Top 5 Collaboration Tools for Managing a Remote Team

The vast number of online tools and systems these days make it more and more possible for compa­nies to intro­duce remote working possi­bi­li­ties. If you are a remote worker or mana­ging remote workers, you are going to want to equip yourself with the best tools to increase produc­ti­vity. However with so many tools out there, it is easy to feel over­whelmed and unsure which ones are really required.
Below we take a look at the top 5 colla­bo­ra­tion tools for mana­ging a remote team, which we recom­mend from our point of view as a soft­ware company. Clearly, Mikogo is one of the tools we recom­mend. But as regular Mikogo readers, you already know about our soft­ware. Mikogo covers screen sharing, VoIP and other online meeting features. So below we will look at soft­ware tools that offer other valu­able func­tions when working in a remote team. I haven’t gone into too much detail about what every tool does. If I did that, I could write a sepa­rate blog post on each! Instead I will just high­light the core func­tio­n­a­li­ties, how they benefit us, and how they could benefit your remote team.

1. Doodle

If like here at Mikogo, your remote team members are spread out over multiple cities or coun­tries, sche­du­ling a meeting or confe­rence call gets diffi­cult when ever­yone has diffe­rent sche­dules and appoint­ments. It can get even more confu­sing when dealing with diffe­rent time zones. Luckily there is a very easy, but very valu­able, tool to help you with this: Doodle. Doodle will save you from multiple emails back and forth between each team member while you try to find a time that suits everyone.

Say you wish to sche­dule a Mikogo meeting with your remote team but not sure when ever­yone is avail­able. With Doodle, you can create an event and mark down the days and times which you propose to host your Mikogo meeting. You invite your team­mates to your Doodle event by sending a link to a poll. They open the link and enter their input into the poll by ticking the days/times which they are free. Once ever­yone has entered their input into your poll, you will find a few times that suit ever­yone and you now know the best time to host your next online meeting. It also takes the time zone diffe­rences into account via the “switch on time-zone support” function.

Email remin­ders from Doodle can be sent to parti­ci­pants who have not responded to your poll and you can also receive noti­fi­ca­tions which track who has replied and who has not. Of course, Doodle is also good when dealing with busi­ness asso­ciates, part­ners or clients who you are looking to sche­dule a meeting with.

2. Dropbox

One thing is for sure, a remote team needs an online file hosting system which all employees can access. Dropbox is our pick and has been inte­gral in how we store multiple folders of large files in the cloud for any of our team members to access. While it serves as a great tool to store and access completed files when needed (e.g. Mikogo user guides, case studies, etc.), it is also a great way for remote teams to work on current project files where multiple employees need to work on the files at diffe­rent times.

It also serves as an easy way to send folders or files to others. Just right-click on the file and select “Share Dropbox link”. A down­load link will be copied to your clip­board which you can send to others. The reci­pi­ents can then down­load the files from your Dropbox.

One quick tip, look out for dupli­cate files on your Dropbox where one file includes one of your remote team member’s names, the text “conflicted copy”, and a date in the file­name. This has occurred to us occa­sio­nally and means that two people have opened and updated the same file at the same time. Dropbox won’t merge the files but will instead make a copy so the sepa­rate changes are saved sepa­r­ately in the two files.

Share Dropbox link

3. JIRA

Provided by Atlas­sian, JIRA is an issue and task tracking product which serves perfectly as our choice of project manage­ment systems for soft­ware compa­nies. It allows us to keep track of all our major projects and related tasks, helping us keep track and stay on top of all our past, current and future work.

When a team member creates a new task or leaves a comment on a task, they can mention you (using @) which will prompt a JIRA email alert to your inbox – great way to keep informed on the progress by those in your remote team. You can see all tasks assi­gned to you and the recent acti­vity of your fellow remote team­mates via the dash­board. Under “Issues” you can search for any issue based on its current status, project, issue type and assignee.

While on first glance this may seem only appro­priate to the soft­ware deve­lo­pers in our team working on the Mikogo product, it is funda­mental for multiple depart­ments. We use it to keep track of projects and tasks related to our website, as well as sales and marke­ting projects. It also provides a great way for Manage­ment to follow our progress, prio­ri­tize projects and leave feed­back for any or all remote team members.

You can also link your JIRA system with Conflu­ence. This is another product from Atlas­sian for team colla­bo­ra­tion which we use for wikis and file manage­ment. The wiki pages are great for writing up new know-how and sharing with team members. Conflu­ence pages can then be linked from any JIRA issue page. The dev team also uses Conflu­ence to create their sprint plan­ning boards later used in SCRUM meetings. Its file manage­ment system has a handy func­tion for storing and editing Office docu­ments, while keeping and tracking past versions. This over­comes the problem I mentioned with Dropbox about “conflicted copies”.

JIRA Task

4. Salesforce

With more than 1 million regis­tered users plus over 3,000 busi­nesses using Mikogo, we would have a lot of trouble keeping track of our custo­mers without a reli­able CRM system. Since our early days as a company, we have opted for Sales­force, the pioneer of the SaaS busi­ness model and one of the biggest names in CRM today. Sales­force allows us to main­tain details of our custo­mers and prospects in one place, which our sales and support teams can access remotely.

Our sales manager gets an over­view of all of her reps, their custo­mers, their leads, and their contact history. We have tailored it to match our needs and target groups e.g. we have included custom fields for the exact indus­tries of our custo­mers, their preferred commu­ni­ca­tion language, and their time zone.

All email commu­ni­ca­tion with custo­mers can very easily be logged in Sales­force. When a customer emails us, or we email them, we can simul­ta­ne­ously send a copy of the email to our Sales­force system. Why is this so good for a remote team? Say you have a customer on the phone who has some ques­tions or issues with their account. Normally one of your remote sales reps is respon­sible for that customer, but they’re not avail­able at the moment. From within Sales­force, you can access that customer’s account, see a record of the email commu­ni­ca­tion between your customer and your sales rep, and even create a new task for your rep to follow up with the customer next week.

Sales­force has part­nered with many other online compa­nies to provide great inte­gra­tions right in the Sales­force inter­face. For example, you can inte­grate Sales­force with your email auto­ma­tion system, email marke­ting system, project manage­ment systems, docu­ment manage­ment systems, social media plat­forms, and even our internal databases.

5. Small Improvements

Small Impro­ve­ments is an online HR and perfor­mance manage­ment system. Again this is a SaaS solu­tion and provides a one-stop place for you and your remote workers to set up indi­vi­dual objec­tives and receive perfor­mance reviews, as well as 360 degree feedback.

As a remote team worker you can set up your own objec­tives in your Small Impro­ve­ments account. It’s important to keep on top of these and make sure you update the objec­tives regu­larly so your fellow team members/manager is kept abreast of your work. Your manager gets an over­view of these and can track the progress of the remote workers. Mana­gers can also send their remote workers requests for feed­back on current objec­tives or use the “praise” func­tion to send them posi­tive feed­back. When it comes to a perfor­mance review, the remote worker completes a self-assess­ment and awaits our manager’s assess­ment in reply.

It’s up to you how often you complete such assess­ments and perfor­mance reviews. You could do it annu­ally or monthly. We have opted for quar­terly reviews.

You can even inte­grate Small Impro­ve­ments with other 3rd party appli­ca­tions. For the Mikogo Team, the inte­gra­tion of the Small Impro­ve­ments system with our task manage­ment and wiki system, Conflu­ence, is ideal. Thanks to this inte­gra­tion, work completed in Conflu­ence by remote workers can be taken directly into account in the perfor­mance reviews completed in Small Impro­ve­ments. When writing a perfor­mance review for a remote team­mate, the manager can access their objec­tives, goals, and even the work they completed in Conflu­ence. This is much easier for the manager to get a complete over­view of the remote worker’s recent work, rather than having to switch conti­nu­ally between diffe­rent online systems. Further­more feed­back provided in Small Impro­ve­ments can be synced and appear in our Conflu­ence system for team members to see.

Small Improvements Objectives

Discus­sion: those were only five colla­bo­ra­tion tools which we use but there are plenty more out there. As a remote worker, which tool do you rely on to get your work done remo­tely? Feel free to share in a comment below.

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