Mobile workers are on the rise, but don’t take our word for it! A recent study by Citrix revealed that by 2014, 82% of organizations will have a mobile work style strategy in place and that 62% currently employ one, which means an ever-increasing number of remote teams that will need more efficient, virtual communication techniques.
Luckily, there are hundreds of web-based communication and collaboration tools available to digitally merge the geographic barriers keeping teams apart. The following are tools and resources that we’ve used at Workbar and that our coworking community has recommended for their various needs.
There are tons of project management tools out there, but have you heard of Podio? European-based Podio is easy to use, intuitive, and completely customizable to your needs. Grant your team full or limited access to the virtual “workspaces” you create and keep all your projects and company processes in one place – it’s easy to get started and free! Podio also integrates with your calendar and email client (you can create tasks or sync emails), and has Facebook-like capabilities for easy communication between team members. Don’t be surprised if you get hooked – this is definitely one of the favorite tools of the Workbar team.
Whether you’re organizing a call with your team or clients or both, you want an easy way to get everyone on the phone at once, right? Check out Mashable’s list of 4 Free Conference Calling Services, including Rondee, Wiggio, GroupMe, and Google Voice. They detail what each platform can offer beyond standard calling options. These tools are all free and different in terms of what they can do including unique and re-useable phone numbers, group messaging, file sharing, and calendar integration. Another option, of course, is Skype, which we address next.
If you regularly use video conferencing to communicate with your team, you probably use Skype. Skype is a multi dimensional tool used for chatting, standard and conference calls and video conferencing. But, did you know you can also share your screen and customize an auto answer list so you don’t get blind sided on a call? See how you can record your calls and view call statistics and voicemail logs in this list of 10 Features And Tools To Supercharge Your Skype Experience (Hint check out the comments section at the bottom for even more tips).
Relatively new and still highly underused are Google Hangouts. Google Hangouts allow free video conferencing for up to 10 people and the ability to screen share, collaborate in Google Docs and even dial people in who cannot participate through video. Google Hangouts can also be used for larger broadcasts and within your company’s marketing strategy by streaming live to your Google+ profile page. There is no recording feature yet, but, there are some external tools you can use to record such as, ScreenCastle, Pixetell and Screencast-O-Matic.
Since this is a new space for many people, you may want to check out 10 Tips for Using Google Plus Hangouts for Agency New Business for more ideas on how Google Hangouts can benefit your organization’s internal and external communication.
Sometimes you really need to collaborate in more ways than just talking. Unlike a standard phone call – you need to physically see each other and get creative. Twiddla is designed to give your team a virtual, real-time collaboration space with projection capabilities to view web pages and whiteboards for your team to touch, play and create. It also has the ability to upload documents and images for your team to interact with in real time.
For projects that require even more visualization, such as mood boards, you’ll want to check out Stixy. Stixy is a collaborative digital bulletin board where your team can post pictures, notes, important dates, to-dos and upload files to share. A useful tool for design firms, creative projects or companies looking for team-inspired designs for branding efforts and new office layouts, for example. Unlike other tools this one is not exactly real-time though as it requires users to refresh their screen to view user updates.
Beyond using it as a project management resource, you may also take the opportunity to experiment with the Stixy sharing capabilities as a social information platform to share via your social networks. For example, ask your team members to post their favorite foods or their baby picture to create a company collage to share externally. Use Stixy to show off your company’s personality and grow team morale all at the same time – have fun with it! Check out our sample: Workbar Stixy board.
Managing Your Social Brand:
When it comes to managing your brand’s social presence, Sprout Social is our favorite. We had to comb through a lot of dud tools to find this one! Not only does it let you curate and manage your social media content but it allows your team to take your brand’s social interactions to the next level by tag teaming incoming conversations. Add your team members and flag messages for others, or delegate responses and assign tasks directly within the dashboard.
This tool is extremely diverse and has all different capabilities for sharing, managing, reporting and staying organized. In order to evaluate if it’s right for your company, we suggest listening to the Sprout 101: Product Overview, a one hour webinar that details the tool’s full functionality. Sprout Social does have a 30-day trial after which you must purchase a paid plan – we recommend it.
Communication is key for any remote or virtual team to function well. Luckily we live in a digitally connected world where web based tools and a growing number of coworking centers are empower remote teams and making it all possible. There are of course many, many more tools to seek out and explore than what we’ve listed here – we’d love to add your favorites to our list too. Let us know what you’re using to manage your virtual team!
About the Author: Evona Niewiadomska is the Events and Digital Media Manager at Workbar. As of January 2013 she is an independent Digital Media & Design Creative with a specialty for infographic design and social media strategy. Check out her website, evonawiktoria.com or contact her via email firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @evonawiktoria.