Which collaboration tool do I use when? It’s not an unreasonable question. Tools to improve our shared communication have been proliferating since the campfire. Wikipedia breaks them down into three main categories: those for communication (e.g. IM), collaboration (e.g. videoconferencing), and coordination (e.g. shared calendars and task management). Each of these categories continues to grow and evolve over the years, so much so that one blog decided to nominate the “50 best team collaboration tools for 2017.”

50. That’s just to cover the hot ones this year.

If you focus only on Microsoft, charting the release of major apps within the Office suite, the graph of releases over time is a hockey stick, pivoting at about 2012 with the acquisition of Yammer.

Major Microsoft Office apps over time

So, it’s natural to assume that no one person or team needs all of these tools, and you certainly aren’t going to pay for them all. How do you narrow them down? 

As a reminder, I believe that asking which tool to use is a less useful question than others we can ask when considering how to collaborate. That said, there are some useful models to help us understand the strengths and ideal role of each tool.

See all the models



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