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The Collaboration Conundrum

There are lots of challenges in launching a startup. Raising money, hiring and leading a team, closing sales to grow revenue, having time to focus on the product you love… it’s not easy.

But finding the right collaboration tools for your team is essential, particularly if you’re dealing with a distributed workforce. And it may be among the toughest of challenges that entrepreneurs face. Why? There are so many damn options it becomes hard to choose. Some are great conceptually, not so much in execution. Some try to do to much, others not enough. Some are more creative solutions than others, but may be hard for some employees to grok.

My current startup is using Google for Email, Calendar, and (occasionally) Docs/Drive, but we mostly rely on Box.com for shared files. And we’re using Podio and GoToMeeting, both owned by Citrix, for team collaboration, web meetings and group video chat. We’ve created custom apps on Podio for sales/CRM, marketing, and product development, as well as for each client we have. Polio is integrated with GTM for video meetings, with Box for attaching files to conversations, and with Gmail and Calendar to turn emails into tasks and show tasks on the calendar. And the list of integrations goes on and on. In theory, it seems like a good solution. In theory.

The reality is that we deal with hassles all the time. GTM has pushed several updates this year, and there have been enough bugs to cause some real inconveniences. Plus they don’t seem to handle low-bandwidth situations for audio and video as well as they once did. Podio has some great features, but it’s core task functionality is flawed in how it relates to custom apps and their fields. While I love Gmail, some team members come from a corporate background and struggle with Gmail’s user interface, pining for Outlook. And Box Sync for Mac is incredibly slow, even for some of the smallest of files.

We’ve looked at changing things up before we start to accelerate our growth. I’d really like a goal-driven collaboration platform like Workboard, but just haven’t seen enough value to pull the trigger. We’ll need a true CRM before too long, and I’ve toyed with migrating from Gmail to hosted Exchange, but Outlook for Mac 2016 has been really buggy in my limited trial. We haven’t yet integrated expense management like Expensify, or HR management like Benefits, so we’re just scratching the surface. In any case, we’re likely to need multiple solutions, which means multiple logins, learning curves and invoices.

I would love for someone to solve this problem, so I can focus on growing my company.