How 3 innovative companies of 2016 took productivity to the next level

May 1, 20174 Minute Read

Ubiquitous mobility and connectivity, combined with more robust cloud computing platforms, are making it harder to find reasons not to be productive. Thanks to three innovative companies of 2016, there are now fewer barriers to effective collaboration across teams—whether you’re going virtual or working across a large enterprise.

The availability and security of these tools are table stakes, given that lines of business within an organization have increasingly more power to implement the cloud services of their choice—ideally with their IT departments providing guidance as service brokers. The only downside is for vendors of productivity and collaboration tools, who need to work harder than ever to impress us.

One way to stand out is through simplicity. End users want productivity tools that can provide them with the streamlined experiences they get with Uber or Netflix. IT staff have enough on their to-do lists already as they focus on more strategic initiatives, such as effectively adopting a DevOps culture or embracing digital transformation. In the past year, three collaboration and productivity tools in particular have come to help employees get their jobs done every day, while also being easily manageable for IT departments. Each tool has the capability to scale up to support enterprise-wide collaboration, as well as be effectively deployed by small organizations.


Cloud-based collaboration tools have become increasingly popular, and Slack is one that’s gotten a lot of visibility, with IRC-like features that support real-time interaction while eschewing the need for email and SMS texting. Slack initially began as a communications tool for organizations, but it’s morphed into more of a community platform emulating interactions people might experience on LinkedIn or Facebook.

On the Slack platform, everything is searchable—every interaction is archived. And because it’s hosted online and is highly customizable, your organization’s IT department can easily set up and maintain Slack. Customization is accomplished in part through third-party integration supported by an app directory that includes more than 150 integrations, such as Google Drive, Dropbox, GitHub, and Zendesk. Despite being relatively new, Slack already boasts a customer base across a range of industries, with companies of all sizes using it as their primary means of communication.


Trello is a project-management tool that precedes Slack but also integrates with it. The web-based tool, which spun out as a stand-alone product from Fog Creek Software in 2014 but has now been acquired by Atlassian, as Fortune reported, operates on a freemium model and includes a business-class paid service.

Unlike Slack, which is all about real-time communication, a Trello board is a list of lists presented visually in a card format to give people in charge of projects a view of everything on the go, including who’s doing what and when it’s supposed to get done. Individual users can also filter out what isn’t relevant to them and focus on what they need to finish. The tool also allows you to keep track of any nascent ideas you might want to look at later. Trello offers mobile apps for both iOS and Android, and it integrates with other popular productivity tools, such as Google Calendar and Google Drive.

Office 365

Although startups get a lot of attention in the productivity and collaboration space—while offering value through integrating with existing services people already use—Microsoft’s Office products are still going strong after more than 20 years, graduating from simple word processing and spreadsheet programs to online collaboration and productivity tools that form part of a broader family of cloud services. Microsoft’s move to offer a subscription model for Office 365 has made it simple to install the applications on individual machines, while enabling larger organizations to easily scale up deployment. And while initially overshadowed by Google’s online productivity suite, Microsoft also makes it easy to run stalwart applications, such as Word and Excel, in a web browser.

The company has also met expectations by making Office 365 applications usable on any device, including within the popular Apple ecosystem, while also opening up its platform. This includes Microsoft Outlook for email and calendaring, but other functions are often prime candidates to move to the cloud to free up on-site IT resources. And not to be outdone by Slack, Microsoft offers chat room functionality through Microsoft Teams and even integrated Skype into its offerings.

The evolution of productivity and collaboration tools is ultimately helping organizations and their employees get things done. But these innovative companies of 2016 have levelled the playing field, allowing organizations of any size to embrace their platforms without adding a significant burden to already busy IT departments or teams.

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