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Want to know why your company should build custom collaboration apps?
This is an important market that still has so much room for innovation.
Why is collaboration important in the workplace?
As explained in “The importance of collaboration in the workplace”, collaboration brings a lot to the table, e.g.:
- The act of collaboration brings together diverse team members with varying skills and competencies so that they can work towards a shared objective.
- Collaboration promotes brainstorming, and this helps in problem-solving.
- A team has a stronger sense of purpose when team members collaborate.
- Instead of the old-fashioned command-and-control, collaboration empowers team members since they feel valued.
- Teams that encourage collaboration promote self-analysis among the team members, which improves clarity.
- Team members learn from each other when they collaborate.
- Collaboration promotes the pooling of skills and competencies, and this improves the efficiency of the team.
- Teams that promote collaboration foster a sense of belonging and this improves employee engagement. Such teams are more successful in retaining talent.
Why are collaboration apps important?
There are many advantages to using collaboration apps, and you can read “The benefits of online collaboration tools” to learn more about them. These advantages are as follows:
- While distributed teams and remote employees continue to work from different geographic locations, collaboration apps help foster team collaboration and allow them to work as a cohesive team.
- Well-known collaboration apps offer robust project tracking capabilities, therefore, the team leader and the other team members have the required visibility of the project at all times.
- Typically, every project in an organization involves reporting and it‘s often hard to provide those reports. Collaboration apps offer good reporting capabilities, and this is a notable advantage.
- Organizations needed many meetings to facilitate collaboration, however, collaboration apps have helped them to reduce the number of meetings. E.g., managers can assign tasks and track performance online.
- Distributing documents in a distributed team environment has often been a challenge for organizations. However, collaboration apps enable storing documents online, and this helps team members to access the correct versions of documents.
The market for collaboration apps
There is a growing market for collaboration apps, and the following pieces of statistics attest to that:
- A Grand View Research report estimates that the market for collaboration software will grow at a CAGR of 9% between 2018 and 2025.
- The market for enterprise collaboration software segment will grow even faster, and it will have a CAGR of 10.7% during the 2019-2024 period, according to a Mordor Intelligence market report.
- Microsoft, Cisco, Google, Oracle, and LogMeIn are the largest providers of collaboration software, and you can read about their market share in the “Top 10 collaboration software vendors”.
An example of a collaboration app
Reviewing an example of a collaboration app will help you to understand the key features, therefore, take a look at Slack.
This popular collaboration software is available on the web, moreover, you can also use the Slack Android and iOS mobile apps. Slack, an online collaboration platform, offers multiple features and advantages, some of these are as follows:
- The team messaging app helps organize conversations in your team.
- Slack gives options for documents and file sharing.
- Users can search for important information in archives.
- Organizations using Slack can integrate it with other online collaboration software like Asana, Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, etc.
- You can initiate voice or video calls. There is also an option for video conferencing for multiple team members.
- Users can create action items and track them using Slack.
- Teams using Slack as a team collaboration software can customize notifications.
There are other online collaboration tools like Asana, Podio, Ryver, etc. Read this blog for more on these best online collaboration tools.
Building custom collaboration apps
While the best collaboration apps in the market offer several features, you might need a collaboration app to address your specific requirements. This calls for building a custom collaboration app, and I will now explain the steps to do so:
1. Agree on the project scope and SDLC model
I recommend that you build a custom collaboration app with features like those of Slack, and I suggest that you launch a web app, an Android app, and an iOS app. This can be the “Minimum Viable Product”.
You can subsequently enhance it based on the feedback you receive from your employees. Agile is the right SDLC model for such projects as I have explained in “Waterfall vs Agile: which methodology is right for your project”.
2. Build a project team
You need the following roles in the project team:
- A project manager (PM);
- Business analysts (BAs);
- UI designers;
- Web developers with Node.js skills;
- Android developers with Java skills;
- iOS developers with experience in Objective-C;
- DevOps engineers.
Consider using the Scrum technique for this project since it‘s a proven technique to execute Agile projects. The PM acts as the scrum master, and he/she forms small, cross-functional scrum teams where developers and testers work together.
The team works on sprints, i.e., iterations in scrum parlance. You can read “How to build a Scrum development team?” to learn more about scrum.
3. Formulate a development approach
I recommend the following development approach:
- Use a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platform for developing the web app, and use a Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) platform to develop the mobile app. This frees you up from managing the IT infrastructure.
- Utilize software development kits (SDKs)/application programming interfaces (APIs) to build core features like collaboration.
- Improve the test coverage with a test automation aid.
Read “What is the best development approach to guarantee the success of your app?” to understand the benefits of such an approach.
4. Find the right managed cloud platforms
I recommend that you use AWS Elastic Beanstalk, the PaaS offering from AWS to expedite the web app development since it offers the following advantages:
- Elastic Beanstalk manages the cloud infrastructure, networking, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment, which frees you up for development.
- You can easily integrate databases with your code when you use Elastic Beanstalk.
- You can also easily integrate third-party services to increase your app’s functionalities.
- The platform has robust DevOps tools, moreover, you can use its application performance monitoring (APM) and auto-scaling solutions to scale your app.
You also need an MBaaS platform for mobile app development, and I recommend that you use AWS Amplify, i.e., the MBaaS offering from AWS. It offers various advantages, e.g.:
- Amplify manages the cloud infrastructure, persistent storage, etc., therefore, you don‘t need to develop and manage the mobile backend.
- You will find it easy to implement security features, moreover, it‘s easy to incorporate features like user management and push notifications when you use Amplify.
- Scaling your mobile app is easy with Amplify, furthermore, you need only one AWS account to sign-up for both Elastic Beanstalk and Amplify.
5. Sign-up for a collaboration SDK/API solution
Using an SDK/API solution to implement the collaboration feature will expedite the project, therefore, I recommend that you sign-up for the Moxtra collaboration solution. Moxtra offers all the key features you need to implement in a collaboration app, e.g.:
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- Task management;
- Document tracking;
- Cloud storage;
- Digital signature;
- Video chat;
- Virtual data rooms.
You can consult the following resources for using the Moxtra SDK/API solution:
- The Moxtra developer portal;
- Its documentation;
- Its Android SDK for Android app development;
- The Moxtra iOS SDK for iOS app development.
You need to create an account with Moxtra to use its solution.
6. Find a test automation aid to improve the test coverage
The web app must work with different browsers and their different versions. You also need the mobile app to work with various Android and iOS devices, therefore, you must test your app against different browsers and mobile devices.
That can be hard with open-source test automation frameworks, therefore, I recommend that you use the following solutions from Experitest:
- The Experitest Mobile Device & Browser Lab, which offers a wide range of browsers and mobile devices for testing;
- SeeTest Reporter from Experitest, which offers robust test reports and analytics.
7. Use the right project management tools
You need the right tools for managing a custom collaboration app development project. I recommend Asana, which is a robust project management tool for Agile.
You should also consider using a data-driven process to manage project management functions, moreover, using a real-time dashboard is a good idea.
We, at DevTeam.Space, follow a robust data-driven process to manage projects, therefore, we can help you here.
8. Designing the user interface (UI)
The employees in your organization need a custom collaboration app with a user-friendly UI, therefore, your UI design team should use the appropriate guidelines for designing the UI. Consult the following resources:
- “User interface design guidelines: 10 rules of thumb”, for web app intuitive interface design;
- The Material design guidelines, for designing the UI for the Android app;
- “Human Interface Guidelines”, for iOS app UI design.
9. Developing, testing, and deploying the web app
I recommend Node.js for coding the web app since this open-source runtime environment helps in creating scalable and performant web apps. Node.js offers several other advantages, e.g.:
- There is a vibrant and growing developer community that supports Node.js, and this community has created many shared open-source tools and frameworks. This helps programmers to achieve higher productivity.
You can read “10 great tools for Node.Js software development” to learn about the advantages of using Node.js.
Developing the web version of the proposed custom collaboration app involves the following steps:
- Code the Node.js app using Eclipse, the popular IDE. You also need to use this Node.js Eclipse plugin for this project.
- Add MongoDB and PostgreSQL to your project on AWS Elastic beanstalk. Elastic Beanstalk has comprehensive documentation, e.g., you can read “Adding a database to your Elastic Beanstalk environment” to learn how to add database services to your app.
- Test the app using the Experitest automation solution, and deploy your app on Elastic Beanstalk. Read “Deploying Node.js applications to AWS Elastic Beanstalk” if you need guidance.
10. Code, test, and publish the Android app
You should code the Android app using Java since it has been the mainstay of Android development for quite some time. Most Android developers know it well, moreover, there are helpful resources.
Developing a custom collaboration app on Android involves the following steps:
- Code the app using Android Studio, and follow this Amplify documentation to add database resources to the app.
- Integrate the Moxtra Android SDK with your app.
- Test your app using Espresso and the Experitest mobile device lab.
- Follow these instructions to publish the app to Google Play.
11. Developing the iOS app
I recommend that you use Objective-C to code the iOS app since many developers working on Apple platforms know this powerful language. You need to take the following steps to develop the custom collaboration iOS app:
- Use Xcode, which is the IDE for developing apps for Apple platforms.
- Add database resources on AWS Amplify, and integrate Moxtra iOS SDK with your app.
- Use XCTest and the Experitest mobile device lab to test the iOS app, subsequently, use this guide to publish it to Apple App Store.
Planning to launch a custom collaboration app for your organization?
You can use platforms, SDKs, frameworks, and guidelines to expedite the project, however, developing the best collaboration app could be a complex project.
Consider engaging a reputed software development company for such projects, and read our guide “How to find the best software development company?” before you choose one.
If you, as a business CEO or CTO, are still looking for experienced software developers to build your team, DevTeam.Space can help you via its field-expert software developers community.
You can share your initial project specifications via this form, and one of our account managers will get back to you to discuss further details on how we can help you build the best best online collaboration software.
Frequently Asked Questions on Collaboration Apps
The vast majority of the tasks conducted online are collaborative. The internet is the most prominent example of a collaborative project. Everything from freelancing to online teaching is an example of online collaboration.
These are software applications that facilitate remote collaboration. Examples include Slack, Trello, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and ConceptBoard.
The answer to this question really depends on the type and scope of the required collaboration. Generally speaking, Slack is one of the best examples of best collaboration tools as it allows huge teams of people to easily communicate via group and individual channels.