It’s time to talk tools! No company can go without the basic communication apps, collaboration tools, and other types of software required for daily work. However, co-located teams aren’t so dependent on some of these, like distributed teams are. And it makes perfect sense. After all, in order for anything to work in a remote company, teams must rely on the tools to communicate, collaborate, create, etc.
A recent survey about remote companies found that 71.7% teams use between 2 and 5 tools to work together. At the same time, 22.2% are using between 6 and 10, while only 6.7% use more than 10 tools.
Today we’ll see why cloud-based software is important and beneficial in remote teams, additionally we’ll talk about different software categories and suggest some options in each of them.
Benefits of Cloud-Based Software
Cloud-based software is the software you don’t need to install in order to use it. Your email client is cloud-based, Workpuls dashboard is cloud-based. These tools are practical because you can access them from anywhere in the world - all you need is a computer, and an internet connection.
Cloud software is usually much less expensive than the regular software. Take for example design tools. You must pay hundreds of dollars per year for licences for Adobe package, but you can get a tool online (like Figma) for as low as $12 per month per employee.
Increased collaboration is another great benefit of cloud software. More people can access one file at the same time and collaborate seamlessly across platforms. You can freely share the documents with third parties, including clients, and contractors.
Data protection is the most crucial part of you business continuity plan, and when you store data on the cloud, you can rest assured you’ll be able to access the data no matter what happens at your main location.
And last but not the least, your scaling options will be much more flexible when you’re using cloud-based software. You won’t have to purchase expensive updates, or have an IT professional install them. If your team grows, or if the number of people on your team decreases, you can quickly change the number of licences you’re paying for.
Communication and Meetings
Remote teams succeed thanks to communication, which is why these are the first tools you should acquire. Be thoughtful about your choice, since you’ll be using these tools each day. Make sure you select a tool which can work across different operating systems, and also the one whose downtime is at a minimum level.
Today, most companies opt for Slack. They have a free version of the software, so it’s perfect for businesses who are just starting out. However, if your company is already using the Microsoft Suite, you’re equipped with Skype for Business, so maybe it's unnecessary to purchase another tool. Both tools have their pros and cons, so it might be best to test them out.
On the other hand, you must also handle external communication with clients, contractors, etc. There must be a way for leads to contact you if they have any questions about your product or services. What is more, you must also have some kind of a support line for them. You can try using Intercom, or Drift. Both of these are essentially chat tools, with built in bots, and they are a great way to answer some of the most common questions for your customers.
Tools like Zendesk make it easy to keep your customers happy with the stellar support you’re providing. And it’s great because the data is centralized, so any of your support agents can takeover a case without having to ask too many questions to their colleagues. It also allows you to communicate across channels from one place, so it’s super convenient.
To organize virtual meetings, or conference calls, we suggest you use Zoom. It also has a freemium package which will be more than enough for you if you’re just starting a business. But you can use it for internal meetings, client calls, presentations, etc.
Time Management and Employee Control
Time management and employee control are especially important in the remote environment. This doesn’t mean that you’re creating an atmosphere of distrust among your team. It’s just an easier way to manage everyone’s workload and time.
For example, you can use Workpuls for your remote team if you’re looking to ensure they’re handling the tasks they were given properly, but also if you or your clients need proof of work of any kind. Another amazing detail about remote employee monitoring is that your employees can use it only when they’re working for you, so you’re not invading their privacy. Additionally, this is a way for you to ensure workers are following all security procedures you’ve created.
Remote workers probably have more time management issues than office workers, even though their productivity levels are usually higher. With proper time management tools, and access to collected data, your employees can see how they spend their working hours. Given that apps and websites are categorized as productive, unproductive and neutral, it’s simple to see what are the best ways to reorganize time to make the best out of it.
At any point, your remote employees with have an overview of all projects and tasks they’re working on, so you can also use Workpuls as a task management tool, but we’ll discuss this type of software in the next section.
Paper to-do lists aren’t cutting it anymore for most employees around the world. This is especially true in remote teams, since no one is able to keep track of each other tasks. If you’re running a remote team, you must use a tool like Asana or Trello. Within them, you can create different boards, projects, tasks, and assign them to different employees.
Most of these tools will allow you to set up a due date, to create checklists or subtasks, as well as to add attachments and comment on the task progress. Depending on the project management methodology you’re using, you can find a tool to fit that. For example, Trello is perfect for teams using the Kanban method.
In any case, you should definitely test out a few different software options to see which one is the most suitable for your team. Most of them have the same options, but there might be some features or integrations you’ll need to use on a daily basis.
Cloud collaboration and storage tools are something you can’t do without. Depending on your preferences you can opt in for one of the two most popular options: MS Office online, or G Suite. Both of them have cloud storage, text editing platforms, sheets, presentation tools, etc. They are handy because multiple people can edit them at the same time, but you can also export them and save them in the appropriate format.
We already spoke about the importance of cloud-based software in the beginning of this article, so it’s not necessary to repeat the same thing.
Depending on your industry, there’s a variety of software options your team might need. Your marketing and sales department will probably use Facebook for Business, Hubspot, Hootsuite, Buffer, or other suitable tools.
On the other hand, your remote designers will definitely benefit from a tool like Figma, where they can create and share website pages, blog illustrations, social media designs, as well as UX/UI elements.
If you are in the insurance industry, think about the software your team is using and try to find the most suitable cloud-based alternatives. It’s the best way to ensure teams can collaborate, work with each other and achieve every goal you set.
As you’ve already seen, a transition from collocated to remote team won’t be easy, but these tools were created to make the process as smooth as possible. But, you should keep in mind that tools aren’t everything, and that you should dedicate the time to create policies, procedures, and maintain your company’s culture throughout this transition.
This article was originally written by Gina Ora on May 30th, 2016. It was updated by Bojana Djordjevic on January 6th, 2020.