It looks to be a trend, and more and more businesses move their operations remote to offer more flexibility but also to access talents from anywhere in the world.
Is working remotely the new normality?
I started working remotely about 3 years ago, and back then, it was a challenge to deliver successful projects without face to face interaction. Working with innovative entrepreneurs and growing businesses to deliver innovative projects, I tried a lot of tools. Below I made a summary of the tools any remote team needs.
I cannot stress enough the importance of adhering to legal requirements in your business. Make sure that NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements) are in place where appropriate or required, that all employees have the correct licensing and that all contracts are signed legally. HelloSign and DocuSign, for example, are legally recognized software, which allows the electronic signature of documents within minutes.
Gone are the days when you need to wait by the post box to see whether the signed contract has arrived.
These softwares are completely safe and legal to use, so take advantage of them and maximize the efficiency of your work.
The next most important thing is having the proper infrastructure in place. You will need a laptop, smartphone, noise-canceling headsets, a fiber-optic or at least stable internet connection, and 4G connectivity and software licenses. The nature of working remotely means that there are always going to be risks of losing internet connectivity during a significant deployment, so ensure you have a back-up solution, for example, switching to 4G in case of a power cut or intermittent internet coverage.
Run a test at the beginning of your remote-working journey — be prepared for one-two hour Skype calls and continuous use of the internet for research and communication purposes.
As extreme as it may sound, working remotely might mean that you or your team are away from big cities where there might not have access to the latest technologies.
For invoicing, use Project Management, CRM, or an effort-tracking tool. Whatever tool you decide to use to manage tasks, configure the cost in that tool, and send the invoice automatically from within, therefore saving yourself arduous admin work.
In terms of communication, the big decision for me lies between Slack and Skype.
Slack is fantastic because it has channels which can be configured for each project and topic, you can pin or star important information, it integrates with other tools and is neat and tidy.
In a similar way to Slack’s channels, you can make groups on Skype; however, Skype lacks the sleek neatness of Slack. If you decide to use Slack, ensure you organize your channels based on projects, and the tool will do the rest for you!
5. Project Management
There are lots of tools on the market for project management nowadays, which are all very useful, provided they suit your business and purpose.
When selecting a PM tool, list your needs, research the tool and see how it meets your business requirements.
Few of the PM tools I recommend:
- Jira for software development teams
- Bitrix24 for marketing teams
- Basecamp3 for standard projects with a big group of clients (+30 clients)
- Smartsheet for multiple collaborating parties on the same project
- Trello — solopreneur, simple projects
6. Asset Management
It is key that all team members in a project have access to the same information in one place. Having documents stored on different platforms and within different software is very messy, so an asset management tool is required to streamline this process.
You need to have your invoices, images, documents and threads of communication in one central area.
The main players in terms of asset management are GDrive, Dropbox, and Office365. I would recommend that you keep file storage in the same solution as your email, unless you have lots of media, then use Dropbox. GDrive is good if you use Gmail, and there is extended storage available for professionals. If you have security concerns or are working with bigger teams, use Office365. Keep in mind what makes sense for you, and where possible, try to integrate your asset management solution with your email.
Meetings can be challenging to coordinate when working remotely. For internal and external meetings, I would recommend Zoom. It is easy to install, is more stable than Skype (tech-wise) doesn’t use a lot of bandwidth to run, and when you change networks, you remain connected, whereas Skype would disconnect completely, and you would have to start over. Zoom has proved particularly useful for the fact that it allows 45 minutes free usage, which forces you to hold efficient meetings with a clear deadline, meaning that you are finished faster and allowing less time for waffle. I prefer Zoom to Google Hangouts for Business, as the latter requires plugins and can prove to be unreliable at times.
In terms of effort-tracking, a fine balance must be struck between permitting your employees an element of liberty and trust, whilst also ensuring you understand where the costs of the project are going. I tried manual booking with excels, timesheets, accounting applications, Jira, screen capturing tools, etc.
Toggl has proven to be the tool which worked the best for me and my teams because you can track time on tasks, projects, report, and invoice. All in 3 clicks.
Toggl is available as both a free and paid version, web, and mobile application. The paid version allows invoicing and report-running based on team performance. It ensures that invoicing is as integrated as possible within your other tools, making the whole process more efficient.
Automation is a little more difficult to advise on, as it is very industry-specific. Selenium is best for software testing, Buffer for Social Media and MailChimp, Zoho, ClickFunnels for email marketing. Zappier is good for businesses that have a lot of admin work, like downloading and uploading files, and it sets up automation between different systems, saving you time and overheads.
I hope that the tools and processes I have outlined above are useful in helping you to establish a successful remote team.
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