Working remotely is becoming increasingly accepted and more widespread these days. The tools that enable us to communicate from a cloud based environment have grown more and more prevalent and with so many options available, it can seem overwhelming at times. At Culture Pilot we migrated to a full-time cloud based agency in 2014 and since leaving our brick and mortar behind, we’re continually testing a vast number of online collaboration tools. Here, we’ve collected a few of our top foundational picks that can help any team work efficiently… from anywhere.
The tools from Google are without a doubt the core building of communication. From email to collaborative documents, spreadsheets and forms. Our favorite is Google Hangouts which allows anyone to jump into a virtual meeting instantly. And be it a quick regroup or a multiple-hour long conversation it can be extremely productive with built in screen sharing, chat and voice-only calls too. Gmail can be fully customized and branded for your company’s email, and with the help of Google Drive everyone on your team (or even outside your team) can have specific, access-controlled options for storing and sharing files.
Overall, G-suite can save your organization lot of time when multiple team members take advantage of the co-editable tools like Docs, Sheets and Slides. The best part? They all come with built in backups / version control too so you never have to worry about accidentally losing files or information.
There are a lot of tools out there but Trello is the one that provides ease of mind when it comes to project management. Trello is our favorite virtual office whiteboard. While traditional sticky notes tend to fall over time, they will always stick on Trello. This handy platform comes with so many useful features that can be customized for nearly any team, in any industry. It is also one of the easiest-to-use tools out there with seamless drag and drop functionality and a very responsive, self-explanatory user-interface. You can use Trello to organize a project, assign tasks, set deadlines, create checklists and even upload related files or images. Your team members can vote on projects or questions, and even switch to a built-in calendar mode to stay on top of milestones. Last but not least, the Trello Team has a great company culture and writes some pretty amazing newsletters and blog posts too. With all the options and integrations, it’s hard to imagine managing workflow without this extensive tool.
While one might miss having some of those water cooler conversations in real life, it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to have some fun-chit-chatty or serious moments when needed. Slack is a robust category-based chat utility that comes as close as possible to the feeling that your teams are always together.
Have a quick question or need to share something quickly to get those other sets of eyes? This is where Slack can save the day. It’s the perfect tool for managing prompt, internal communication. Over the years, Slack has helped our inboxes stay closer to zero since most chat communication can now be easily, and quickly handled without the need for additional email. Need to take it one step further? Slack can be used direct with clients too, thanks to built in access/administrative privileges. It can be integrated into nearly any organization for real-time interoffice communication so should a project or client need to utilize their own Slack, it takes just minutes to get setup and running.
Additional features include drag-and-drop functionality which makes file sharing quick and easy, and similar in spirit to social media, the “@” mention functionality comes very handy when looking for specific attention from particular member of a team. Our favourite feature? The integrations. There are countless tools that can be seamlessly integrated and accessed from directly within Slack such as Google Hangouts in which, once integrated, one can easily start a video conference without even leaving the chat. Slack is a perfect tool to help your organization feel close together.
While we primarily use Google Hangouts for our virtual face-to-face meetings sometimes we take advantage of Zoom as well. It accels at larger meetings with a gallery view feature which helps navigating an extensive amount of participants. Zoom delivers high definition audio and video, and even comes with the ability to host live webinars to an even larger audience.
While this might be considered less exciting on first glance, this tool is a lifesaver when it comes to time management for finances. Whether you are an employee, a contractor or a managing director, Freshbooks makes it easy to track time, send invoices, track expenses, and get paid online too. Invoicing clients and managing staff hours internally has never been easier. Just start a timer or log hours when a task is completed, and boom, you’re ready to stay on on top of projects and expenses. And with Freshbooks’ great company culture shining through, this tool makes somewhat ordinary tasks, just a little more fun.
Last but not least the need for an agile team is inevitable when making the transition to cloud-based organization. Commitment and diligence are both important factors when building effective cloud-based communications and as with many things, it is hard to expect results overnight. By incorporating some of the tools mentioned above, you can quickly see how effective a team can be no matter near or far. And you can rest assured that all these tools continue to grow, improve and come with great support.
Working seamlessly without physical headquarters has never been easier thanks to the many options among cloud-based tools available today. All of these platforms come highly recommended by the team at Culture Pilot but we encourage setting aside a little time to test and deploy what works best for you. Things evolve quickly, and everyone’s needs and goals may differ but we believe the above tools can be foundational for nearly any organization’s success. We can’t wait to see what the future brings, and we can’t wait to hear what tools you’re using for your team’s success. See you in the cloud!