Previously we discussed how to integrate the physical and digital workplace. We’re going into detail on the tools we use.
What we found useful – channels, threaded communication, and tabs.
Teams allow topics to be organized in Channels, and messages are grouped further as threads. The format allows us to keep topics on point. This improved the way we communicate and think. Tabs allow us to link to other apps and important websites.
Our runner up was Slack, which we used for some time, it comes powerful integrations to other apps. Frankly though, it was too expensive for us. Teams comes bundled with Office 365 which is a really good deal.
How it compliments our activities – Everyone starts the day by checking in our main channel. Whoever gets in first, starts the day’s thread.
All our projects take one channel, and we allocate a dedicated channel to match important activities like our lounge or our standards. To tie them all together, each will be linked to a One Note Notebook.
We use the status feature to let inform the team if someone is having a break, is in the zone, or free to talk.
Downside – we’re Windows users, so we’re uncertain how this feels like on Mac.
What we found useful – collaborative note taking.
How it compliments our activities – it serves as our central repository of information. We can link notes to each other and then use Teams as a notification medium. The good thing is someone can check, and if things go wrong there are versions to go back to.
Downside – I’ve accidentally deleted a note before, it was good that someone pointed out. It is important to have a culture where people aren’t afraid to point things out.
What we found useful – video calls quality and share screen. As a business, it’s important to at least have one paid account.
How it compliments our activities – for both our formal meetings and our happy hour sessions. The video quality and response is still the fastest we’ve experienced. One detail we particularly like is seeing the people you are talking to while presenting, that way the connection between the participants is preserved. Other video conferencing apps do not have this experience (as of writing this post).
Downside – internet speed will definitely affect the experience.
What we found useful – kanban boards and customizable lists.
How it compliments our activities – kanban boards can visually show progress, for a team working remotely, this format allows us to work asynchronously as well. We’ve developed a simple and effective workflow, you can view the template by clicking this link. Our team actually learned to write via Markdown without realizing it.
Downside – it takes a while to get used to this system, it took constant reminders and review sessions to fine tune how we use it. As team leaders, we have to update the deadlines and create necessary cards too. So this is an added but necessary work for us.
Dropbox for Business
What we found useful – 5TB shared drives and administration. It’s one of our more expensive apps, but definitely worth it.
How it compliments our activities – our folder structure is like a mini-server. We have a shared folder that the team can access and files are updated in real time. By far Dropbox has the fastest upload / download rate which was particularly helpful when the internet was quite slow. The LAN sync is particularly useful when we’re sharing a network.
Downside – administration must be very organized to make sure that folders are grouped accordingly. There has been events when folders were moved, so it is important that the team can also point these out.
What we found useful – multiple ways to log time, timer, and reports.
How it compliments our activities – part of our routine is to log work activities. This helps us better understand how long certain tasks take. The data we’ve gathered through the years improved our process and allows us to provide a more realistic perspective to our clients. It also has a built in report generator which gives various scenarios of how our time is allocated.
Downside – it takes some getting used to. And since logging isn’t natural it has to be constantly enforced.
What we found useful – easy calendar and website integration. We still haven’t invested in the paid version of this one.
How it compliments our activities – this is linked to both our email, calendar app, and website appointment page. It provides an alternative way for potential clients to reach us.
- Paid Versions. For smaller teams you can still get away with free features in some apps like Trello, for bigger teams investing in the paid versions will give more administrative capabilities to moderate your feed. And worth noting, free versions will most often have no support.
- Take moderation seriously. Rules of engagement should be enforced and regularly checked. It is so easy for online communication to digress. As you progress, if your rules are easy enough, these will eventually be adopted as habits and moderation will be reserved to new users.
- Always keep a backup of everything, both in a drive and in the cloud.