With the new Covid-19 outbreak, working from home has become mandatory, schools have closed, and unnecessary travel has been suspended. This has left us in a new paradigm, one which we should be prepared for and yet are not. Our children have become our new work colleagues, but we can’t afford to become distracted. We have the technology and resourced to do this and yet have never before needed to put this as much into practice as now. Here are the best business tools on the market to help our teams collaborate and project manage remotely.
1. Slack: The best team communication app
Every company I have consulted for uses Slack. It is by far the best communication app for both remote and local corporate communication. Companies like Zapier, Buffer, and Help Scout consider Slack to be their “virtual office” as it is the easiest way for their employees to get instant feedback and connect with colleagues, both on a one-on-one basis and team format. My team and I use Slack to let off steam, brainstorm, ask each other questions, pass files back and forth, get advice, give advice, compare notes on new releases, help with translations (back end jargon to front end user friendly language) and sooo much more. Slack also offers fully native apps for both iOS and Android to give your team extra functionality.
2. Zoom: First-rate video conferencing app around
Zoom is the most reliable easy-to-use webinar and web conferencing apps I have come across to date, and this means a lot. Others I have used came with frustrating technical glitches, frozen video, no sound or simple login problems. The way zoom has been able to overcome these technical difficulties and create a seamless experience will explain its 2,233% growth in 3 years.
Zoom features include:
- Free and paid options
- Whiteboard capability
- Ability to share screens, photos, documents, and cloud content
- Allows for panels of up to 50 participants
- Up to 10,000 attendees
- HD audio and video
- Recordings and transcripts
3. GitHub: Outstanding tool for software development
My tech team are probably better qualified to tell you this than I, but as this has come straight from the dragon’s mouth, I trust them entirely. Hands down the best-known collaborative coding software; it serves the full project cycle, from writing the code to documenting it. So, GitHub includes a much-needed free version control system called a Git. This is a software repository boasting 100 million software projects with 40 million developers hosting their projects and talking “code” with other developers.
The repository is organized around “code branches”. This allows developers to simultaneously work on separate features. Each of these repositories has a default “master” branch. The workflow allows for forking from the master branch (a bug-fix feature). Making necessary changes and merges back to the master branch using a technique called a “pull request” is easy and allows a user to review or comment on each proposed change. Developers can also contribute to open-source repositories owned by other developers making GitHub a “social network for programmers.”
GitHub offers both free and paid plans to users.
4. Trello: Leading project management software
Even with so many project management tools to choose from, it wasn’t hard to pick my favourite for remote work. Trello stands out to us for its ease of use, style, simplicity, and performance. Among the free and paid platforms available it is the most flexible, visual allowing teams of all sizes to organise and manage projects. So how does it work?
The Trello team constantly update you with ways in which you can use lists, boards, and cards to makes it easy to prioritize and organize projects. By way of drag and drop you can move cards around, add and tag team members, write comments, add due dates, use color-coded labels, add attachments, and ensure control over tasks and projects from beginning to end. You are updated whenever an edit or change is made and thus move on to whatever requires your attention.
I just started using it a few years back as my daily to do list and now have over 100 boards. I coordinate my sales team with it, product manage, manage bugs, set OKRs, align teams, create company overview, sprints and email workflows.
5. forMarketer: Champion content marketing software solution
No marketing team, agency or content writer should live without it. Any writing project, whether a small blog post or an extensive technical documentation, must undergo strategy, ideation, creation, editing, approval, publication, promotion and optimisation. So, an essential component of a collaborative software tool for content projects is simplicity of creating, sharing, commenting editing and publishing. Also, important, especially when there are many stakeholders, is workflow and permissions. forMarketer also boasts of a dynamic editorial, published and campaigns calendar to avoid bottle necks and keep track of all published content.
Digital file management is essential for the smooth operation of any business. forMarketer has thought of this too and provide you with a Content Hub where you can upload, import, store and access photos, documents, videos and all file types including published blog posts and ABM.
Remote-first companies will understand the importance this feature as their geographically dispersed employees will be accessing files when other colleagues simply can’t be reached. This tool helps remote marketing teams and freelancers increase their productivity and collaboration. (Due to the Corvid-19 outbreak, forMarketer is providing a 30% discount for all readers).
6. Zapier: Much needed workflow automation for business
I have never really been one to sit up at night over lost notifications, having said that it may be because I really try to automate everything. The minute I find myself doing something overly manual I rush into Zapier and find a way to automate it. Every company, no matter the size, should have workflow automation software and remote teams will have a stronger need for them. This is purely because it is important to over-communicate if you want to get things done efficiently and avoid misinformation. Remote, geographically dispersed teams thus become technology dependant if they want to ensure everyone has the same up-to-date documentation about ongoing projects.
Zappier allows you to connect your preferred apps together by sending data between them automatically; with a zap.
7. Canva: Essential graphic design tool for dummies
Let me start by saying I am no born designer, my brother received that gene and along with-it BAFTAs, Venice TV awards, French Rose D’or and many others that I can only dream of. So, with that said, I need a go-to design tool that is simple, intuitive, and provides me with everything I could possibly imagine, and yes, even finished downloadable templates!
Canva is great graphic design tool with both a free and pro version that will make your visual content look semi decent, even for my brother’s standards. Canva helps you can make unique designs in just a few minutes (unless you are like me and love to go over the millions of ready-made layouts before returning to the first one you saw) and share it with the rest of your team.
Collaborating is also easy with Canva. Designers can share their designs with anyone, and team members can leave their comments and ideas before downloading your finished version.
8. Timezone Converter: The timezone converter distributed teams can rely on
This is an online URL that instantly converts the times as you type. It converts between your location and another, major world cities, countries and time-zones in both directions.
Why is this important? If you are anything like me your team is based in different time zones and trying to coordinate your time, meetings, emails, updates and general work to boost productivity requires adding and subtracting time zones. So, it is important that your team is using a quick and easy way to understand when it’s possible to communicate and collaborate while working across different time zones.
9. LastPass: The password manager you can’t live without
I hate passwords, I’ve tried to replace them with fingerprint access, face recognition and automatic sign in, but somehow, I still can’t get away from them. I’m not supposed to write them down, nor repeat any in other platforms and I have to ensure that I do what I can to avoid them from getting stolen. Sites and services are at risk of breaches as much as I am to phishing attacks that try to trick me into turning over my password.
Most of us are aware of this and can’t help but use very weak passwords. Remote team collaboration requires sharing access to the same tools. It’s not safe to manually store your passwords in a spreadsheet anymore. So, how are you supposed to use strong, unique passwords on all the websites you use and share? The solution is a password manager.
LastPass stores your login information for all the websites you use and helps you log into them automatically. It encrypts your password database with a master password (only one you do have to remember). This is a cloud-based password manager with extensions, mobile apps, and even desktop apps for all the browsers and operating systems you could want. It’s extremely powerful and even offers a variety of two-factor authentication options so, you can ensure no one else can log into your password vault. The main difference I have found between LastPass and other is that its free package allows for multiple devices and users.
10. WeTransfer : Send large files around the world
Need to send a large file to a colleague and you email provider won’t support the file size?
WeTransfer is your best and quickest solution. Free for all files up to 2GB, it’s a simple drag and drop, insert destination email, perhaps a simple message and bobs your uncle! Your receiver has 30 days to download the file, you are both sent reminder emails and you can use the service as many times as you wish. Now how easy is that.
11. Time Doctor: Smart employee time tracking software
Out of all of the business tools mentioned herein, perhaps this tool is the only one aimed at slightly larger companies and it is important that it is used for the right reasons. Time Doctor is a feature rich app and will help you understand exactly how long it takes for a task or project to get completed. It creates complete transparency between remote team members, outsourced workers, and freelancers so everyone knows who is working on a given project at any given time. Just as you would if you were sitting next to each other at the office.
The idea is to help you and your remote team reach deadlines as you’ll have a better understanding of when a project will be completed, where the bottleneck is, and what is required to move things forward.
Time Doctor integrates with many other Aps your company may already be using such as Asana, Basecamp, GitHub, Salesforce, Teamwork, Trello, Zendesk, etc. This makes it easy to track the distribution of working hours as well as individual accountability.
This brings me on to the importance of knowing when to stop. If you are anything like me then you are one of those people that when you are in deep work, you are quite capable of losing track of the time and sitting at your desks for hours on end. In my case it’s not until I realise I have a sudden headache, or my leg has gone to sleep that I realise that it’s time for me to pull away.
There are several apps on the market that I use to force me to get away from my desk and actually move throughout the day. The first one is free and comes with my phone, it’s my alarm clock. I use it to break my work time into 45-minute chunks with 5-minute breaks to stand up. Headspace is awesome for anyone that has trouble disconnecting. It’s my favourite guided meditation app that helps you clear your head and get back to work with renewed focus.
With reaching 120,000 reported cases of Covid-19 in 114 countries, and a global death roll passing 4,000 it is important that we start coordinating ourselves to be efficient from home. Both local and global economies depend on our ability to adapt to crisis and new situations. Covid-19 will mark a pre and post remote work and collaboration era. It is important that businesses don’t react by cutting off budgets but adapt by helping all employees cover expenses for setting up home offices. This includes budget for any necessary team collaboration software tools that will help us lift up and coming out stronger, together as a nation.