Top 8 Tools for Remote Work and Collaboration
Modern technologies provide an almost uncountable variety of tools that enable distributed teams management and remote collaboration. With remote delivery being an essential part of our daily routines, we at Sigma Software have a set of all-time-favorites we frequently rely on, and, of course, we never lose a chance to try some new ones to check their efficiency.
We have put together a list of remote work tools that our teams like most and asked team members to share insights into the tools’ strengths and weaknesses.
TOOLS FOR STAYING CONNECTED
Staying connected is one of the major challenges for remote teams. Thus, finding a good tool or set of tools that will help you communicate easily with no additional stress is essential. Here go the ones we use most frequently:
- Slack – one of the leaders in online collaboration offering fast chat rooms access and the possibility to organize communication in different channels.
Anastasia, Program Manager and Account Manager:
“We use Slack for team communications and work discussions on several projects we deliver for startups. It’s fast, convenient, and can be integrated with diverse Google services. Integration with a calendar is one of my favorites as you can plan appointments right from Slack. The only drawback I see is that Slack does not support video calls – thus we have to rely on Zoom for videoconferencing.”
Andrey, Project Manager:
“We use Slack in one of our projects, where we develop and support a self-service portal. Slack is extremely convenient for day-to-day communications and we even use it for audio calls. The sound quality and performance are sufficient, however, the tool is quite demanding in terms of RAM memory.”
- Zoom – one of the most commonly used tools enabling conferences with audio or video calls. Getting a high-quality video stream, Zoom users are able to create one-to-one chats, as well as group ones (up to 500 participants), with the ability to record sessions, share screen, use a virtual whiteboard, etc.
Olga, AdTech competence center leader:
“We use Zoom on most of the projects we have in AdTech. What I like most is that in Zoom you can create recurrent meetings with a permanent link (thus, you don’t need to recreate the link every time you are going to join the call). The app provides stable connection and sound quality even with poor Internet and allows users to join meetings even with regular dial-in calls. Another cool feature is that the meeting can be started without a host – thus, you can be sure that the communication will take place even when the host is not available or is late for the meeting. The only thing I lack is that you can’t be the host on several meetings at the same time and that there can’t be two hosts for one meeting.”
Sergio, Business Development Manager:
“We use Zoom a lot for remote video calls with potential customers and partners and I’m in love with the tool. Stable, good quality both for video and audio, easy desktop sharing. I also like the whiteboard option as you can brainstorm with the customer online just the way you do during live meetings. And yes, they also have a virtual background option, which comes in handy when you work from home – no worries the customers will get distracted by my dog running on the background while I have a meeting.”
- Skype and Skype for Business – remote collaboration tools from “Old school is cool” league, enabling all basic functions you would need, like group & individual chats, video/audio calls, and desktop sharing.
Sergey, Remote Delivery Center Coordinator:
“Our team works in close collaboration with our customers’ teams and product owners in Sweden. All the communication on our projects is conducted through Skype and sometimes Skype for Business. When we started our collaboration with the customers 11 years ago, Skype was actually the only decent alternative, and our customer’s team was already using it extensively. Since then, many new tools emerged, but in fact, Skype has also grown a lot – supporting multiple devices, syncing chats among them, giving an option for quick and easy calls, etc. The only nuisance from my perspective is that it lags from time to time, but this has never caused any critical problems.”
Other tools to look at:
Discord – free voice and text chat initially tailored for gamers, but gaining momentum in other communities as well. It’s free, simple, secure, available both on desktop & phone and is definitely worth trying.
Microsoft Teams – Office 365-based app for chatting, meetings, and file sharing. Ideal for big and extra big teams. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Microsoft gives away a free premium version for 6 months.
Google Hangouts – free-of-charge service for business and personal communication. Consists of the Meet app for group video calls and a chat app for group chats. Virtual rooms for working on projects and message chains make it easy to track progress and control the execution of tasks. Up to 8K participants can join the room.
Google Meet – another tool for business communication. Instant messaging, group chats, video conferences, calendar planning – simple to use and highly productive assistant service. Compatible with other solutions for video conferencing, such as Skype for Business, Polycom, Cisco.
Whereby – a flexible tool for video meetings in the browser. To start communication, you don’t need any download, installation, or passwords – just share the custom link. Easy screen sharing, customizable background, and chat recording are among other features. An app supports conferencing via browsers or iOS. Up to 50 participants can join the meeting.
TOOLS FOR STAYING PRODUCTIVE
Another important thing while working remotely is actually staying productive. The market provides a variety of solutions to keep all tasks and to track progress in one secure and easily accessible environment. Depending on how big and complex your project is, a set of tools to use will be different.
Lots of companies use this Atlassian tool for project management and issue tracking. Jira dashboard has multiple features and functions, so it is flexible enough to be adjusted according to your current project needs. Moreover, there are many Jira add-ons and extensions, which can cover almost any project need.
Stefaniia, Project Manager:
“We at Sigma Software rely on Jira in most of the projects we deliver. My current project where we develop React Native corporate app enabling customer’s employees to access news, activities, coworkers, and more, is not an exception. I like Jira for its great release versioning functionality, flexibility in tasks tracking (customizable dashboard, workflows), integration with other services (Confluence, Bitbucket, etc.), and more. However, the possibility to create and maintain tickets roadmap in the basic version would make it even better.”
Sergey, Remote Delivery Center Coordinator:
“Our team includes 35 people, working on 3 big access management related products. The products are extensively used on 10k+ construction sites with 400K workers, so one of the top priorities for us is predictability and stable delivery within planned deadlines. We rely on Jira for project coordination and control plus Confluence for collaboration and document sharing, since it’s the most reliable, stable, and proven set of tools from an acknowledged industry leader.”
Another useful collaboration tool for Project Management and tasks tracking. It’s extremely simple to use, but at the same time, it gives you a clear understanding of task statuses, assignees, and progress.
Trello is organized in the form of a board with tickets, which can have a set of properties, such as description, assignee, checklist, comments, deadlines, etc.
Oksana, Project Manager:
“We often use Trello as a Kanban board for smaller projects, and I like its user-friendly interface, extensions, and add-ons that you can plug-in to Chrome for time-tracking and reporting. It also has out-of-the-box integrations with popular tools like Slack & GitHub. I can’t say there are any killer-features in the tool, but this simplicity makes Trello a very convenient tool. But if you need to track interdependent tasks, have a calendar view, or add some filters to the tasks – you would probably need to look for a more sophisticated tool.”
Rita, Project Manager:
“We use Trello on a project related to optimization of customer’s software systems landscape. Of course, Trello itself would not have been sufficient for planning tasks on such a big and sophisticated project. However, for high-level planning, status meetings, and follow-ups, it proves to be very handy. So, we use it as an add-on to Jira (it has out-of-the-box Jira integration features) providing the big picture of the project progress to our customers.”
One more tool to improve the team’s productivity and efficiency. It is good for both small and large teams, the tool has its own features that might be quite useful for Project Managers and other staff. Being a cloud-based solution, Asana allows teams and whole organizations to manage and track the project's performance.
Oksana, Project Manager:
“When we come to the planning and management stage of the project, it often happens that Asana is the first thing I think about. It offers intuitive interface & UX, supports work with the lists, boards, and tasks calendar. Asana enables tasks prioritization, tasks dependencies, and hierarchy management, it offers custom fields and forms, which I usually use for time tracking. Its free version is quite limited in functionality, but the features available are sufficient to fuel distributed team collaboration.”
Stefaniia, Project Manager:
“What I liked most is that Asana provides an ability to form sprints in a very convenient and effective way. Asana also gives a simple and illustrative project roadmap, which can be easily integrated with the board. I really miss that in Jira.”
A Project Management tool, allowing to organize the team’s work with more productivity and less effort, to keep track of projects’ progress, and to set effective communication between team members. It provides users with dozens of features. The main one is breaking one’s work into separate projects.
Each project contains all necessary information that the team might need: assignees, documents, references, task description, and others. Also, for every project, there is a set of various tools added to assist the whole team in the performance process (message board, file storage, group chat, schedules, etc.).
Viktoria, Design Team Project Manager:
“An amazing tool. Indeed! I use various tools in my work, and Basecamp is one of my favorites. First of all, the interface is very user-friendly. It really looks like an email Inbox tab. Basecamp makes it possible to create task list templates and manage tasks via a very simple and informative calendar. The tool is most suitable for teams that generate ideas together and collect information (Designers, PR teams, Sales). However, the tool lacks prioritization and task dependencies management, as well as task filters and time tracking”.
Other tools to look at:
Monday.com – a tool for a team consolidation to work on a project and deliver on time. The solution’s flexibility provides for fast joining of team members and the ability to customize the interface accordingly to workflows used by you. Also, it offers a variety of features for an effective task and team management. Monday.com integrates with more than 20 apps.
Notion – a Project Management tool for teams and individuals, offering all necessary features. As a single working space for the features, it gives an opportunity to add or remove elements to build the management system that fits you best. The minimalistic interface could be an advantage for the teams that do not accept the complexity of similar products. But, at the same time, Notion retains reliability, usability, and flexibility in customizing the process.
TOOLS FOR STAYING TUNED
An important part of the working process for all those people who decided to collaborate remotely. No more small talks on the office kitchen, no more jokes from the next-door colleague. Few people like this. Maintaining a team’s spirit of cohesion and involvement in the process is vital to stay tuned and not to step out of the social life of the company. We at Sigma Software, use one of such tools aimed to bring people together in one place and deepen engagement.
Workplace by Facebook is a social network (obviously developed by Facebook :-) ) for internal company communication. It may seem a common Facebook page, but the main difference is that all content is available for the groups. Private or chat messages, a news feed, live video broadcasts, file sharing, auto-translation (for multinational teams), and other stuff are good instruments to post updates about what’s going on here and there inside a company or, for example, certain department.
Stanislav, Human Resource Manager:
“Of course, any social-network-like corporate tool is more about how people use it and how interesting the content they share is, but usability also plays an important role. Workplace’s interface and functionality is almost identical to Facebook, so new hires don’t need any onboarding with the tool – they can easily jump in and start communicating.”
Anatoliy, Account Manager:
“Great tool to stay tuned about things happening in the company, share your project news and achievements with your colleagues, join corporate challenges like #sigmacooking, initiate contests, and share some useful materials with your colleagues. Staying tuned is always essential, especially for big companies with offices in different cities and countries, especially now when everyone works remotely. Workplace is definitely one of the most convenient tools enabling this.”
As you see, there is a wealth of tools and solutions tailored to make remote work far more pleasant, easy, and productive. Selecting the ones that would fit your needs best is just a matter of defining your needs and preferences and trying several options, which look most reasonable. Trust us – we have not yet heard of any team or project, which became inefficient or successful because of tools only. It’s always people, culture, and processes that call all the shots. By the way, you can read more about those aspects of remote work in the article Remote Team Work – How to Turn Challenge into Opportunity