Back in 2012, McKinsey Research reported that workers typically spent 1.8 hours searching for and gathering information.
But that was a long time ago. Today, we have cloud storage systems that allow us to share documents online and view them on any device. So, it should be easy to find the information we need and work together, right?
According to a 2018 survey by Nintex—titled Definitive Guide to America’s Most Broken Processes—39% of knowledge workers find it difficult to co-author documents. In particular:
- 49% have trouble locating documents
- 43% find it difficult to share documents
- 33% struggle with document versioning
If all the technology is there, what makes document collaboration so challenging?
Document Collaboration Goes Beyond Sharing Files Online
Let’s imagine a typical team collaboration scenario. You and two co-workers are preparing the monthly content marketing report. This means that you’ll need to go through a number of tools and spreadsheets to be able to pull data about the content produced this month, the number of views and downloads, the conversion rates, and so on.
You can’t just start with a blank document and create a report. You need to access data from a multitude of other documents and platforms. It gets even more complicated when you need to collaborate with others along the way.
To be able to work effectively with your team, you need to first organize all of your files (your knowledge) into a single location. This is part of the process known as knowledge management.
Document collaboration goes hand-in-hand with knowledge management.
Why Use Document Collaboration Tools?
Before we dive in, let’s talk about some of the reasons why you might want to employ a document collaboration tool.
- Real-time collaboration: If several team members often work on the same deliverable, a document collaboration tool will spare you a lot of headaches and put an end to the final_final_final.docx files.
- Version control: What’s really great about these tools is that you have advanced “undo” functionality. Most tools allow you to see previous versions of the document and revert to them if needed.
- Ability to manage the review process: Sharing feedback over email can be ineffective because there is a lot of noise in the average inbox. A document collaboration tool lets you and your co-workers focus on the task at hand, eliminating all other distractions.
- Increased security: Emails can be forwarded or accidentally sent to the wrong person. A document collaboration tool gives you the ability to control who has access to your files.
- Usage tracking and reporting: This can be useful in many cases. Imagine you’re training a new employee and you want to know if they saw your onboarding instructions, or you want to know if your boss saw the report you sent her last week.
Centralized knowledge repository: Some document collaboration tools include the option to organize your files into a searchable vault which makes it easier to manage the collective knowledge of your team.
Without further ado, let’s jump into the best document collaboration tools.
The Best Document Collaboration Software
Best for: Teams that want to manage both internal and client-facing information in one centralized, searchable hub.
Strictly speaking, Helpjuice is more than a document collaboration tool. It’s a full-blown knowledge base that enables you to capture, store and share information quickly with your team or with customers.
In terms of document collaboration, Helpjuice offers a clean and simple interface that lets you quickly create documents and co-edit them while keeping track of previous versions. The four access levels give you full control over who sees your content—you can publish it online, share it internally, generate a universal shareable URL or invite specific people.
- Allow multiple authors to work on a single article and have each revision recorded.
- Publish product documentation into a modern-looking online portal.
- Create an internal knowledge base with best practices, tips, and onboarding documents
- Track statistics—What are your most popular pieces of content? Where are the content gaps?
- Google-like search helps you find information quickly
Best for: Teams that want a cloud-based word processor with great formatting capabilities.
Part of the Google Drive suite, Google Docs resembles desktop word processors However, don’t expect this tool to replace software like Microsoft Word and OpenOffice Writer.
You can import and export existing documents in popular formats like DOCX or create new ones within Google Docs. The platform has a rather impressive set of editing and formatting options and sharing documents is very easy—you can invite collaborators via email or shareable link.
- Upload and export files in a variety of formats such as DOCX, PDF or even EPUB
- Documents are auto-saved as soon as you make a change
- Versions are created automatically for you
- It’s easy to share documents but you can also keep them private
- Rich set of formatting options
Best for: Secure cross-team collaboration on a large number of files.
Zoho Workdrive is an online platform for sharing and co-editing files among team members. Thanks to its Team Folders feature, you can organize a large number of files and collaborate with your team using Zoho’s Office Suite editors.
Zoho’s superpower lies in its all-around security. You get granular access control for each file thanks to features like role management, administrator controls, and workspace management. Unlike many similar solutions, Zoho Workdrive provides end-to-end encryption for your files.
- Documents can easily be organized in folders and workspaces
- Files in transit are encrypted with Perfect Forward Secrecy
- Files at rest are protected with a 256-bit encryption algorithm
- Detailed permission management allows you to decide exactly who should have access to the data
- Create links that expire automatically
Best for: Sales and marketing teams that want to track how their assets are performing.
Spend hours creating compelling sales collateral, craft persuasive email, hit send… and cross your fingers. That’s how marketers and sales reps used to work before tools like Paperflite existed.
Paperflite is a document management and collaboration platform that helps sales and marketing teams to organize, distribute and share their content. This tool stores all of your content in a centralized, searchable hub that is always up to date. You can track key metrics such as views, downloads, shares and even average view time.
- Integrates with other data analytics tools
- The analytics are so detailed that you can even see which portion of the document your prospect or customer engaged with the most
- Create personalized landing pages for each customer
- Require email to download your content
- Organize your assets with tags and categoriest
Best for: Companies that want a centralized workspace with simple and easy-to-use document editing tools.
If you’re looking for a no-frills document editing tool, then Dropbox Paper might be the way to go. Similar to some of the services we already reviewed, Dropbox Paper allows you to add rich media and code from 29 third-party services such as Youtube, Soundcloud, Vimeo, and Google Maps. Keep in mind, though, you don’t have as many formatting options as in Google Docs.
When it comes to sharing, all you need to do is invite your team members. You can share specific documents or entire folders with others. There is also a simple task management interface that allows you to assign to-dos.
- The interface is clean and simple
- Add rich media from 29+ services
- When you insert multiple images, the platform will arrange them into a gallery grid
- Embed code (can be useful to developers)
- Generates a table of contents for easy navigation
Best for: Teams that want to manage their entire content review process in one place.
Filestage helps teams manage feedback in a simple and powerful way. This document collaboration tool allows you to review videos, images, PDFs, documents, and even website designs.
Filestage’s most notable feature is the ability to click and leave feedback at a precise point in a file, e.g. comment on a specific area of an image or a specific time in an audio file. This makes the platform extremely helpful to creative teams.
- Your files are protected through AES 256-bit encryption.
- You can use your own branding
- Clients can review files without signing up thanks to the secure sharing links
- The dashboard lets you track project progress
- The system keeps a record of all document versions and comments
Turn Your Documents Into Company Knowledge With Helpjuice
It’s almost the second decade of the 21st century. With all the cloud-based systems we have, finding a document and collaborating on it should be a no brainer.
Except that, most of the time, it’s not.
The problem is that uploading your documents to the cloud doesn’t make collaboration easier. It simply makes it easier to access the files, IF you know where to look…
We can help you put an end to this online document madness.
Your documents are part of your company’s knowledge. Helpjuice lets you organizethis knowledge into a single, searchable online portal.
Instead of trying to decipher the names of a dozen folders, you can browse by category or tag. Instead of struggling to guess the exact file name and type it in the search box, you can use our Google-like search that will instantly show you the most relevant results.
If you want to turn your documents into knowledge and make collaboration easy, you can try us free.