Future of Work: Choosing a Digital Collaboration Application

future of work ideas

We’ve all either read or seen articles discussing the future of work. Webinars, trainings, guides, and more are popping up with the same message. The future is hybrid, digital, and collaborative. Working in this manner means being able to work asynchronously as well as synchronously, manage ‘zoom fatigue’ and burnout, and facilitate remote and hybrid work with individuals of all ranges of digital comfort, hierarchy, time zones, thinking styles and more.

Naturally, digital collaboration applications are being leveraged to ‘mind these gaps’. Depending on what your team’s needs are, you could very well make do with a simple shared cloud document like Google Docs. However, if your team’s collaborations straddle numerous requirements for which you require something more sophisticated, a quick internet search will return many different collaboration app options, from MS Whiteboard to Stormboard, Conceptboard, Jamboard, Limnu, Miro, Creately, Klaxoon, Collaboard, and many, many more.

Thankfully, the internet also has lots of resources and content to help you get an idea of what the product is like before you commit to it. With this in mind, here are some things to consider when exploring the many collaboration application options available and honing in on the one that will best satisfy your requirements and facilitate the work.


Step 1

Start with intention. Distinguish what is the ‘why’ for the collaboration app you are choosing.

☐ Why do you need a collaboration app in the first place?

☐ What value are you trying to build or achieve?

☐ How will this benefit your clients and stakeholders?

☐ What kind of engagement are you trying to facilitate or create?

Step 2

Identify the stakeholders, users, and/or participants who will be involved in the collaborative work. Your “why” from Step 1 will likely centre around the people you are collaborating with and the circumstances through which you come together, or the work. In this step, you want to recognize where your stakeholders are at in order to meet them there. Define both the strengths and challenges faced by your participants—this could be the facilitator, the clients, the project, and/or the business.

☐ What are some specific “needs” or requirements that each may have?

☐ When it comes to using digital tools, what is their comfort level?

☐ What kind of user do you need to think about when narrowing down application options?

☐ When trying out the applications, which ones offer supports and which ones may have features that are within their scope?

Step 3

Define the features or usability requirements that are needed for effective and engaging facilitation. You may have heard of the priority juggling metaphor. In the juggling metaphor, determine which needs are “glass balls”—non-negotiables—and which ones are “plastic”—you can manage without them. Think about the collaboration activities you will be running, the project life cycles, business needs, and the different ways you may want to use the application. Marry in the strengths and challenges of your stakeholders and what features can mitigate the challenges.

☐ What does an effective and engaging facilitation look like?

☐ What kinds of activities will the collaboration application be used to support?

☐ What features will improve the client’s experience of using the application and encourage adoption?

☐ Which tools or features will be required, helpful, and/or “nice to have” to demonstrate both an engaging and positive user experience?

At this point it may help to jump onto an intro webinar or open a free demo account to test out the different feature offerings. Different applications augment or centre around distinct features or project types: Some focus on prototyping and wireframing, others on external collaborations, team communications, process documentation, providing feedback, assigning tasks, internal team collaborations, and so forth.

Step 4

Play around and explore! This is the time of generating questions and exploring answers! By this point, you will have identified what you and your stakeholders need and now want to answer the question of “who can best meet our needs?” (which in itself will help inform the ultimate question of “which application should we pick?”). Use this time to get hands-on with the collaboration applications to discover the answers to your questions.

☐ Practical deep dive: Piggybacking on the previous point, go to each application of interest and do demos, get a free trial, attend their user webinars, trawl their help guides, and watch related YouTube clips and how-to tutorials.

☐ Quick Pilot: Bonus, if you have a meeting with a group of keen participants, integrate one of the trial applications into a meeting to get real time data and user feedback on things like ease of uptake, ease of use, and functionality.

☐ Experiment: This is also a great way for you, as the facilitator, to prototype how the collab app flows and facilitates your work. Like an experiment, prior to testing an app with a real meeting, jot down any questions, assumptions, or hypotheses you may have around the app, so as to answer them through experimentation.

Finally, define the shortlist. Once you get a real feel for what using this application will feel like, use this experience to cross reference the requirements listed and develop a shortlist.

Step 5

Think about joy. It’s also important that you enjoy using this app. Collaborating doesn’t have to be all “serious business” to get the work done!

☐ Do you enjoy using the application?

☐ How does it influence your energy?

☐ Does it allow for small moments of celebration and fun for users?

Step 6

Bring together your thoughts. Rounding back to part 1, as you embark on this exploration, build out a spreadsheet or document that orders the needs and requirements. As you explore different applications, use it to store your notes and thoughts. You may opt to keep a space on the sheet to document novel or unexpected features that you find and how they could be beneficial to the work and see if this feature is found in other applications.

After the exploratory work has been completed, tally up your notes, review the experiences using the application, and identify which applications cover the key requirements.

Finally, having gone through the steps and reviewed the journey, a front runner should emerge that will best fit your work, your stakeholders, and where you want to take your facilitation and collaboration when looking at the future of work.


  • Be mindful of user types: Different collaboration applications have different types of users which may or may not come with different access to features or be counted in the user billing.
  • Not all that shines is gold! Some bells and whistles may be nice, but not the features for you or the work you’re trying to accomplish, and that’s okay!
  • Collaboration applications have different structures for files in terms of grouping boards and ‘rooms’ and teams and so forth! Find one that fits your needs and isn’t over complicated!

If you enjoyed this article, please don’t keep it a secret.

About the Author: Natasha

Share this article