Why Your Company Should Build A Custom Collaboration App

Businesses everywhere are discovering the importance of innovation to stay ahead of the competition and improve their profitability. However, innovation isn‘t just a buzzword, it involves real people doing real work!

People in an organization must collaborate to bring a culture of innovation, however, trends like distributed teams and remote employees make this collaboration harder. Collaboration apps can help here, therefore, more and more businesses are investing in collaboration apps like Slack.

Businesses often have their customized collaboration requirements, therefore, they might need to look beyond one-size-fits-all readily available collaboration apps. Many businesses now invest in building a custom collaboration app, and if you are planning to that in your company, you ought to read this guide!

Contents

Why is collaboration important in the workplace?
Why are collaboration apps important?
The market for collaboration apps
An example of a collaboration app
Building a custom collaboration app
Planning to launch a custom collaboration app for your organization?

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 talents.

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 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 to 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.
  • Distributing documents in a distributed team environment have 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:

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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 apps. Slack offers the following features and advantages:

  • You can organize conversations in your team using Slack.
  • Slack enables you to share files and documents.
  • Users can search for important information in archives.
  • Organizations using Slack can integrate it with other tools like Asana, Dropbox, Google Drive, Salesforce, etc.
  • You can initiate voice or video conversations.
  • Users can create action items and track them using Slack.
  • Teams using Slack can customize notifications.

There are other collaboration tools like Asana, Podio, Ryver, etc., and you can read about them in “Best online collaboration tools of 2019”.

Building a custom collaboration app

While popular collaboration apps 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 skill;
  • Android developers with Java skill;
  • iOS developers with experience in Objective-C;
  • Testers;
  • 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 and 3rd party APIs with your code when you use Elastic Beanstalk.
  • 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 the mobile app development, and I recommend that you use AWS Amplify, i.e., the MBaaS offering from AWS. It offers various advantages, e.g.:

Read How We Helped a Marketing Company to Build a Back-Office Custom Ads Dashboard

  • 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.:

  • Messaging;
  • Task management;
  • Co-browsing;
  • Document tracking;
  • Cloud storage;
  • Digital signature;
  • Video chat;
  • Chatbots;
  • Annotations;
  • Broadcast;
  • Virtual data rooms.

You can consult the following resources for using the Moxtra SDK/API solution:

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:

7. Use the right tools for managing the project

You need the right tools for managing a custom collaboration app development project. I recommend Asana, which is a robust tool for managing Agile projects.

You should also consider using a data-driven process to manage the project, 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:

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.:

  • It‘s based on JavaScript, and many programmers already know JavaScript. They find it easy to work with Node.js.
  • The proposed collaboration app will need to store documents, therefore, you will need to use a NoSQL database like MongoDB. MongoDB uses JavaScript, therefore, Node.js developers find it easy to work with.
  • 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:

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:

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 a custom 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.

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Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
I love all things blockchain and related to app development. What time I have when I am not busy writing for the DevTeam.Space blog of over 350 articles, I spend sitting around wondering what the future will look like 50 years from now.
Aran Davies