Any manager who works with remote teams needs a combination collaboration tools to work online with both their employees and clients – but often there are so many out there that it’s challenging to choose just one. On the other hand, it can be easy to use too many tools and get overwhelmed by proceses, documentation, and redundant communication.
At Ekipa, we’ve been there. We use a handful of real-time collaboration tools and in this article, we’ll compare them to some of their alternatives.
At Ekipa we use Skype for voice, video, and chat communications on our team. We like how Skype is widely adopted internationally and even works well in areas with poor connectivity – since everyone on our team is dispersed around the globe we need a platform that’s familiar with everyone, everywhere.We also appreciate its versatility in sharing files and contacts, and helping our team members call phone lines in other countries.
The downsides of Skype are well known and we’ve had to deal with them from time to time. Spotty connections, voices breaking up, frozen or lagging video – all these can make for a very frustrating Skype call. While other platforms also have these problems, Skype does seem to suffer from it a little bit more.
When there is unexpected SkypeDown, team gets affected and need to switch to an alternative app though many remote work communications happen smooth through Skype.
Slack is a a favorite for many remote teams, although we don’t tend to use it for internal communication as much. Since it’s been widely adopted in North America and the UK, for Ekipa we generally keep it open as a client communication channel. Slack lets users instantly drop documents in the chat bar, and create and work with custom groups, enabling easy and organized communications. Slack’s advanced user experience and a set of great integrations transform the way of traditional work pattern. It’s integrated with services like Dropbox, Twitter, Google Drive and many more. One of the coolest features of Slack is you can tag whatever in the message and @mention the person who should be notified. You can search conversations in other groups and also set preferences to avoid conversations that are not direct. Plus, the custom emoji are a lot of fun, too.
There are a few of drawbacks to using Slack . Compared to HipChat, Slack doesn’t show all information in one screen. Sometimes even though you switch to compact mode, the poor alignment and colored names can disturb the readability. It is known that Slack has many features, but its hidden under different icons and dropdowns. In Mac, Slack doesn’t obey the notification settings and often be a pain for the team.
Google Docs is Ekipa’s hub for managing all our spreadsheets, docs, files, and images with our individual Google accounts. We like it because we can work with all our teammates in real-time, which doesn’t work with Dropbox. We move forward much faster when multiple users can add notes, make comments and chat simultaneously within the context of using a doc. Considering all these awesome features, plus the fact that it’s free, it’s become our preferred system of document management.
When we look at its negative side, Google docs do not support advanced features to that of Microsoft Excel, however, it satisfies the demands of workers real-time. In order to work in Docs, you must be connected to the internet throughout compared to MS Office. Once you name the document (the first line), later if you wish to rename, you need to select it from the list, open and then click on the title to add a new name.
Project Management Apps
Trello is a simple Kanban board that lets everyone on your teams see all cards and activity on the boards that they’re following. While lots of different teams use Trello, it’s not our go-to project management system at Ekipa – but plenty of teams love how open it is. Trello is great for teams that prefer having a birds-eye view of everyone’s work at the same time.
Some drawbacks of Trello are that it’s not possible to write a longer description about what each board is supposed to address. There is no calendar and project bar chart, which limits the use of this app by some.
At Ekipa, we work with in Asana, organising and assigning tasks for each day. We tend to prefer a more granular level view of tasks, and we like that Asana lets us give detailed task information down to a sub-task level.
Asana is our favorite versatile, project centric tool, but one potential disadvantage is that when our team size becomes more than 15 we’ll have to pay – $83/month.
Let’s now see few alternative tools to real-time communication for remote teams other than the above ones.
Sqwiggle’s tagline is“Work Better, Together”- just as it says, teams can interact with each players face-to-face, creating a well managed virtual office, engaging in live chats and discussions while apart. If you are a Scrum master, agile project manager, you need to be more descriptive between your teammates, and that’s what Sqwiggle is – it creates a communal office environment ditching traditional up and down texting. Sqwiggle offers instant video conferencing where you can just talk, without accepting the call, too.
Although Sqwiggle closes the gap of communication with teammates, it’s only free for teams with three or less than three people.
However, it has similar functionality to Skype, HipChat is designed to help out business teams. Here, you can share private documents real-time and caters faster collaboration. HipChat is currently adding more integrations to attract remote teams.
For features like video calling, HipChat charges $2/person per month.
While Skype leads the market for video calls, some teams prefer using Google Hangouts. Anyone with a Google account and Google+ can quickly access Google Hangout. You can be connected with your co-workers throughout the day. In Hangouts, you can set up video calls with up to 10 people at a time and share the call live with others too. Screen sharing features also helps to ease real-time communication. You can upload the call to Youtube and share with the entire team later.
Google Hangouts is an excellent tool for one-on-one video conferencing, but it’s not without limitations. If you are running Hangouts on your Android phone, desktop and laptop, it sends notifications to every device causing an overload of alerts and confusion. Hangouts doesn’t support every type of webcam or audio device so you might need to install the Hangouts plugin for Chrome browser. Do check your devices before starting the Hangout and choose the specific one than the default.
Do you have more to add to the list? I am sure you got some which I have missed. Let us know what you think in the comments!
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September 16, 2015
About Raisa Mathew
Raisa Elizabeth Mathew is a digital journalist, 360° engagement-centric content strategist and photographer. Her ideas and passion are kittens, social media and mobile. Web enthusiast and professional blogger since 2011, she contributes to a handful of the top technology and marketing websites around the world.
She can be reached via Twitter as RaisaMathew
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