Collaboration Tools for Your Outsourced Team
We live in exciting and changing times when it comes to work, careers and business. Gone are the days when you joined an organisation and stayed there for 40 years wearing ties, tights and boring suits, working set hours and eating warm sandwiches during an unnecessary and excessively long lunch break! And heaven forbid, if as a working women you wanted to have a family, as that was just an inconvenience.
As you can tell my experience with the world of work has not always been a positive one, hence my move into running my own business, as it suited the way we live our lives as a family. And there are more and more of us taking this step, either setting up our own businesses, or working as self-employed contractors and freelancers, giving us the freedom to work when we want, where we want and with whom we want.
This changing shift has in part be brought about by the increasing ease of online working, which has inevitably led to an explosion in software, apps and technology. And I love it, as well as the opportunities it presents for the next generation.
In an age of outsourcing, collaboration tools have become must-have's for any business that wants growth, effectively communicate, be productive and collaborate with their team? But with so many apps, tools and software on the market, how do you know which one to use and where to start?
Keep reading to find out my top collaboration tools for improving communication and productivity with your outsourced team.
Obviously an essential requirement for any business working with a team is to have good communication and this means having systems in place that everyone uses.
Slack: using software like Slack takes the conversation out of the Inbox. It's a communication platform that brings all your team's conversations together in one place. Slack has an extensive feature set, but its core functionality is centered around creating and joining “channels.” Channels are basically like separate forums, where you can have conversations with other people on the same channel or create private groups for different tasks. This, for me, is one of my key essential apps.
Video conferencing: Essential and one most of us are already using now. Ever since Zoom changed it's pricing plan recently I have moved to Google Meet which is pretty good. I do have Teams with my Microsoft 365 license but many people prefer Google Meet so it shows it's always good to have alternatives.
So you've got your comms sorted the next step is get organised in terms of actual work, tasks and projects. There are a wealth of online project management tools out there that can assist you in managing tasks and projects with a team online. YouTube is a great place for reviews and learning the basics. There are lots of these apps, and the two below have free starter options (I use both on a daily basis).
Trello: a task and project management platforms that organizes tasks into boards, cards and lists. Its simple interface makes it easy to keep track of what needs doing, who's doing it and when it'll be done by.
Asana: similar to Trello but a different looking interface and works better for larger teams. A useful feature is the ability to create workflows that automate recurring tasks.
Others include Monday.com, Clickup and Airtable.
File Sharing Tools
A file sharing tool is a cloud-based service that allows you to upload, access and share files from anywhere. This can be a great way for your outsourced team to collaborate on projects with you and each other, allowing everyone to work simultaneously on the same document.
There are many different types of file sharing services available today, but there are some key features that make up a good one:
Easy synchronization between users' systems
Good user experience - easy interface and intuitive navigation
The top two are of course are Google Drive and Office 365: These two cloud storage platforms are great for storing documents (both text files or other types of documents) so you can access them anywhere from any device. Alternatives also include Dropbox but you need to check GDPR compliance as information is stored in different countries depending on your account type (this was the case).
Lastly, and not the most exciting of topics, but the most important is your online information security for your business, yourself and your team. There a few things for consideration here but I'm no security expert so if you feel you need advice, get it:
Online backup: there is no arguing with this, you simply can't keep or store all your data and information on your laptop hard drive. You need a plan; think about what would happen if your laptop went down, what steps would you take. There's lots of online backup solutions you can subscribe to, but it really does depend on the nature of your business.
Password management: did you know it's possible to share passwords and login information to apps with your team, and not actually let them know what the login information is? Apps like LastPass and 1Password are password management apps that allow you share encrypted passwords. But more importantly they also allow you to retract that information at the click of a button.
VPN: if you frequent coffee shops, libraries, hotels and work-hubs then you will probably want to access their wifi. However this comes with massive security risks as people can steal your info. Using a VPN (virtual private network) creates an encrypted tunnel for your data making it safe to use the public wifi.
Anti-virus software: I'm not going to say to much about this as it's an obvious one really.
Once you have established whats tools, apps and software you are using, the next step is to make sure that your team is using the tools effectively and complying with your security and data policy, so you’ll want to consider:
How to integrate these tools into each person’s workflow.
How to train your team on how to use these tools properly.
How to make sure that everyone is using them properly.
The apps, software and tools you choose will depend on what your business does but all businesses will need communication, file sharing, productivity and online security software in order for your business to grow, stay secure and be productive!