You’re a good tenant. You pay rent on time, don’t throw crazy parties (at least, anymore). But what if your landlord handed you an eviction notice unexpectedly?
What a massive punch in the gut! And tedious – moving…yuck. If a software your team uses goes belly up, your business could suffer a similar blow.
And in a distributed team, the effects could be worse.
Remote tools are the backbone of a burgeoning industry that’s attracting the best businesses and top talents, and generating immense profits. If you want in, you’ll need to build a killer team. We can help. Let us know.
Remote work would be impossible without the right tools. Remove the tools and remote work comes undone.
So in this article, we’re discussing how to navigate such a nightmare.
The Ever-Changing Landscape of Remote Tools
If you’re a subscriber to the DistantJob newsletter (if not, you should be – it’s très informatif), you’ll know we regularly write about remote tools. That’s because the remote-tool terrain is so volatile. Remember the case of the Google Keyword Tool? And you know Google will permanently kill goo.gl on 30th March 2019, right? You may not even have noticed these. But when Google announced that the Hangouts chrome app would be retired, it sent shockwaves because many businesses (especially remote ones) used this tool to ‘meet’ face-to-face. Since early 2015, Google has been planning Hangout’s retirement. In January 2017, in an email, they told developers that they’ll stop new Hangouts API and shut down existing ones by April:
“In order to streamline our efforts further, we will be retiring the Google+ Hangouts API that enables developers to build apps for the older version of Hangouts video calls.”
If you’re a G Suite user, around April 2018, Google most likely migrated you from Hangouts to Hangout Meets. And if not…well…all we know is that it’ll “soon” stop working.
The remote tool landscape is not volatile solely because of Google. Here’s the Wikipedia Category page for Discontinued Software. It’s a rather long list.
How to Determine If Your Remote Tool Is Endangered
The discontinued software page above lists everything from messengers to web servers to shareware. Some of these were original, popular, monetized. So, there’s no one reason why they were discontinued.
But there might be a few telltale signs if a tool is in similar danger:
- Has not been updated in a while: If the company is regularly putting out updates and fixing problems, it means the software is doing well. If not, they may feel it’s not worth their time.
- Free and free of advertisement: All IaaS, PaaS, SaaS tools are businesses. If they haven’t managed to monetize a tool, it’ll be difficult to sustain it.
- The technology itself is becoming obsolete: Remember phones that didn’t have 4G capabilities a few years ago? Well, when 5G comes along (soon), there’ll be a whole new batch of obsolete phones.
- Competition from similar products: One reason Google discontinued Hangouts is the competition it faced from tools like Slack and Zoom. Clearly, it needed to reboot to come to par.
- Being acquired by another company: A popular tool may be acquired by another company. Then they may decide to change the previous tool, leaving users in the lurch.
- Going from free to paid-for service: Although different to being discontinued, you’ll have to decide whether you’ll pay for that tool or find a new one altogether.
- Is not a value-added service: Apps that are essential for running a remote business have a better chance of sticking around if only because they have a better chance of being monetized. But if it’s only “nice-to-have”, then there’s a greater risk of it being discontinued.
Measures to Stay Ahead of a Remote Tool Armageddon
A few ways to prepare for when a remote tool you use is going out of style.
- Keep up with the changes: If you see that the tool isn’t in step with technology, it’s in danger. So keep abreast of what’s happening with that technology and that industry.
- Owner vs. renter vs. squatter: Free tools are the most susceptible. It’s best to pay for a remote tool that’s going to hold your projects and your team’s work. If the service is not essential to your business, like a URL shortener, you can use a free one. When goo.gl goes, use bit.ly. (And why isn’t bit.ly going anywhere? Although their URL shortener is free, they offer paid-for services, like tracking where the clickthroughs come from, which sustains them as a business.)
- Consider in-app purchases: Many previously-free tools have now become paid-for. Google apps (former avatar of G Suite) used to be free. Google Keyword Planner works as well, if you have a hefty AdSense account. But given the capabilities they provide, tools like G Suite are worth splurging for. Alternatively, if you weren’t happy with the previous tool, it’s better to move on.
- Watch out for announcements/emails: Usually much before they pull the plug, a company will announce its intentions. So time and plan your actions accordingly. The sooner you know your next step, the better off your team will be.
How to Keep Your Remote Team Running When a Tool Is Going Out
If migrating to another tool is unavoidable, you’ll have to ensure your remote team members don’t fall off the radar.
- Time it right – Carry out the migration when your team is the least busy. In a remote team, scheduling a migration is easier, because your team is familiar with working flexible hours. So they can plan their work around “migration time.”
- Pick the right tool – Second time around you can make better choices, keeping in mind what wasn’t working with the last tool. It’s better to get a paid plan even for open source platforms, like GitHub. And especially for remote project management tools. At the beginning of this article, I had described how to pick a suitable remote project management tool, should you want to check it out.
- Choose multi-cloud platforms – It’s better to be on a multi-cloud platform that can communicate between tools from different clouds. And if need be, get a cloud service provider.
- Plan a seamless migration process – Adopting an agile strategy would be least disruptive to your team’s work. It’ll allow you to break down the deliverables, create a timeline, and budget your resources prudently. Make sure you backup everything, test the new environment, update your knowledge base, and teach your team to use the new tool. Liquid Planner has a good outline you can follow.
- Keep communication channels open – This is indispensable for a remote team, especially when drastic changes are happening in their work environment. You may need to consider using an “interim” tool during the migration period so that the team can continue with their work.
Moving tools in a remote work environment can be tricky because a distributed team’s work can come to a halt without proper tools. Yet, remote teams are much more flexible and agile. They can quickly adapt to the changes, learn to use new tools, and even change their schedule to make the transition process easy.
Feel free to let us know if you have any question about managing your distributed team when your business is going through sweeping changes.