Suddenly everything is supposed to work – especially also Home Office. Teams have to work “remotely” using digital tools. The offices are empty, the highways are clear. In addition to whether the infrastructure of the organization is even designed to allow so many people to work from home, teams face the challenge of having to organize and manage themselves. One aspect of this is deciding which tools can be used now to get back into the productive mode as quickly as possible. One thing in advance: The tool question is of course not the only factor that determines whether the collaboration is successful. But it does contribute to giving employees orientation and support.
This article aims to put together a few essential tools. It is not about the completeness or a determined examination of the advantages and disadvantages of individual tools, but rather about providing a few ideas.
Prudence creates speed – providing an overview
Even if the question of the right tools is urgent, time should be taken to answer basic questions about the ecosystem to be created ad hoc:
- What do we need as a team to work together and control ourselves?
- What do we need to coordinate, exchange and synchronize with each other in a goal-oriented way?
- What tools does each of us need to do our daily work? Which ones are relevant for the team, which ones as extensions for individual team members?
The focus should be on basic functionalities rather than on the potentially available possibilities. You probably want to get up and running quickly, and your team may not have time to learn the basic functionality of new tools.
The first step should therefore be to gather the requirements. Don’t forget to involve your employees. This will give you an overview, and you can develop an idea of what your new ecosystem of tools could look like. Dare to prioritize!
What should be the primary digital tool?
Assume that you cannot map all requirements in one tool. It may therefore be useful to identify a primary tool that is supplemented by others. The primary tool is then the starting point when new tools need to be integrated and should be positioned as the central channel, for example, through which important announcements are made. This creates orientation.
Possible criteria for the primary tool:
- Should the focus be on the control of tasks and their transparency?
- Or is it the simple fast communication?
- Or is it the organization of projects?
- Is the focus on teams or projects?
- What is the relevance of working jointly and simultaneously on documents?
From my perspective the following tools are suitable as primary tools:
Asana is essentially a project management tool. However, it goes far beyond the typical tools because it helps teams to achieve transparency: Who is doing what by when to achieve the goals. But it can also be used for strategic planning (e.g. through an available OKR template) and its implementation. Through some communication functions, Asana thus enables the exchange by the project participants. Asana is structured around the organization and teams, which offers some advantages for line organizations.
If you want to get an overview of the functions: https://asana.com/de/features
The combination of Jira Software and Confluence is the combination of collaboration and project management tools. With a variety of templates (e.g. for OKRs, documentation of decisions, and retrospectives) you can get started relatively quickly. Especially the transparency and the opportunity to work together on documents makes it possible to work efficiently. The direct communication between employees (chat, e-mail, video call, or similar) is not the focus here.
Microsoft Teams moves a different focus into the center of attention. Teamwork is organized around communication possibilities: chat, video conferencing, and virtual collaboration. Especially those who work a lot with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint will find a good way to realize this together in real-time. However, this means that the focus is less on organizing and managing teams. On the one hand, there are some applications (e.g. Planner) in the Office 365 world or one uses the integration of other tools.
With Slack, everything revolves around easy communication in teams. Slack offers a good possibility to structure communication – be it in teams or project-related or to send messages directly to team members. With a well-thought-out structure, employees can exchange information quickly and create transparency in the team. Due to the possibility of integrating many tools, Slack is certainly suitable as a primary tool.
Mastering the daily work routine – Organization & transparency
One challenge of remote teams is the organization of tasks and their transparency. If you are not already working with Jira, where kanban boards or sprint boards can be created, there are plenty of other tools that can be used for this purpose. Two of them are:
A simple and intuitive tool for structuring tasks that enable a high degree of transparency in the team. As a template or for inspiration, several templates can quickly provide orientation and ideas for structuring. Also, some automation can be made.
The basic functionalities of Trello are very similar – it is, therefore, suitable for controlling tasks in teams. Meistertask also offers some additional functionalities, e.g. time recording for tasks is possible.
Creating something new
Anyone who has relied on generating ideas together while working in the office does not have to do without them even when working in a remote team. The quick gluing of post-its cannot be completely replaced.
If you are looking for a tool to create something new, Miro (formerly Realtimeboard) is a flexible tool. Be it for brainstorming, product development, agile work, or design teams. Customer journeys can be displayed just as well as the business model canvas or a kanban board. The advantage is that you can see in real-time who changes and enters something where.
Ensure a common understanding of virtual collaboration in your team
Besides the question of suitable tools, it is at least as important that you find each other as a team. Take time to organize yourself, develop rules of the game, and question them regularly:
- Which tool is used for what? Which functions should all team members know?
- Where can I find important announcements? How do I make sure I don’t miss important information?
- What is the expectation for the use of available communication channels? Is it okay to simply send messages via chat or is personal exchange via telephone/video desired? How can I give feedback to someone?
- Is there a common understanding of how joint work on documents is done? This way you avoid having to merge five versions later.
- How do you synchronize? Once a day? Several times? With which tool?
- How/What do you plan?
- How do you facilitate the exchange beyond work topics?