People all over the world are joining hands to get work done. With the Internet offering a connection point and cloud-based software available to facilitate organized business systems, companies no longer need a physical meeting point to tackle tasks and accomplish goals. If there’s a computer, there’s a way.
As flexible as this model is, there are still some challenges. The biggest one? Keeping teams on the same page when they lack daily face-to-face interaction. Here are a few tips, tricks, and tools to keep remote teams productively organized and working efficiently.
Step number one to getting your team more organized is to get yourself more organized.
If your project management is taking place in your (and your team’s) inbox, you’re in trouble. Emails can easily get accidentally deleted, buried, and ignored. No matter how organized your inbox might feel, your team’s email might not be as well put together. It’s easy for a task to get lost in the shuffle and ignored.
When you have multiple people working on pieces of a project, you’re juggling due dates and assignments. When you need to bring someone new into the mix, you have to start from scratch explaining all of the project details. This takes time and you risk forgetting important details, which could lead to communication breakdown.
To speed things along while at the same time keeping everyone on track with what’s happening, you need a project management tool.
Basecamp is one of the first web-based project management tools. It has seen several iterations over its existence, evolving each time to meet today’s remote work styles. In it, you can set up several different projects, assign tasks to other users (even if they don’t have their own Basecamp account), assign due dates, track conversations, upload files and more. It keeps everything for the project central in one place so you remain organized and efficient.
Basecamp comes with a price tag. The more projects you have, the more expensive it gets. Many small businesses prefer to use one of the free, but very robust, project management tools available.
Trello is perhaps the most simple of the free ones, yet also the most powerful. This drag-and-drop tool lets you create boards for projects, cards for tasks and lists to keep it all organized. It takes a little bit of creativity to set it up for your specific work project, but once you’re going, it’s easy to track who is doing what and when items are due.
Another way to take communication out of the inbox and into a more organized location is with communication software.
Slack is one of the most popular choices for communicating via text with large groups of people. This free chat tool incorporates popular social media communication tools into an internal company communication tool. For example, you can use the @ sign to comment to a specific person. Or, you can use hashtags to organize your conversations. It’s fast to learn and easy to use.
Customer Relationship Management
When was the last time you reached out to your customer? Who was the last point-of-contact with your customer from your company? Do you have a lot of leads sitting in the pipeline waiting to be nurtured without anyone from your company taking charge and reaching out?
A customer relationship management (CRM) tool tracks all of this and more.
If you have remote sales teams, a CRM is invaluable. It lets hungry salesmen know when there’s a hot lead ready to buy. It also ensures a smooth experience for your customer, which helps brand your business as one that’s put together, organized and on the ball.
Beyond sales teams, a CRM can help other departments do their jobs better. For example, marketing departments often times tap into a CRM to do customer research and come up with new campaigns. By having a CRM in place, remote teams don’t have to wait on someone else to respond to an email. Instead, the information they need is at their disposal.
Insightly is one of the most robust small business CRMs. In it, you can pull quick reports to send to other departments, see at a glance who has connected with hot leads and how long it’s been since someone reached out to a customer, review notes about each customer and more. It also has built-in project management tools, which can simplify communication between customer information and tasks. It keeps every client relationship organized so everyone, regardless of distance, can know what’s happening and how they can better serve your customers.
Video Meeting Software
Even in the constantly connected world we live in and the wealth of communication tools available, distance can lead to disconnect. It’s times like these that it’s beneficial to suit up and sit “face-to-face” for meetings.
There are several video meeting tools to facilitate the reconnection.
If you’re meeting with a small group of people, a quick video call on Skype can suffice. Skype is free and allows you to share your screen and/or share your webcam.
For larger teams, you might want a more robust meeting point online. GoToMeeting is a popular choice because it too has quite a few capabilities. For example, you can share presentations, cameras, allow participants to raise their hand to speak, encourage conversation in the chat box without worry of people talking over each other. GoToMeeting was built for remote teams, while Skype was originally built for more basic face-to-face connections.
Either tool will work. The goal is to get your eyes peering into the eyes of your team so you can reestablish that connection and rekindle the fire in everyone’s belly, even from afar.
Setting Your Team Up for Success
It’s not easy to manage a team of people across a wide distance. Set yourself up for success with a project management tool and CRM. Then, keep the connection strong by using video meeting software to shorten the distance and maintain that face-to-face interaction. Doing this will keep your team engaged and focused, helping you see bigger results from your remote workers.
The post All Around The World: Keeping Remote Teams Organized appeared first on SmallBizTechnology.
Ramon Ray, Editor & Technology Evangelist, Smallbiztechnology.com
http://www.twitter.com/ramonray | http://www.facebook.com/smallbiztechnology firstname.lastname@example.org
Small Business Technology Tour (Fall 2011)
* Mountain View * Salt Lake City * Boston * Chicago * Atlanta