This guest blog post is part of a series on distributed work for enterprise companies. Click here to read the first blog in the series.
The age of distributed work is upon us. Running a productive workforce no longer means keeping everyone together in the same physical place. Freelancers, contractors and remote workers are all joining forces with the help of dynamic collaborative tools. Delivered via the cloud, these solutions make it easier for dispersed teams to share ideas, content and conversations in real time.
Stanford studies show that virtual workers outperform their colleagues by 13% and experience 50% less turnover, pushing more companies to expand outside of the office when designing modern teams. So how do you kick off your distributed team strategy? Start by unlocking the right collaboration tools to set your team up for success.
Building a Collaboration Toolkit for Distributed Teams
Your collaboration toolkit is a cloud-based selection of software tools designed to empower, motivate and support knowledge workers regardless of location. While every business is different, each toolkit needs the same pillars:
- Simplicity: to encourage easy adoption.
- Flexibility: to integrate with solutions that team members already use.
- Scalability: to support rapidly changing and increasingly globalized teams.
Here are 10 tools and integrations to consider adding to your distributed team toolkit in 2020.
1. Project planning
When you don’t sit next to team members all day long, planning becomes an even more crucial task than usual. Perfony helps employees work together when creating plans. In an environment where employees aren’t able to pop into their manager’s office to check whether a piece of work has been approved, Perfony keeps everything moving smoothly.
Once your plans are created, you can see how quickly you’re reaching your goals by identifying steps such as “approved,” “done” or “checked” on a project roadmap. When team members can immediately suggest tasks and set the status of those tasks within their existing collaboration apps like Microsoft Teams, execution accelerates. There are fewer roadblocks in the journey from a project’s start to its completion, even when team members are waiting on approval from managers in different time zones.
2. Project management
One of the toughest parts of managing a distributed team is making sure that knowledge and projects are accessible in the same integrated environment. Designed by Planview, Projectplace for Teams allows users to plan essential projects, collaborate on work and track the progress of critical plans.
Imagine you need to build a website for a client. Projectplace will help you track every step of designing the site, from wireframe to delivery. Since everyone in your workforce can see who is working on what, there’s less risk of task overlap or losing track of what needs to be done.
With the Microsoft Teams extension, you can easily access all of your existing projects and workspaces from within the Teams environment. People can also respond to project or task cards assigned to them within Teams.
3. Real-time language interpretation
One of the benefits of having a distributed and digital workforce is that it allows managers to hire experts from across the globe. You’re no longer limited to working with talent in your immediate geographical area. Instead, you can reach out to skilled individuals from around the world and make your team more productive and tailored. However, just because cloud technology makes it possible for people to work together over the web, that doesn’t mean there aren’t still barriers in place. Language is often one of those barriers.
KUDO enables team members to communicate in multiple languages through live and simultaneous translation, even real-time sign language interpretation. This instantly eliminates obstacles between colleagues collaborating from different parts of the globe. Businesses can access KUDO to join multilingual meetings online, view collaborative documents and ask questions, all in a shared interface.
4. Task management
Running a successful distributed team means finding a way to keep employees on the right page and the right track with their work — without being able to check in with them as freely as popping over to their desk. A Kanban-style task management tool like Workstreams.ai allows teams to collaborate more effectively with a comprehensive workflow environment.
Within Workstreams.ai, employees can quickly and easily create tasks, add labels to projects and assign teammates responsibilities. This solution provides businesses with a way to bring people from multiple departments and locations together in a virtual place where they can align their priorities. Complete with a flexible Kanban board that integrates with Microsoft Teams, Workstreams.ai can be customized to suit your needs. What’s more, you also get an intelligent bot that provides reminders, notifications and updates on task progress.
5. Messaging interoperability
Sometimes, employees from different organizations prefer to use different tools for communication and collaboration. Your new marketing contractor may be a fan of Slack, while your existing marketing manager prefers Microsoft Teams.
With Mio, working with new contractors or partners doesn’t have to mean forcing them to adapt to your preferred technology or resorting to dated tech like email. Instead, Mio ensures your messaging experience is seamless — each party can work in their favorite chat tools, messaging across platforms and the company. Ultimately, Mio enables distributed teams to chat across systems like Microsoft Teams and Slack externally, so you don’t need to ask customers, suppliers and freelancers to join your network to get started on a project.
6. AI animated presentations
Ensuring that your distributed team has access to the right information is just one piece of the puzzle. Business leaders also need to be sure that they’re making that information as engaging and easy to absorb as possible.
Squigl is an artificially intelligent platform that turns text into animated presentations, meaning that managers can quickly and easily create contextualized videos that tell a clear story. In an environment where workers, freelancers and other team members may learn and respond to data in different ways, can help accelerate understanding.
When you can present an idea both visually and audibly, it’s more likely to resonate with a broader cross-section of people. Companies can use this tool for everything from sharing crucial briefs for new tasks to explaining the mission and values of their business to new contractors.
7. Incident management
One of the most formidable challenges of managing a distributed team is trying to keep an eye on incidents, critical events and support requests.
Zenduty is an end-to-end platform for incident management that can help keep all of your ticketing and alert information in the same place. Designed to work within Microsoft Teams, Zenduty integrates with more than 100 popular ticketing tools. This allows IT operations experts, DevOps engineers, site reliability engineers and support teams to work together on solving problems. With Zenduty, companies can institutionalize incident management best practices and ensure uninterrupted service for customers.
Even if your business is constructed of multiple distributed support and engineering teams, they can still efficiently deliver excellent customer experiences.
8. Two-way SMS integration
In a distributed workforce, employees and contractors won’t always have an internet connection. People working in a dispersed environment can’t always log into the cloud.
With Avochato for SMS communication in Microsoft Teams, you can send the people you want to connect with SMS text messages directly from Teams, so it’s easy to continue tracking conversations from the same single environment. will display the two-way conversations within Teams, just as if you were having a private conversation on the app. Thus, conversations keep moving forward smoothly, even when full connectivity isn’t available. There’s even a one-to-many broadcasting option.
9. Video conferencing
To ensure everyone in your distributed workforce enjoys the same video meeting experience in a combined environment, Lifesize adds best-in-class audio and video quality and advanced communication and collaboration features to your existing Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Outlook workflows. There’s no longer a need to keep persistent chat, email and calendar tools separate from video conferencing services.
With the Lifesize integration for Microsoft, you can schedule and join a Lifesize video call directly from the Microsoft Office 365 environment. Employees not only benefit from a streamlined workflow; they also get a consistent and high-quality experience for all their video meetings. They can even have access to 4K content sharing, unlimited guest invites, 300-way video calling and meeting encryption by default. The Lifesize integration for Microsoft gives you a truly superior communication solution that presents the best of both worlds.
10. People management
bob HR is a leading platform for people management designed to improve the work experience for all employees, not just the ones in your physical office. From onboarding new talent into your workforce to dealing with contractor engagement, bob can help your team stay aligned.
Their artificial intelligence bot provides in-depth analytics on how to improve human capital ROI, along with tips for improving office communication. Within Microsoft Teams, bob can highlight daily digests and shout-outs for individual users while pushing updates on real-time events. What’s more, bob can answer questions from team members by accessing information from your company’s knowledge base.
Let Collaboration Tools Help, Not Hinder, Your Distributed Workforce
The modern workforce doesn’t have to exist in a single office anymore. With remote employees, contractors and freelancers scattered across the globe, companies need reliable ways to keep everyone connected and productive.
With tools like Lifesize for platform-agnostic video meetings and Mio for cross-platform messages, it’s never been easier to build the perfect distributed team toolkit.