Explore collaboration tools
Collaboration is one of the most significant factors for organizational success, and working together productively becomes even more important when team members are working remotely. The shift to remote work requires improved collaboration with new approaches.
A single collaboration tool for an entire department is an appealing route as it simplifies security issues, training, and support – each a significant factor. A tool that works well for a department’s internal needs, however, may require some extra attention to integration to allow easy collaboration across departments or agencies. As well, the crisis has demonstrated that the need for broader collaboration may require providing employees with more than one option. Departments are finding they need to collaborate with outside entities, such as universities, other governments, non-profit organizations, businesses or ad hoc working groups, which may want to use a platform different from the one used by the department. This argues against a one-size-fits-all approach, instead considering how a department can make more than one platform available to employees, subject to specific needs.
A range of proven teleconferencing and digital engagement tools already is available through existing procurement platforms governed by the California Department of General Services and the California Department of Technology’s California Network and Telecommunications Program (CALNET). Select the tools that are best for your organization’s ability to collaborate and fit your internal IT policies. Decisions may vary by department, but any product you choose must meet the SIMM 5360-A Telework and Remote Access Security Standard.
References to specific products or organizations are for information only and don’t constitute an endorsement of the product/company.
Video conferencing is a highly interactive way to keep virtual and remote teams connected and engage with partners and customers without the need to travel. Participants can join these online meetings using a variety of devices with built-in cameras, including desktop, mobile, and video systems. The benefits of real-time video conferencing are extensive, ranging from more productive meetings to less time-consuming and expensive travel for in-person meetings.
There are two types of video conferencing products available: products designed primarily for meetings, and those designed primarily for webinars and events. You can select the right meeting format by assessing your specific needs.
Virtual Meetings are real time interactions that take place over the Internet using integrated audio video, chat tools and application sharing and can involve as few as two people or more than a 100.
Webinars and Live Events are structured so that the host and event presenters lead the interactions, and audience participation is primarily limited to viewing the content shared by the host and collaborating via chat and polling questions.
Meeting use cases
- Customer-facing meetings
- Training sessions
- Team meetings
- Project meetings
Webinar and Live Event use cases
- Public board or commission meeting subject to open meetings laws
- Broadcasted meeting (e.g., virtual Town Hall)
- All-staff meeting with more than 300 participants
- Professional conference with more than 300 participants
List of tools
Microsoft Teams and Live Events
Microsoft Teams provides audio and video conferencing services to individuals and groups with up to 300 attendees. The meetings can be scheduled through Microsoft Outlook. The availability of live captions and inline message translation makes Teams Meeting and Message functions more accessible, for purposes of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Teams Meeting can display up to nine participants on a single-screen view. As part of Office 365, Teams offers several additional Office 365 shared features, including instant messaging, file storage, SharePoint integration, task tracking with Planner, and Exchange. You can invite an external guest to join a team for project collaboration.
Microsoft Teams currently doesn’t support certain features, such as the ability to unmute participants, whiteboard collaboration, or breakout sessions. These features will be available in a future release.
Microsoft Teams live events is an extension of Teams meetings, and enables users to broadcast video and meeting content to an online audience of up to 10,000. Hosts can solicit input through a poll with Microsoft Forms. There is no attendance registration or call-in number for participants to join Teams live events; participants click the attendee link to join the event. Teams administrators can view real-time usage analytics for live events in Microsoft Teams admin center.
How do I procure Microsoft Teams?
Contact your IT support staff from California Department of Technology (CDT) for assistance requesting the Microsoft Office 365 bundle. For a limited time and with a limited quantity, Microsoft is providing a 90-day free trial of Teams Audio Conferencing to state departments. To request licenses, contact your Microsoft representative.
Tips and tricks
- Review best practices for meetings in Microsoft Teams
- Leverage channels to track conversation topics in a Teams site
- Change participant settings to choose who can bypass the lobby setting or who can present
- Check out the Sankalp Jain’s blog on the Top 10 FAQs on Leveraging Teams for Government for a variety of best practices for Teams
- Become familiar with the best practices for Teams live events
- Understand how to join Teams as a guest
- Use OneNote draw features as an alternative for whiteboard collaboration
Zoom meetings and Zoom video webinars
Zoom Meetings can accommodate up to 500 attendees on a video and audio conference (with an enterprise license) and provides more granular control for meetings, e.g., the ability to unmute participants, rename participants, and manage user registration. Zoom also offers additional features to address specific use cases, such as virtual hearings, accessibility for board meetings, training events with group breakouts, etc. Features include:
- A whiteboarding option for brainstorming and project planning.
- Breakout rooms that allow the host to split large meetings into small groups.
- An annotate tool that enables collaborative sessions for mockups and graphic designs.
- The assign scheduling privilege that allows hosts to delegate someone else to schedule meetings.
- Gallery view that displays up to 49 participants on a single screen.
- Closed captioning, which allows a support team member or another assigned meeting attendee to type dialogue as the event takes place.
Zoom Video Webinars provide the host with more control over access, allowing any designated panelists to share their video, audio and screen. Attendees join in listen-only mode and can interact via chat, by raising their hand, and answering polling questions. The host can also unmute the attendees for Q&A. Zoom Video Webinars support user registration and email reminders. Zoom Video Webinars closed captioning can be typed by the host, cohost, or a panelist assigned by the host. The breakout room feature is not available for Zoom Video Webinars.
Tips and tricks
Check out the blog Zoomtopia: 10 Zoom Tips and Tricks You May Not Know for helpful Zoom tips.
How do I procure Zoom Meetings and Zoom Video Webinars?
Both are available through CALNET teleconference or DGS California Multiple Award Schedules (CMAS). Contact your IT support staff for assistance requesting these products.
Webex meetings and Webex events
Webex Meetings offer a range of solutions to address different business needs, e.g., online meetings, online training events, webinars, and webcasting. Webex Meetings can display 25 video meeting participants in one grid view. Cisco’s Webex features include interactive whiteboarding and the ability to transcribe real-time closed captions of the discussion. Transcriptions can be automatically recorded for later replay of the meeting.
Webex Events is a solution for hosting interactive webinars or large-scale virtual events. It includes attendee registration, polling, and a post-event survey. Webex Events comes with built-in security features, such as a required password, registration ID, and the ability to restrict access to the event.
Webex Training has features to address specific training requirements, such as breakout sessions, testing, scoring, and eCommerce.
Tips and tricks
Check out the Webex article on Best practices for great online meetings
How do I procure Webex Meetings and Webex Events?
Both are available through CALNET teleconference or DGS Software Licensing Program (SLP). Contact your IT support staff for assistance requesting these products.
GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar and GoToTraining
GoToMeeting is a video conferencing tool, and offers call recording, dial-in numbers, meeting registration, and video feed for up to 25 participants. The transcript feature makes it easy to capture the meeting notes. It also features a meeting drawing tool for online collaboration that allows participants to annotate shared presentations. Meetings will remain in your organization’s web account for one year.
GoToWebinar allows meeting organizers to host webinars with large groups of participants, who can engage in online discussions or training events and share audio, documents or slides. The participants are able to call in to the webinar, and the host can invite questions by unmuting the participants.
GoToTraining provides virtual classrooms with online training features, such as breakout rooms, attendance reports, test results, and payment integration.
Tips and tricks
- Review 5 Best Practices for Secure Video Conferencing with GoToMeeting
- Check out 15 Simple Tips to Make You a GoToWebinar Power User
How do I procure GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar, and GoToTraining?
Contact your IT support staff for assistance requesting these products. They are not currently available via CALNET or Leveraged Procurement Agreement, but depending on a department’s purchasing authority, they may be purchased using the Fair and Reasonable procurement method or Small Business Option based on the acquisition threshold.
State agencies without approved purchasing authority may need to submit a request for a one-time acquisition. Please refer to the PD-OTA submittal instructions for more information.
Teleconferencing can be an important supplement to web conferencing. To add teleconferencing services, call the provider your organization has chosen from the CALNET options, and purchase additional services using Form 20.
One service that offers a broad range of features is AT&T Teleconferencing, which can be provided as audio through web browsers and features scheduling, comment queueing, and moderated question-and-answer sessions. It also allows voting and polling. Different service levels include translation, question queueing, and transcripts.
Other Video Tools Available through CALNET
The following video conferencing services also are available through CALNET. These services typically are used for point-to-point virtual conferencing and may not provide all of the features necessary for conducting a public meeting.
- Jive Multipoint Video Conferencing Bridge Service allows six to 80 participants to join and communicate via both video and audio on the same conference call.
- Verizon Managed Video Conferencing Service provides video conference session support with the assistance of a live conferencing attendant.
- Verizon Open Video Communication Service (OVC) is a multi-party video conferencing tool with a variety of usage levels suitable for everything from individual devices to multi-screen telepresence rooms with document sharing.
Document collaboration involves everything from document sharing to knowledge transfer to simultaneous editing. Done well, it eliminates version control problems caused through emailing documents back and forth. Online document collaboration tools allow users to access files anywhere and anytime, see real-time updates, share writing responsibilities, and maintain strong internal and external communication. Although SharePoint – available as part of the Office 365 Suite – is widely used in state government, other entities, such as universities and non-governmental organizations often use other platforms. Each of the platforms discussed below offer different levels of permission-based access and are used by state departments and agencies as well as federal agencies.
List of tools
SharePoint Online is part of the Microsoft Office 365 bundle and helps organizations share and manage content, knowledge, and applications. Users can manage content in SharePoint libraries and lists, and coauthor documents with people inside and outside the user’s organization.
How do I procure SharePoint Online?
This product is part of the Microsoft Office 365 bundle. Contact your IT support staff from California Department of Technology for assistance in procuring Microsoft Office 365.
Tips and tricks
- Define your organization’s security policy for external sharing
- Create separate sites for different audiences (e.g., managers vs. staff)
- Use columns to organize your files instead of folders
- Separate unrelated files into different document libraries
OneDrive for Business
OneDrive is an enterprise-level, cloud-based file storage solution that allows users to easily and securely store and access files in the cloud from multiple devices. OneDrive is included in Microsoft enterprise licensing and can be used as a document collaboration tool, though it is not designed for mass collaboration.
Tips and tricks
- OneDrive is recommended only for individual working files and not as a shared drive
- Share files and folders in OneDrive
- See files you shared in OneDrive
- Folders and Files stored in OneDrive are tied to an individual user account
- Only available while the account that created the files is active
- Move work-related documents that should be available to the larger organization to long-term shared storage such as SharePoint
How do I procure OneDrive?
This product is part of the Microsoft Office 365 bundle. Contact your IT support staff from CDT for assistance in procuring Microsoft Office 365.
Google G Suite includes Gmail, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar, Sites, Contacts, Chat and Meet, Forms, Classroom, and Jamboard for collaboration. Google Drive can be used for personal document storage or, when used by a department, as a shared drive to store documents that employees can access to collaborate with each other on projects or documents. Users can collaborate with internal and external partners in editing a document together, viewing all change history, or giving and receiving feedback via commenting in G Suite.
Tips and tricks
How do I procure G Suite?
G Suite is available through the DGS Software Licensing Program (SLP). Contact your IT support staff for assistance requesting this product.
Box is a cloud-based online content management solution that provides online space for storing or sharing files and collaborating with internal and external stakeholders. It is primarily used to share files among large groups of people. Users can also create workflows, set permissions on the data or files to be shared, take notes, and maintain calendars. Box integrates with Outlook; Box for Office Online supports real-time coauthoring.
Tips and tricks
- Use shared account folders for files that need be accessed/owned by multiple users
- Collaborate on Files through Box
- Search for Files, Folders, and Content in Box
- Integrate Box with your Office suite
- Learn about collaboration with Box
- For more details, refer to Get Started Guide for New Users
How do I procure Box?
Contact your IT support staff for assistance requesting this product. It is not currently available via CALNET or Leveraged Procurement Agreement, but depending on the department’s purchasing authority, it may be purchased using the Fair and Reasonable procurement method or Small Business Option via reseller, based on the acquisition threshold.
State agencies without approved purchasing authority may need to submit a request for a one-time purchase. Please refer to the PD-OTA submittal instructions for more information.
Additional collaboration tools
Besides video conferencing and document collaboration, there are other collaboration tools that can improve communication and effectiveness.
Instant messaging in the workplace offers many benefits. It provides real-time facilitation, expedites question and response times, and enhances productivity by promoting more regular communication. Chat histories provide team members with the ability to review their conversations for record-keeping.
Microsoft Teams is a user-driven, chat-based collaborative tool that provides a customizable and extendable team workspace. It provides an alternative to email communications and integrates seamlessly with Office 365 products.
Slack is a channel-based messaging platform for making communication fast and easy. It lets users share messages and files with a team, organized by channel. Slack integrates with other tools, such as Google Docs, so that users can chat and collaborate on a document simultaneously. Users can easily filter by channel, user, date, and more. Learn more about Slack features.
Google Chat is a team messaging application that is organized into rooms for groups and projects. Users can share Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and Drive files, track project progress and follow up on tasks. Chat makes it easy for teams to get their work done in one place.
Task management tools enable users to list tasks and organize them by status, priority, sequence and department, and can include Kanban boards, Gantt charts, and workflows.
Microsoft Project is designed to assist a project manager develop a schedule, assign resources to tasks, track a progress, manage the budget, and analyze workloads.
Microsoft Planner, for more general use, is a lightweight, mobile, and web-based application that comes with most Office 365 for business subscriptions.
Jira has evolved into a powerful work management tool for all kinds of use cases, from requirements and test case management, to Agile software development. For teams that practice Agile methodologies, Jira Software provides Scrum tools and Kanban boards.
Zoho Projects is an online project management software tool. It leverages Gantt charts to track task progress, monitors any variations, and notifies the project manager to take necessary measures. Users can create personalized fields, add and modify filters, and create workflows to monitor tasks.
If task trackers can help team members keep up with projects once they’ve been launched, whiteboarding has become an increasingly popular way to engage team members in the formative stages of a project, or brainstorm to address challenges that come up along the way. Features included in online virtual collaborative whiteboards can enhance communication among the participants of virtual meetings, training, brainstorming sessions, and workshops. Some of the video conferencing tools mentioned above, such as Zoom, Webex, and GoToMeeting, already include whiteboarding features. Touchscreen and pen are required to fully enjoy the whiteboard features.
Mural is an online collaborative whiteboard tool. It allows teams to collectively generate ideas with sticky notes and move them around the on-screen whiteboard as if participants were in the same room. Users don’t need an account to participate and can access the tool from any browser. Mural generally wouldn’t be used to store records but instead to organize information to drive discussion and idea generation.
Miro similarly tries to reproduce the in-person collaboration experience on an online whiteboard. This tool includes canvas and widgets features and pre-built templates for different exercises, such as user experience design, customer mapping or retrospectives for brainstorming, wireframing, and design sessions.
How do I procure these tools?
- Microsoft Teams and Planner are part of the Microsoft Office 365 bundle. Contact your IT support staff from CDT for assistance.
- Google Chat is included with G Suite, which is available through DGS Software Licensing Program (SLP).
- Zoho is not currently available via CALNET or Leveraged Procurement Agreement, but depending on a department’s purchasing authority, may be purchased using the Fair and Reasonable procurement method or Small Business Option via reseller.
- Microsoft Project is available through DGS’ California Multiple Award Schedules (CMAS).
- Contact your IT support staff for assistance requesting Slack, Jira, Mural, and Miro. These are not currently available via CALNET or Leveraged Procurement Agreement, but depending on a department’s purchasing authority, may be purchased using the Fair and Reasonable procurement method or Small Business Option via reseller.
Before choosing a teleconferencing tool for your organization, it is essential to ensure that it meets the following minimum requirements:
- AES-256 encryption for secure connection
- Control access features including:
- User management
- Set passwords to meetings
- Identify guest participants (lobby/waiting room feature)
- Ability to manually remove and add attendees
- Organizational policy management
- Enables automatic software updates
- Manages file and screen sharing and recordings
Teleconference security tips
- Do not share or advertise your meeting link publicly, unless it is a public meeting
- Set a strong password for all teleconference meetings hosted, and do not reuse passwords.
- Refrain from discussing sensitive topics, or sharing documents with confidential and/or sensitive data.
- Lock the meeting once all attendees have joined, and be sure to verify and remove any unknown participants who dial-in or join before you start the meeting.
- Do not use your personal or other non-state teleconferencing accounts to host work-related meetings.
- Manage screen-sharing options by limiting that ability to only the host, and never allow others to take control of your screen/device without permission from the host.
- Be cautious of what is visible within the camera range and on-screen.
- Take notice if a meeting is being recorded and ensure verbal consent by all parties before recording a meeting.
- Refrain from downloading shared files and/or documents onto personal devices.
Chat messages are subject to California Public Records Act (CPRA) under Government Code (GC) section 6254 unless an exemption from disclosure is obtained. For more security guidance, refer to the Guidance for Securing Video Conferencing from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).
California Department of Technology
California Network and Telecommunications Program (CALNET)
CALNET Customer Service Line: (916) 657-9150
General CALNET Questions: CALNEThelp@state.ca.gov
Comparison of collaboration tools
Videoconferencing tool comparison: Meeting
|Microsoft Teams||Zoom Meeting||WebEx Meeting||GoToMeeting|
|Office 365 Plugin||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile Apps (iOS & Android)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Max meeting participants1||300||500||1,000||3,000|
|In meeting chat||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Share screen and files||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|In meeting file sharing||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Downloadable transcript||via Microsoft Stream||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Annotate / Drawing Tools||Yes2||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Max participants seen on screen||9||49||25||25|
|“ASL interpreter support (multiple pinned screens)||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Meeting lock / Lobby control3||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Dial-in conference line||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Breakout rooms||Create channels as an alternative||Yes||Available via Enterprise plan||Available via GoToTraining|
|Cloud recording storage4||Microsoft Stream includes 500 GB base amount of storage and an additional 0.5 GB per licensed user||1 GB per licensed user for business plan||10 GB per licensed user for business plan||Unlimited, store for one year before auto-deletion|
- Max meeting participants vary depending on the licensing plan.
- Whiteboard/Drawing tools are available with a Microsoft 365 commercial license, coming soon to the Government Community Cloud (GCC). Can use OneNote as a workaround.
- Meeting lock / Lobby control: Add an extra layer of security to your meeting. The participants will have to wait to be let in.
- Cloud recording: Record your meetings in the cloud so you can listen again and share.
Videoconferencing tool comparison: Webinar/ Live Event
|Microsoft Live Event||Zoom Video Webinars||WebEx Events||GoToWebinar|
|Attendance Registration Page||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Max event/webinar participants||10,000||10,000||3000||3,000|
|Allow someone to schedule an event on your behalf||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Attendee join in listen-only mode||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Share screen||Presenter||Presenter||Presenter||Presenter or attendee|
|Downloadable transcript||via Microsoft Stream||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Annotate / Drawing Tools||Yes1||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Built-in polling||via Microsoft Forms||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Max participants seen on screen||9||49||25||25|
|ASL interpreter support (multiple pinned screens)||No||Yes||Yes||No|
|Dial-in conference line for participants||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Moderate Q & A||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Publish event recording||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Live stream webinar or events||via Microsoft Stream||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Video control (pause, rewind)||Yes||Third Party2||Third Party2||Third Party2|
- Whiteboard/Drawing tools are available with Microsoft 365 commercial license, coming soon to Government Community Cloud (GCC). Can use OneNote as a workaround.
- Video control (rewind, pause, fast-forward, etc.) is only available when broadcasting through a third party streaming service (e.g., YouTube).
Document collaboration tool comparison
|SharePoint Online||OneDrive for Business||Box||G Suite|
|Collaborate within the organization||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Collaborate with an external organization||Yes||Not recommended||Yes||Yes|
|Support common file types||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Add comment / feedback||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Tag someone in a document||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Assign tasks to someone||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Integrate with Office 365||Yes||Yes1||Yes||Yes|
|File access permission control||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Revision-based backup of files||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Track change history||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
- Office 365 integration varies depending on the OneDrive for Business Plans.
Instant Message tool comparison
|Microsoft Teams||Slack||G Suite|
|Chat within the organization||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Chat with people outside the organization||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Send files via message||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|File edit collaboration||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Add people into a group chat||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Number of people in a voice or video call from a chat||20||15||25|
|Translate message to different languages||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Mobile app access||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Multiple chat windows||Yes||No||No|
|Single sign-on (SSO)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrate with Microsoft 365||Across all applications1||Outlook, Outlook Calendar, OneDrive||Only Outlook|
- Microsoft Teams integrates with all applications in Microsoft 365.
Task Management tool comparison
|Microsoft Project||Microsoft Planner||Jira||Zoho Projects|
|Web access||Project for the web or Project Online||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Set and update task progress||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Add comments to tasks||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Visualize task status in charts||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|View resource availability||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Support Agile methodology||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Collaborate with external teams||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Reporting||Pre-build reports or via Power BI||Pre-build reports or via Power BI||Yes||Yes|
|Export project data to Excel||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrate with Outlook calendar||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Single sign-on (SSO)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Integrate with Microsoft 365||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
Whiteboarding tool comparison
|Add shapes, text, and sticky notes||Yes||Yes|
|Sticky note capture||Yes||Yes|
|Attach files to a whiteboard for reference||Yes||Yes|
|Comment on content||Yes||Yes|
|Vote on ideas||Yes||Yes|
|Integrate with Microsoft Teams||Yes||Yes|
- Mural needs to be used with video chat tool, e.g., Microsoft Teams, Zoom, etc.