Whether you have employees working from home some of the time or full time, or just want to streamline your in-office collaboration and communication, these tools are great for improving efficiency in interactions and tracking progress. They might even give you the confidence you need to implement a work from home policy.
All these tools are web and mobile based, ensuring your communication and documents can be accessed from anywhere or on the go with mobile. We constantly try out new tools to find what works best for us. Agencies of different sizes and make-up can pick and choose which tools might work best for their situation.
- Google Docs
Google Docs is hands down the best way to share and collaborate on documents. With real-time editing, commenting, and adding suggestions, it’s easy to track who made which changes and keep up with the latest version. Gone are the days of sending a document for review, only to have 5 people making the same edits, replying all with new versions and no way of keeping track of each edit or which is the most up to date.
Slack feels like an instant messenger platform but with more features, greater organization and even attachments. It works as an alternative to email, where all conversations about each topic have their own channel. Many of our team’s previous email conversations have now moved to Slack. Less formal conversation and quicker responses make it more efficient than email, and the channel history is searchable, so you won’t have to hoard emails anymore. The basic version is free and the app can be downloaded on multiple devices, so you can view channels and respond from mobile.
- Office 365
Office 365 takes your Microsoft programs mobile and all your data remains secure. We use OneDrive as a central document repository and for document sharing of Word and Excel files. Office 365 Sharepoint is great for managing the team’s vacation calendar and upcoming events. We can access documents and Outlook email from anywhere by logging in, even when not connected to the internal network.
- Microsoft Teams
For video conferencing, we like Microsoft Teams. One downfall of working remotely is the lack of face to face contact with your team. After trying a few services, Microsoft Teams seems to have the best call quality for us. Multiple people can quickly and easily join on a call. For our remote employees, daily video calls have been crucial to keeping the team together and ensuring projects and conversations are understood, and nobody’s ideas are left out. There’s a chat feature on Teams similar to Slack, but we found Slack to be more efficient.
This is a great free tool to manage projects. The Trello dashboard provides a snapshot of everything an individual or team is working on. Projects can be prioritized and organized. You can set tasks within a project and check them off as completed, as well as set due dates, color code, add attachments and members. We have weekly meetings dedicated to reviewing our Trello projects and ensuring the right people are working on the right projects. These meetings have helped us get the greatest benefit from Trello.
- Pivotal Tracker
Our IT team uses agile techniques to develop software and web-based applications. Pivotal Tracker is a great tool because it coincides with agile techniques for tracking sprints and managing projects. At any point in time, any of us can go into Pivotal Tracker and see what everyone is working on and what they're going to be working on next. It lets us organize priorities and keep notes on a feature story all in one place. It also manages the process of the different stages of a story through testing and release. And again, there is also a corresponding mobile app.
- Double Robot
The majority of my team works from the Houston office, a few are remote workers in several other cities, and I work out of my home in Seattle. I can keep a presence in our main Houston office with the latest addition to our suite of tools: the Double Robot, from Double Robotics. The robot can be activated and controlled from anywhere. When I log in, the robot shows my face on a mounted iPad. I can roam the halls of the office, visiting coworkers to have impromptu conversations, and I can schedule meetings and show up “in person”.
There's extra effort that goes into managing a team from remotely, and managing remote workers, but it’s likely the effort in making sure things are organized and tracked properly might not be done if everyone were all in the same office. By using these tools we’re able to put together a better team and bring on the best employees by opening up our search geographically, and even to good workers in need of flexible schedules.