4 Tools for an Effective Remote Team

by on Aug 27, 2014 in Remote

While we have locations in South Florida and the Midwest, our team works remotely 99% of the time. As our team began to grow quickly a couple years ago, we needed to make the decision of whether we would intentionally be a remote agency or plan on being location-based. We chose remote.

We could talk for hours about the benefits of being a remote agency, but in this post I wanted to share the key tools that Success Agency uses to collaborate as a remote agency.

1. Slack

Slack is a group messenger tool that we really call “The Office”. Slack allows our whole team to have live discussion together.

What’s the difference between Slack and other more traditional Instant Messenger tools like Skype and AIM?

Group-Oriented

Slack is group-focused by default. Instead of all IM chat being one-on-one, Slack is centered around rooms (called “channels”). We have rooms set up for:

  • Water Cooler: this is where we chat about anything from Bryan Cranston & Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Emmy antics, to someone’s favorite IPA, to weekend plans.
  • Inbound: discussion for our Inbound Marketing department.
  • Website Design: discussion for our Web Design department.
  • Client Services: discussion for our Client Services department.
  • Group Conference Calls: an open room for internal discussion and notes for during a conference call.

Direct Messages

Slack also has the ability to send a direct (private) message to a team member for communication that is not helpful for everyone (or is private in nature).

With Slack, our whole remote team feels connected and collaborates effectively in real-time.

  • Cost: Free option then starting at $6.67/user/month
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2. Google Apps

We use Google Apps for Business for our email and it provides a number of additional services that are a small step up from the free versions.

Google Calendar

All our meetings are scheduled using Google Calendar. Each person has their own calendar (which can be shared) and then we have a team calendar (WSA Team Schedule).

Google Drive

Google Drive  allows us to create and collaborate (in real time) on Documents, Spreadsheets, etc.

We keep ongoing spreadsheets (such as Key Performance Indicator sheets) as well as docs created for one-time use.

Google Hangouts

In any given day we have around 10 or so Google Hangout meetings happening. We schedule our standing daily and weekly meetings into Google Calendar, and team members can join with a click of the button (almost like an actual physical meeting room).

Google Hangouts also makes it really easy to setup meetings on-the-fly. Often two people will be talking in Slack and realize that a quick meeting is warranted. By using Slack and Google Hangouts together, all you have to do is add “/hangout” into Slack and a Google Hangout is automatically started.

  • Cost: We pay $5/user/month for the full Google Apps Suite and it’s completely worth it
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3. Basecamp

Basecacamp has been a staple since our agency started 6 years ago. If communication is not happening in Slack (live chat) or a Hangout (live meeting), it’s housed inside Basecamp.

We set up individual projects and primarily rely on Basecamp Discussions (threads) and Tasks.

  1. Cost: We pay $150/month for unlimited projects, though they have prices starting out at $20/month
  2. Go there

4. Dropbox for Business

Dropbox for Business is the last piece of the puzzle in making sure that our whole remote team is always connected. We rely on Dropbox for the following:

  • Backup: files that just can’t be lost are stored by each individual in Dropbox-connected folders. Contracts, design source files, and all can’t-lose files are automatically backed up.
  • Accessible: as a remote team, we often take advantage individually of taking working vacations. With Dropbox, you know that you can access your important files, even if they are on a different computer.
  • Shared folders: we use shared folders almost like companies use an internal network. Our different departments have shared folders dedicated to those departments (with related sub-folders). When a file gets added for one person, it’s added for everyone.
  • Sharing Files Publicly: a side feature is that any Dropbox file can, with two clicks, have a publicly-accessible link created. This makes sharing files with outside clients and vendors a breeze.

Dropbox for Business is not cheap, but when compared to the costs of a traditional network, time required to maintain that network, and the higher efficiency of Dropbox, it’s an expense we gladly pay.

  • Cost: $15/user/month (minimum of 5 users)
  • Go there

Your Must-Have Tools

So here you have the top tools our remote agency couldn’t live without. What tools do you think are essential to a remote team?

About the author of the post
Avin Kline is co-founder and CEO of SUCCESS agency. Connect on Twitter at @avinkline.
  • Nate

    Completely agree with all of these tools for working remotely. Communication is the lifeblood of a remote team, so the tools you choose are important. I would also add InVision, for collaborating on designs mockups and prototypes.

  • Annette Horton

    I believe all of the tools listed are essential to a remote team, and it sounds like they provide an excellent opportunity for team work and versatile communication.

  • Vanessa Holman

    I have worked with similar tools and they are lifesavers. Especially, being able to go back and review discussions instead of trying to remember them.

  • Sarah Johnson

    What a fantastic article! I have socially shared it and hope that it will inspire other companies to look into offering virtual employment. The new work life balance is through this type of offering!

  • Carmen Grant

    Love Basecamp!

  • Kyla Stevens

    I’m glad to know we’re already using the same tools; one more reason to feel good about the overall hiring process. The only other tool I use is a workflow platform, usually Trello, but occasionally Jira for complex workflows.

  • Sharon Thomson

    ProofHub offers tools that help you plan, organize and deliver projects, quickly and efficiently. It brings together teams, clients, tasks, plans and conversations in one central location for better collaboration and knowledge sharing, within and across enterprises.

  • Ashpreet Kaur

    I worked on a similar tool i.e ProofHub. With ProofHub’s work management tool you also gain the ultimate control with Gantt charts to create the project plans that’ll ensure timely completion of the projects, assign Project manager to keep a bird’s eye view on project progress, create Custom roles to define access levels for the teams and clients, and Project reports for insights on how the projects are progressing, and how teams and individuals are performing.

  • Sam Woaks

    Awesome list! I agree with the ideas being discussed on best collaboration tools for working with remote teams; it will surely uplift how managing and building of remote team should be correctly implemented. Also, it will give online companies and businesses a better perspective on how to get things work and what are essentials to make it successful. But it looks like your list is half-baked as there are more new strategies and tactics on how to successfully create an online presence.

    And there’s a good alternative I can suggest and hope will also help you is INDYDESK – Best Collaboration and Project Management Tool that combines functionalities and solutions which will surely address to the problems on building and managing remote teams. Not trying to be little your list but giving you new viewpoints about the topic. Good luck to all of us!

  • Samantha

    For managing team through online collaboration tool. One should go for IndyDesk. Indydesk helps you in planning and organizing your projects which will help you in faster delivering of projects. It will manage your team from one place. You can improve your team communication with the inbuilt chat feature. I think one should try its free trial.