A coordinated rowing team, rowing across a lake
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There are a number of methods and tools to onboard a new employee. You might use Slack, an Excel spreadsheet, a content collaboration tool like Box, Dropbox or Egnyte or even a project management solution like Planview, Changepoint or Microsoft Project. And while each is useful for part of the process, you really can't get the whole job done with any one of these tools, according to Constellation Research vice president Alan Lepofsky who advises organizations on the Future of Work.

“Slack is a great, but it’s a chronological list of stuff and is easy to get lost in when you are trying to work a process start to finish. Box, Dropbox, One Drive, Google Drive, those kinds of tools are good for sharing and collaborating on content,” he added. And, of course there are some terrific and well proven project management tools available, but they are for managing projects, not processes, according to Lepofsky.

So what kinds of solutions are available for use when and a company needs to do something like:

  • Automate the onboarding of new workers - Consider all the steps, employee badging, benefits orientation, filling out forms, arranging introductions to co-workers and company management, issuing equipment, obtaining parking passes, setting up e-mail and such.
  • Organize a user conference or other event where multiple internal and external parties, each of whom wants to put his/her two cents in are involved, and reservations need to be made, invitations sent, meals ordered and planned, content created, apps built, expenses tracked and so on…
  • Launch a new product which involves everyone from the CEO to the marketing team, to media and public relations, to product development and creatives, to advertising and promotion.

A new kind of platform is necessary, according to Lepofsky, one that combines the collaboration features of social networking software with the organizational and task features of project management software. Lepofsky uses the term "work coordination platform" to fit the bill.

Related Article: Top 16 Enterprise Project Management Software Platforms

Forrester analyst Margo Visitacion selected a slightly different term, "Enterprise Collaborative Work Management (ECWM)."In an interview with CMSWire in 2016, she explained that with ECWM "collaboration is formed around a workspace built to achieve an objective or task."

Because the Constellation Research Shortlist Work Collaboration Platforms is newer (February 2018) than Forrester’s and new solutions have entered the market in the last 18 months, CMSWire is reporting on the notable vendors based on Lepofsky's definition and picks.

One final consideration, some readers will undoubtedly ask if yet another category of collaboration tools is needed. Here Lepofsky offered an easy the example of Microsoft's recent strategy. "Microsoft built a brand new platform — Microsoft Planner — because they felt there was a hole in their suite of tools and a need in the market." 

That being said, none of these tools or platforms are meant to do away with or compete with the likes of Box, Dropbox, HipChat, Microsoft Teams and the like. To the contrary, one of the qualifiers for inclusion in analysts' reports is integration with other productivity and social tools. So here they are, the 8 vendors who made the Constellation Research Shortlist.

Asana

Asana makes it easy for users to map out each step in their projects and tasks and provides access to content, calendars and social tools along the way.  It is visual so that users can see where they are, where the process stands, where there are overlaps and holes in schedules and so on. It includes more than 100 integrations with the likes of Box, Dropbox,  Microsoft Teams and One Drive, Salesforce, Slack and Trello among others. It is highly visual, offers social and reporting tools, is enterprise grade for scalability and compliance and more. Its basic version is free, its Premium is $9.99 per month and the Enterprise plan requires a conversation with Sales.

Related Article: How the Digital Workplace is Changing Project Management and Execution

Clarizen

Clarizen calls itself a "collaborative work management solution" that brings together project management, configurable workflow automation and in-context collaboration. Its planning tool helps users "scope, size, estimate, schedule and staff a project in detail" and makes it easy to set a baseline for measuring project success and progress, as well as to drive project execution and control changes. Its integration partners include not only the usual productivity application providers but also the likes of Oracle, SAP, ServiceNow and Tableau. Clarizen offers a free trial.

Microsoft Planner

Microsoft Planner is part of Office 365. According to Microsoft it is "task management software" and was built to help customers "create new plans, organize and assign tasks, share files, chat about what you're working on, and get updates on progress." It is highly visual and offers transparency so that team members can know "who is working on what." Like all of these tools it is enterprise grade and works across devices.

Sensei Labs Conductor

Sensei Labs Conductor is a new product (released Nov. 15 2017) by Toronto-based Sensei Labs. The company bills Conductor as a single source of all project information and files and says that it is completely transparent so that team members can see what the other is doing or has done. Moreover it claims to "collect insights from the whole team to predict and put out project fires at the first sign of a spark!" Contact the company for pricing.

Smartsheet

Smartsheet, which filed for its IPO on Monday, describes itself as a "cloud-based platform for work execution, enabling teams and organizations to plan, capture, manage, automate, and report on work at scale, resulting in more efficient processes and better business outcomes," according to its S-1 prospectus. Companies use Smartsheet to assign tasks, manage calendars, share documents, and track project progress via a consumer-like spreadsheet interface. It includes connectors to Box, DocuSign, Egnyte, Marketo, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Tableau and more. It offers a 30-day free trial.

Trello

Trello calls itself an "easy, free, flexible, and visual way to manage your projects and organize anything." It is a visual collaboration tool that uses Trello Boards from which projects and processes are run and Trello cards to which comments, attachments, and more can be added. It provides APIs for Box, Dropbox, Evernote, MailChimp, OneDrive and many more, including some built by independent developers. You can sign up for Trello for free. It is also worth noting that Trello was acquired by Atlassian in 2017.

Workfront

Workfront is a collaborative work management solution that helps customers centralize their projects, manage digital work, review and approve work, deliver client services, and govern compliance services. It offers pre-built solutions for marketing, IT, product development and services teams as well as agencies among others. Its solution includes (AI)-enabled resource management and planning, a Slack interface and more. Free trials and a free custom demo are available.

Wrike

Wrike bills itself as "cloud-based collaboration and project management software that scales across teams in any business." It offers solutions for creative, marketing, product development, business operations, professional services teams and more. It also provides integrations with Box, Dropbox, HubSpot, Marketo, Microsoft Teams, and Salesforce among many others. Its simplest solution is free for up to five users and it also offers paid solutions with more features and capabilities.