By now, we’ve all heard Apple’s-marketing-slogan-turned-adage “There’s an app for that.” And there does, indeed, seem to be an application for doing everything we need to get done without ever setting foot in an office. The rise in remote work has made business apps in particular a force to be reckoned with. Salesforce even organized an entire 1000+ person conference around the release of their new app – Salesforce 1 – in 2013.
At Prialto, we’ve spent thousands of hours experimenting with the best processes and apps for remote collaboration. Our conclusion is that no app can ever completely substitute for an in-person meeting with a colleague. But, a series of cloud apps strung together into a sensible workflow can indeed come close. The best part is that they’re accessible from whichever device our teammate happens to be sitting on at that moment.
Here’s what our teams use to work together while we’re sitting oceans apart in Guatemala, California and the Philippines.
Our teams need to constantly be able to share information and updates about both internal and external parties and initiatives. We’ve divided that information into two main spaces.
1. Salesforce – Our CRM platform is not just for our sales team. Instead, we use it to manage recruiting across all offices, coordinate next actions on a variety of projects and assign tasks to particular team members. Because CRM is also the main tool that we use to interface with our customers, every team member is well versed in how to leverage Salesforce fields and views in a variety of ways.
2. Atlassian - We use Atlassian’s wiki tool – Confluence - for training manuals, internal policies, meeting agendas and ongoing departmental initiatives. Everyone across the organization has access to relevant portions of the wiki for their work. Security permissions are managed at the central level and are very easy to commission or to de-commission across the company. We also sometimes use the Wiki to store and share files like our logos, team bios and branding guide.
Talk about remote collaboration – Prialto’s employees work with each other across two continents and multiple time zones every day. The best thing we could to make our interactions seamless is to make as many of them in real-time as possible. So we’ve applied a plethora of options to make that happen.
3. Pidgin – Instant messaging is crucial to any remote collaboration. We do it through several platforms, including Skype and the internal Wiki. However, Pidgin is the main tool that all users have on at all times during the business day. It pull together chat panes from several other applications as well. This is, however, the only app we use that isn’t wonderful in terms of its mobile version.
4. Skype – Whenever possible, we try to hold internal meetings with overseas teammates in a video format. Being able to see someone else’s body language and reactions make a real different to how efficiently we can communicate. While we’ve looked at several video conferencing tools for this purpose, Skype stands out for both its ease of use and its terrific resolution at most times.
5. Voxer – When we’re away from our computers and our Pidgin accounts, Voxer is the easiest way for our HQ team to communicate complex concepts quickly. It’s a virtual walkie talkie that also supports chat messages that are automatically pushed to your smartphone. The result is the ability to have a quick chat or check-in with someone – albeit semi-synchronously - even at 5pm on a Saturday if need be.
6. PowWowNow – A conference call line is something you’ll need for remote collaboration both internally and externally. Prialto uses PowWowNow’s customizable conference call line for each team member or department to have a dedicated line for meetings, interviews, or onboarding calls as needed. No central switchboard or booking the line needed.
7. Fonality – A key ingredient of working remotely is being able to get on the phone with each other easily. We use Fonality’s HUD system – an open-source PBX solution – to identify and easily dial folks across offices. No more dialing the front desk or searching a company directory.
Distance is not a factor in keeping our teams working together like a well-oiled machine. Here’s why.
8. Box – File storage and transfer used to be a particular pain point for companies with multiple offices and remote employees. Where to locate servers, long sync times and having to download large files to your own hard drive always posed thorny problems. With Box, we can take every document with us wherever we are and auto-sync our most used folders to our own desktop. Sure, the mobile app and Box Sync features are a bit buggy, but cloud storage companies like this have changed the way remote teams work.
9. Producteev – Task management is one of the top priorities at a company dedicated to managing their clients’ workloads on their behalf. We’ve looked around quite a bit and are now piloting Producteev for both internal and external task management. It gives us the ability to share files related to projects, assign tasks across teams and keep up-to-date on not just our own tasks, but anything related to our projects.
10. Join.me – Figuring out how to log on to a join.me in the middle of a team meeting is one of the first skills every Prialto teammate learns. Screen-sharing app Join.me allows us to collaborate on documents, easily view each other’s screens and ensure that we’re all referring to the same things during our meetings. It’s the next best thing to having your colleague looking over your shoulder at your desk.