does it provide, and how powerful are they? Specifically, I looked for:
- Messaging – Includes direct messaging, private chat, group chat, threaded discussions, open forums, and team or group-based messaging. Team messaging apps should allow you to upload and share documents as well as the all-important cat GIF or latest meme. These should all work on a mobile device, too.
- Threading – The best communication tools have threaded communication that provides an easily-searchable record of all business communication.
- Notifications – Whenever a message, call, thread change, or any type of employee communication occurs, the right people need to be notified. The notifications feature should allow you to update your preferences so your notification feed includes relevant updates while minimizing clutter.
- Video calling – Video calling is a necessary feature for distributed teams, but it’s also a great tool for agencies who need to hold meetings with out-of-town clients. At the minimum, we look for the capacity to make high-quality video calls. Additionally, some business communication solutions support live video feeds and video conferencing with easy guest access.
- Screen sharing – This is especially important for business communication tools where you’ll be walking clients through your digital product or progress.
- Integrations: Any pre-built integrations with basic software for business like calendars, email, and CRMs?
- Value for $: How appropriate is the price for its capabilities and use case, compared to other business communication systems?
How To Pick The Best Online Communication Tools For Your Team?
Let’s talk about what to factor into the equation when choosing between communication tools for your team.
What Do You Need Communication Software For?
Are you upgrading from an old communication system and need to import existing data, or are you starting fresh? Also, what are the needs of your team? Consider whether you’re looking at internal communication tools or need software that’s client-facing. If you communicate via video, then consider Slack, or popular Slack alternatives like Flock or Ryver.
What’s The Size Of Your Team?
Getting everyone to use the same app can be hard to do, especially when your team is large and diverse in terms of technical literacy, location, project, etc. Robust tools with different levels of user permissions and guest access, like Microsoft Teams, are a good fit for large, distributed teams.
How Would It Fit Into Your Workflow?
This is often a matter of integration. Make a list of the tools you use to get the projects done. If you already have a collection of time tracking apps, invoicing apps, and others, then consider Fleep or Zoho Cliq, which have a large library of pre-built integrations. On the other hand, if your toolkit is minimal now but you can see your operations scaling, try out a solution like Slenke, which offers project management and task management features to help out as you scale. Make a list of your integration requirements, and check it twice—and it doesn’t hurt to ask your team members what they use in terms of additional software and what they prefer.
How Long To Set It Up?
Most communication tools are intuitive to use and set up as an online app. However, if you prefer to host on your own servers, that takes a bit more time. Rocket Chat has a professional team to assist you, and Slack is a popular choice with good support. Either way, it depends on data sensitivity and the amount of data traffic your team expects.
What’s The Learning Curve?
Whether you are getting a new communication system or upgrading from an old one, everyone involved needs to get accustomed to the changes. Change management is often made easier with simple-to-use interfaces.
Teamwork Chat is an example of a visually simple, easy-to-learn tool. Keep in mind that your team isn’t the only one using it—you might have clients or people who are not part of your day-to-day processes needing access to video conferences; if this is the case, make sure there’s an intuitive client portal.
What’s The Cost?
What’s your budget for a communication tool? Investing in communication tools is a good idea, but remember that less is often more—the good news is that many communication tools have a “free forever” version with limited functionality. The free communication tools version may serve your team’s needs just fine, offering all the “must-haves” without being overly complicated with the “nice-to-haves”.
What Do You Think?
What are your experiences with team communication software? Are you a Slack fan, or do you prefer one of the alternatives? Comment below, or join the community forum in our membership program to ask questions, get answers, and weigh in on the topics that you’re passionate about.