• Diego Wyllie

Working remotely: Collaboration tools for teams

Working remotely with your team

Home office, mobility, working remotely and freelancing: The way we work has changed dramatically. Collaboration tools that enable companies to remain productive are becoming increasingly important and the range of offers is extremely broad.


Working remotely around the world

Regular working hours, permanent office jobs and long-term employment relationships are no longer as natural as they used to be. The gig economy is booming. There are already around 53 million freelancers in the United States. That corresponds to about 34 percent of the workforce in America – by 2020 it should be 50 percent.

This development can be seen not only in the USA but also in Europe. For example, home office work has increased steadily in Scandinavian countries. It also has in Switzerland, France, Holland, and Great Britain in recent years. The Netherlands even has legislation that considers the right to home office.

However, employers are not very enthusiastic about the new legislation. Above all, skeptics fear inefficient communication and organization between the employees. That could lead to higher costs or loss of productivity.

These are also the reasons that speak against the home office and telework in Germany. The industry association BITKOM surveyed around 1,500 German companies on the subject of digitalization in the world of work. 75 percent of companies require all employees to attend. And the vast majority of respondents (70 percent) also assume that the classic office workplace will not lose its importance.

When asked what reasons would speak against the home office, 33 percent replied that productivity would decrease. 27 percent reject telework because employees are not available at all times, 17 percent because working hours cannot be controlled.

Another interesting result: 56 percent of the companies surveyed prefer face-to-face meetings, 44 percent use conference calls. On the other hand, only eight percent of compnies use video conferences.


Rethink required

These results show why the majority of German companies do not seem to be prepared for future forms of work. If you try to manage a team with constant meetings and calls, strict time regulations and availability, you will surely fail. Flexible forms of work require a new corporate culture and new management methods. The use of special collaboration solutions that ensure efficient collaboration beyond the classic office is indispensable.

From simple to-do and messaging apps, primarily addressed to smaller teams, to more powerful project management solutions, available in countless variants. Going through apps to track worked hours like TrackingTime, to holistic social networks for companies. In the last few years an extremely diverse market has emerged, in which there is something for everyone.


Getting Things Done

Traditional collaboration tools have become increasingly complex over the years. Often selected by the IT department without responding to the wishes and needs of the users, they usually failed due to the lack of user acceptance. Modern business apps, however, focus on the user and focus heavily on usability and ease of use. Succesful to-do apps such as Wunderlist, Todoist, Asana or Producteev clearly show this trend. They were originally designed for the consumer market, but now come up with particularly chic UIs in the business environment, implemented with great attention to detail.

In terms of functionality, task management apps are mostly based on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” method. They focus on simple administration and delegation of tasks. Features like comments and discussions, deadlines, priorities, appointment management, file sharing and automatic notifications shouldn’t be missing in any to-do app for business teams today. Another commonality among the different products that are available in this market segment today is the large platform independence. In addition to web apps, native desktop and mobile apps are available in most cases.


Messaging apps for working remotely

Messaging apps for companies such as Glip, Unison, and, above all, HipChat and Slack have recently also made it easy to enter the world of software-based business collaboration. They enable teams to exchange information with between colleagues in chat rooms and to easily share files with one another. They save all conversations persistently so that you can search them at any time if necessary. And they ensure greater transparency and promote the exchange of knowledge among employees, no matter where they are working. Such chat rooms are suitable, for example, for individual projects, teams, or specialist departments. As an administrator, you have full control over who can participate in which discussions.

Team collaboration software

In addition, the numerous integration options of HipChat, Slack and Co. represent one of their central selling points. Teams can use notifications and predefined chat rooms. This means that all business-relevant discussions take place in a central location. Task management or similar planning and organizational tools are, however, sought in vain here. Chat services primarily cover the communication aspect of business collaboration.


Project management for every need

Project management solutions are for companies that are not satisfied with the feature set of a lightweight to-do or messaging app and rely on advanced tools. These primarily address service companies that work on different projects in parallel for different customers. For example, software manufacturers, architectural firms, design, marketing, or Internet agencies cannot get around today with professional PM solutions. They can efficiently manage project resources, schedules, responsibilities, and so on.

Around 30 years after the first PM software, the range of products in this segment is now extremely broad. These range from classic systems such as OnePoint Projects and Smartsheet, through communication-oriented products such as Basecamp and Werkstatt42, to industry-specific tools such as Conceptboard, from which creative minds in particular benefit can. In the software industry, agile PM solutions that implement the tried-and-tested Scrum and Kanban process models are on the rise. Many software teams will find an efficient method to successfully manage their projects. Collaboration applications such as Jira, TargetProcess, PivotalTracker, or Sprintly specially designed for them. An interesting development can be seen here: With visual PM tools such as Planbox, AgileZen, and above all Trello, proven agile concepts such as the Kanban board are made attractive to a wider audience outside of the IT industry.

Smartsheet collaboration software for home office

All-In-One

The topic of collaboration encompasses various aspects and tasks related to efficient collaboration. These can be optimally covered today with “Best of Breed” tools. That is, lean applications that focus on a specific problem. These include task, file and project management, reporting, time and appointment management, communication, and knowledge management. However, there are companies that prefer to work on a holistic platform rather than with many individual solutions.

All-in-one collaboration solutions such as Projectplace, Wrike, Planio, Bitrix24, Huddle or ActiveCollab are particularly popular with larger companies that have more established and complex processes. Because they promise a uniform user experience and at the same time support the IT department in user management. In contrast to most best-of-breed tools, holistic collaboration solutions are often used not only on-demand, but also operated in your own company network.

Wrike an online project management software for home office

Social networks for companies

Such platforms don’t just compete among themselves. You also have to stand up to social networks for business. These represent a further development of the traditional intranets from the late 1990s. And serve as a central information hub for the entire company. The goal: To promote communication, collaboration, and knowledge exchange among all employees – whether 10, 100, or 1000. In addition to the usual collaboration tools, they offer features such as “Follow”, “Like”, hashtags, @ mentions and activity streams as you know them from Facebook, Twitter, and Co.

The best-known representatives in this category include Yammer, considered a pioneer in this segment and was taken over by Microsoft a few years ago, Chatter, offered by Salesforce, and Socialcast by the virtualization specialist VMware. With Communote, Coyo, Xelos, and Tixxt there are also professional alternatives that are being developed in Germany and that need not shy away from comparison with the heavyweights from the USA – quite the contrary.


Conclusion

Which collaboration solution is right for a company depends on many individual factors. Industry, team size, management style, and corporate culture are relevant. Before you start your search for home office, be clear on which goals you will pursue. Also which processes are specifically covered, and which employees should use the software every day. Most of collaboration services are offered in the freemium model. It’s advisable to test them extensively as part of a pilot project in a small group of users under real conditions.

There is no universal collaboration solution suitable for every company. “The” perfect solution will be sought in vain. The decisive factor is rather the acceptance of the end-user. Through the use of collaboration software, every employee, not just the company management, should be able to achieve real benefits and noticeable or measurable results.

Why do I need collaboration tools to work remotely?

The way we work has changed dramatically. Collaboration tools that enable companies to remain productive are becoming increasingly important and the range of offers is extremely broad.

How can project management tools help with remote team collaboration?

Project management solutions are for companies that are not satisfied with the feature set of a lightweight to-do or messaging app and rely on advanced tools. They can efficiently manage project resources, schedules, responsibilities, and so on.

How do collaboration tools improve team productivity?

Flexible forms of work require a new corporate culture and new management methods. The use of special collaboration solutions that ensure efficient collaboration beyond the classic office is indispensable.