Wherever you work, modern companies rely on technology to support their development. Even teammates sitting next to each other in an office prefer to chat via instant messaging and utilize project management software to organize their projects as opposed to hashing it out on a notepad. These tools allow us to be better organized, to be more productive, and to keep everyone on the team up to date. They also support distributed teams and allow us to regularly interact and feel connected with our teammates regardless of geographic location or time zone.
As a development firm, we use a lot of tools across departments. From the more well known collaboration tools like Jira, Trello and Slack to some lesser known options like Metatask or Roadmunk, we are always trying new tools to see what works best for our team. But when you’re just getting started, we suggest you create a core tool kit to serve as the foundation for your remote team.
Follow this 3-step process to build a project management toolkit that supports communication, collaboration, and organization within your remote team.
Step 1: Develop your core toolkit
Communication can be a huge challenge for teams, period. Plus, when your team isn’t all in the same office, you need to approach your communication approach a little differently. Laying the groundwork for regular team interaction is key. Whether it’s the ability to chat, having face-to-face team meetings, keeping team members accountable, or tracking project process — equipping your team the the tools to facilitate these basic interactions is a great place to start.Here are some of our favorite tools we use each day with our team:
- Jira: Like many software teams, our development teams utilize Jira for backlog, sprint planning and roadmapping. It’s great for companies like ours who are dedicated to working under agile frameworks. From task delegation to communication back and forth on specific tickets, Jira helps us ensure everyone stays on the same page.
- Slack: Right now, Slack is our communication tool of choice. We love it because its a simple format that keeps our team in contact without creating lots of emails. It’s useful for casual open-team chatting (this is where many of our team members really get to know each other!), one on one conversations, or project/department specific communications. With its robust integration capabilities, we have been able to customize slack to fit our exact needs.
- Trello: Many of our teams (especially our business departments) use Trello for project management. It helps us plan content and social media and track business development goals and activities. (It’s not always the best for more granular task management, but we make use of Google docs to fill in the gaps.)
- Zoom: Zoom is used by our global squad for both client and internal team meetings. Not only is it easy to use, we’ve found it to be one of the best and most reliable video and web conferencing platforms out there.
Your core toolkit is an important aspect of establishing the company processes. And the more you use these core tools, the more you will have repeatable methods for their use that can be replicated by any team member, anywhere.
Step 2: Don’t be afraid to try new tools
Honestly, finding the right tools is tough. Nothing is ever perfect and let’s face it, as company leaders we are always working to improve our businesses. What works for one department may be different for another. But the good new is tach person on your team is an opportunity for you to understand more about what works and what doesn’t for your company. It’s important to always keep an open mind to new iterations on your current toolkit. Things can shift quickly and a tool or platform that worked well for your team six months ago may not be so effective today.Don’t worry if that new tool you thought would be perfect turns out to be a failure, trial and error is the name of the game. There are so many tools out there and the best way to figure out what works for your organization is to try them out and move on quickly if it doesn’t work.If you have tried many different tools but are still struggling to find an existing solution that fits your needs, consider building a custom tool. But, as our CEO, Joe Gardner, said in his article on how to utilize communication to grow your business: “You don’t need to reinvent the wheel to improve.”
Step 3: Communicate the core tool kit to your team.
Once you’ve chosen your core tools, it’s up to you to kick-start the use of them. Don’t forget to schedule some time to present them to your current team. Let them know why you chose each one and how you envision them being used. This may seem obvious, but it will go a long way in getting your team engaged and interested in collaborating with their fellow co-workers. Encourage feedback from your teammates and always support new suggestions. Last, be sure to add a core toolkit introduction to your company onboarding process.
If you have any project management or communication tools you can’t live without, let us know. We are always trying to improve our communication and love trying new things :)