Communicating with team members and other departments is a process that can always be refined. In an office, there may be a scrum whiteboard and daily stand-ups, weekly department meetings, the usual flurry of emails and perhaps the odd conference call or two. And yet there will still be questions and conversations that take place between individuals.
When managing a remote team, reliable communication channels are even more essential simply because everyone exists behind a screen. There’s no way to walk down the hall to deliver an urgent message in person or to gather around a table to scribble and brainstorm. Everyone has to be kept in the loop online, and communicating only via email means essential information is bound to get lost in the shuffle.
The best tools for remote interpersonal communication not only provide space for project comments and virtual meetings but also make workflows manageable. In short, these all-in-one packages are designed with remote teams in mind.
Asana is a productivity tool that focuses on task completion and teamwork online. One of the highlights of Asana is the ability to view and access tasks in multiple ways: list view, calendar view or board view.
Asana is perfect for list-lovers, but boards are a relatively recent feature, allowing you to drag and drop “cards” into different lists to visually manage the status of various projects. The board view is perfect for managers, who need to juggle many moving parts at the same time. However, users still have the option to toggle back to the list view to see their assignments and tasks.
The traditional board hierarchy is split into lists that contain cards. But it that’s not enough for you, Asana also includes a “sub-task” feature, which is like a check-list within each card. However, this check-list goes a step further than what you can expect from a service like Trello: each sub-task can be assigned to a specific team member, given a due date, and be mostly treated like another card entirely. It gives you that extra level of organization that is sometimes lacking in a traditional 3-tier board.
Your team members can stay up-to-date on priority tasks thanks to the “Today” and “Upcoming” list views. Tasks with due-dates are automatically integrated throughout Asana, meaning they’ll show up on your calendar and on your boards without the need to duplicate them yourself.
The free version of Asana is suitable for many teams, but you can upgrade for improved functionality. With a premium account, you can create templates, reducing the set-up time for new projects; add custom fields to track the status of each task or project easily. You can also create workflows to notify different team members that a task requires their attention, and create “hidden teams” for projects that don’t need all hands on deck.
For remote teams who rely on any Agile project management protocol, Dapulse is an excellent online tool for breaking down tasks and keeping everyone in the loop. Its functionality and straight-forward design make Dapulse the perfect substitute for the traditional office whiteboard.
Whether you choose from dozens of templates or start organizing one from scratch, Dapulse’s streamlined design makes it easy to track progress at a glance. Specific team members can be assigned to individual tasks, while labels and color-coded blocks display the status of tasks, project assignments, and upcoming deadlines.
Speaking of deadlines, Dapulse offers a unique calendar feature that helps everyone on your team prioritize their efforts. If you say a project will take four days to complete, a progress bar on the spreadsheet will incrementally fill with each passing day. The calendar feature also allows you to plan and visualize tasks for an entire week or month.
The spreadsheet design is entirely customizable, allowing you to see only the vital information for each item. From there, each item expands into a panel that shows comments and attachments. Nearly a dozen colored labels can be fully customized to reflect the current status of a project, to categorize the project, to organize the project into distinct phases, etc. When there are a lot of projects going at once, you can quickly filter items using the search function.
Although it does not have the ever-popular Trello-like layout, the use of labels helps make this a highly visual Agile project management tool, and project managers can quickly create a “high-level overview” section.
As a Microsoft product, you can expect SharePoint to be robust and capable software. SharePoint was designed to improve collaboration between teams (remote or otherwise) thanks to file sharing, real-time online document editing, and workflow development.
With a SharePoint workflow, you don’t need to tag the next person in line to review or publish content, for example. SharePoint can be programmed to automatically notify a specific team member once a file is uploaded or once the status of a file is changed, etc. The possibilities are endless.
But SharePoint’s major drawback is that it’s difficult to program the workflows; there is no easy way to DIY the SharePoint Developer software without prior experience. For best results, you’ll need a dedicated person on your team to write and test new workflows and to troubleshoot errors in existing ones.
However, for an enterprise-sized team with dozens and dozens of workflows, hiring a developer to keep things running smoothly is a no-brainer. Microsoft SharePoint allows custom, automated workflows to be created on a scale that virtually no other software can match.
And because SharePoint is part of the Microsoft Office 365 software suite, it integrates with Word, OneDrive, Excel and all other MS software like a charm.
Although SharePoint can be installed on a server for traditional offices, remote teams can efficiently use the online version. You can even set up “sites” for specific projects or clients, allowing you to control which team members have access to specific information and giving your team space to communicate. Widgets such as calendars and media libraries can be added to each site as needed.
In short, SharePoint is highly functional, but you’ll likely need a savvy developer to help you make the most of it.
You’ve Got Options!
Although all three of these tools promise to make team collaboration and remote project management more accessible than ever, they deliver very different products. Which one is best for you?
If you are working with a large team and are primarily concerned with workflows and file sharing, SharePoint is ideal. For highly visual people who need to break complex projects down into feasible tasks, Asana is an excellent choice. For small teams or individuals who require a high degree of customization with a visual layout, check out Dapulse.
Whatever your specific needs, there’s a tool made with you in mind.