Managing teams effectively online has become the hallmark of many smoothly-run tech and creative agencies. But it’s not just cutting-edge digital agencies who are playing the virtual game…
Remote working tools are increasingly common in a variety of workplaces, from schools to retail; and their popularity is only set to increase. One of the key advantages of virtual tools is that they allow for more collaboration across teams.
But virtual teams aren’t without their challenges. Virtual communication may never replace the tangible, physical world: the importance of a handshake or a well-timed cup of coffee. It’s all about using virtual teams in a way that complements business realities. Sometimes, you will still need to pick up the phone.
Managing your workflow online can be an asset to your business. Virtual tools will help you keep your team functioning effectively, and you’ll see the benefits offline as well. If you’re unsure, you might want to consider some virtual team training to get you started. Here are the most popular virtual tools you’ll come across:
Skype is a ubiquitous communication tool and has allowed many businesses to expand to global markets. Skype was an early pioneer in the video conferencing market, and was purchased by Microsoft in 2011 for $8.5bn, replacing Microsoft Lync. Skype has practically become synonymous with video calling itself. After recent updates, Skype now includes a host of useful features for managing teams:
- Group text chat
- Group video chat
- File transfers
- Screen sharing
- Mobile support
- Microsoft Office integration
- Offline number integration
Basecamp’s success is down to its simple design and its speed; it is particularly useful for managing conversations and group chats. Similar to a bulletin board in design, it is organised by projects and conversations. Basecamp also has a handy attachments feature, where users can comment and collaborate on work. Basecamp is a useful tool for managing virtual teams of ‘knowledge work’ or client services. It does have some limitations, such as its incompatibility with emails’ rich text features. To overcome this, Basecamp has now added an ‘email in message’ feature. Check out Basecamp’s interesting case studies to learn more. Some key features:
- Forum style chat
- Client / restricted access
- Fast and fluid design
- Priced per project, not user
- Task management
- Online calendars
Google Drive dominates the cloud document market. Due to its widespread usage and competitive pricing, it is a good choice for managing your files online. It is fast, stable and Google is unlikely to lose your precious data any time soon – although they may take a peek at it.
- Gmail and Google Apps integration
- Powerful search features (obviously!)
- Free photo storage
- Free Google docs, Sheets and Slides
- Advanced collaboration tools
If you’re looking for full Microsoft Office integration then check out Microsoft Office 365.
Trello has become a big name in tech and creative industries. It is a mash-up of many types of cloud tools. It is built on a ‘boards and cards’ system. Each card can hold conversations, files, tasks and much more. Cards can be or categorized by type and dragged through milestones in the spirit of streamlined Japanese Kanban Project Management. It’s free to use, but offers more advanced premium features.
- Unlimited users
- Google Drive, Dropbox and OneDrive integration
- Checklists, labels and deadlines
- Email in addresses
Social networking has become a feature in our personal lives but what about at work? Whilst many employers are aiming to lock-down on social networks for productivity purposes, Yammer (Microsoft) aims to bring social networking to the office. Yammer is a closed environment that integrates with Microsoft Exchange and Active Directory to provide a place for teams to interact safely. Virtual workers miss the off-topic interactions that you experience in a traditional team, congregating at the water cooler or on the way to the kitchen. Yammer can give your employees the chance to chat, without adding noise to projects.
- Used by 85% of Fortune 500 companies
- Integration with the Microsoft Eco System
If your organization charges on time, it is important to track project-cost so that you can fulfil objectives on budget. Many of the tools above have time-tracking capabilities, but if you are looking for a dedicated solution, Toggl is your choice. It has a simple interface and many time-saving features such as auto-complete. You can store time against projects and monitor everybody’s time usage throughout the week. The data visualization tools means you can easily spot areas of concern, and even make forecasting decisions.
- Simple timer and manual entry
- Data visualization tools
- Project facilities
- Team facilities
- Mobile app available
- Export to CSV