Digital tools bringing virtual teams closer together
Over the years I have worked with several different virtual teams, teams where members sit in different locations, countries or even different continents. I’ve seen many of them work fantastically together, where time, culture and competence differences have together created amazing collaborative results. But I have also seen too many non functional virtual teams where disjoint team members don’t collaborate, misinterpret each other and simply as a team don’t add any value to the company.
The conclusion that many leadership teams often make at this stage is that their specific company have a need for physical meetings and can’t work with virtual teams, leading to increased travel expenses, reduced productivity and at the end of the day, lower revenue. It’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be that way. One of the missing pieces that I see is easily added, and that is the needed for better communication tools. The right tools can lay the foundation for a positive experience, driving collaboration, team spirit and great results.
Of course there are other important pieces to be added to create successful virtual teams, but this is one of the fundamentals. Here I have collected my favorite tools to create a great team that no longer need office cubicals, conference rooms or office corridors to get things done!
Using video when doing one-on-one meetings, project updates or team meetings is a great way to feel more connected and engaged. Having people see each other forces them to focus on the meeting and not multitask with other things. It also helps to see people’s reactions to ideas, concepts and opinions. I personally love Zoom, as it is easy to use, share content and set up. Skype and Google Hangouts are also great and it’s more of a personal preference, which one you choose.
Collaborative project management tools
Which tool that suits the best depends on how you work with projects. My favorite is Trello as it gives you a very visual overview on what is going on at any given moment. But if you drive more traditional waterfall projects and not agile, I would recommend Basecamp as it gives you more of the traditional PM tools.
What would we do without file sharing? It makes collaboration so much easier, keeping track on the right document versions and not to mention making your inbox lighter. Personally I use Dropbox more but a lot of my clients use Google Drive and loves it as you can easily keep track of changes.
My favorite tool of them all is Slack. The mothership of all team communication. It’s easy, makes all communication less formal and creates a feeling of being in the same room even when there’s an ocean separating team members. And the best of all, it brings all your communication, all the tools I mentioned above, together in one place (expect basecamp I’m afraid). It removes the need of emails and the corporate illness of having everyone on copy on every damn email… Good bye time consuming emails, hello social, open communication!
There are tons of fun, social apps out there that only exist to make life at work more fun. Many are typically geographically based such as Coffee Runner and Beer Time that let’s you share with the team when its time for a coffee break or an after work. But others are here for the simple reason to lift a virtual teams spirit. An example is Son.gg, a music sharing tool that lets team members share music independently of which streaming service they use. Another is Health Hero, a tool that helps you create fun & simple fitness challenges within your team – tracking with the help of your favorite health app.
So there you have them, my favorite digital tools that have the power to bring virtual teams closer together, making sure that it doesn’t matter where you sit in the world to drive great results. Of course, having great tools is only half the answer. To succeed with virtual teams I believe you also need to add strong communication skills, the right talent and a strong purpose driven leadership. More about that next!
Do you have any favorite tools?