Welcome to our new normal of “working remotely.” Many of us are still trying to figure it out. And whether we’re adjusting to online conference calls, 1:1 meetings, or training… we’re all learning that working remotely can be a challenge.
At Hyperdrive Agile, we are a multi-million dollar Agile consulting and training company that has had the advantage of running “virtual” for over 10 years. Although we recently set up our physical offices in downtown San Francisco, we continue to operate remotely with staff working in California, Oregon, and Tennessee.
After a decade of learning, we’ve mastered the art of running our business from nearly anywhere in the world. Whether we’re in New York, London, Kenya, Costa Rica, or Warsaw… our operations run smoothly and cohesively, just as if we were working together in our San Francisco office.
We thought we’d share some of the tools and techniques that might be useful in managing your own operations. This is not an exhaustive list but rather our feedback on the tools that have helped our team collaborate with clients and each other.
Video Conferencing, Document Sharing and Collaboration
If you’re not using Zoom – this is a must have for video conferencing and conference calls. If you’re on a budget, there is a free version available. Just note that it cuts you off at 40 minutes (then you need to dial in). We use the Pro version for daily collaboration with clients and with each other on group calls.
In addition to the video and audio capabilities, other features include gallery view (shows up to 20 people at a time), the ability for participants to share their screens, “record” options, chat, polling, and breakout rooms.
Zoom has also been an incredible tool for our live, online classes. It scales well and includes the breakout “rooms” for setting up small group discussions. And if you want - you can record the session.
Pro Tip #1: If you need to draw, login with both your PC and tablet. By doing this, you can use your PC to watch the Zoom and use the tablet to draw by “sharing” it and using your favorite drawing app. Just be sure to turn off the mic and speakers of the tablet or a horrible echo will ensue!
Pro Tip #2: If your WiFi bandwidth is not good, the video will slow down. Instead, use your phone to login as sometimes the bandwidth on your phone handles video and audio better than your WiFi.
A client of ours introduced us to Google Meet. We weren’t a fan of its video and audio conference features, but it’s growing on us more and more. For GSuite users, this is included as part of your subscription. Like Zoom, the video includes phone only dial-in features and screen sharing. However, Google Meet lacks many of the cool features that Zoom has such as breakout rooms, polling, and chat. Nonetheless, it’s very useful and you won’t need to spend extra for the product if you already have Zoom. For us, we only use the platform with clients who are already on Google. Otherwise - Zoom is our “go to” solution.
Our team collaborates a lot, so version control and organization are key. We use Google Documents and Sheets as a simple way to manage content, co-create and collaborate on a wide range of topics over multiple devices.
In the “old” days, we’d send documents back and forth over email. Now, however, Google Docs and Sheets has helped our team keep track of content, minimize emails and simplified the review process (with a helpful change history log included).
Whether it’s marketing content, budgets, lists, training material or proposals, these Google tools allow us to quickly collaborate in real-time to see each others’ changes and comments. If you’ve never tried to create a document with more than one person – give it a try. This will test your bias on group creativity.
Pro Tip #3: For those who don’t use Google Docs, definitely look at shared drives like Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box. Many of you that work with larger companies already have this capability for cloud storage as it makes it easy to share documents across teams. Pricing is affordable as 10 GB can be free on Box or 2 TB for $10 on Dropbox.
Mural is our new favorite collaboration tool. At minimum, use it as a simple, collaborative whiteboard that’s shareable with a link. Or, experiment with the dozens of pre-loaded templates that it comes with. This is an excellent tool for collaboration on mind maps, business canvases, value stream maps, user story maps, roadmaps, retrospectives and much more. If you’re looking to get a group of people to brainstorm or collaborate simultaneously – you can use this online tool to fuel your discussion.
While there’s no fee to get started, there is an ongoing fee of $12/month. If you’re not doing much collaboration – you might want to try Miro instead. Yes… the names sound almost the same!
Feature by feature, Miro looks a lot like Mural. Both have templates and can be used as fast-to-setup collaboration spaces. Miro feels a little more “structured,” while Mural is more free flowing. For us, the biggest difference is how you can share a board. In Mural’s model, the main user sends a link to the board to other users. The users don’t need a login but the host needs to pay for a monthly subscription. In Miro, everyone needs a login. But by sharing a link, Miro makes it simple to register by verifying a Gmail/Facebook SSO and typing in an email address, name, and password. No subscription needed.
For added savings, Miro’s free account gives you three boards at a time which we have found is plenty of workspace. Once you get started, you may want to consider paying for an upgrade of $8/month for additional space. With a free pricing model that includes optional upgrades, Miro is a practical option for most users.
Pro Tip #4: Use your tablet on Zoom, then you can use your PC to work on Mural/Miro. This way you can quickly move/create/edit the artifacts.
Pro Tip #5: Go big with extending your laptop to a monitor. This way you can extend the real-estate of your screens to allow you to use multiple programs easily.
When working remotely, tracking work is essential – what’s completed, upcoming projects, initiatives and team deadlines. This enables the group to self-manage where they align their energy. That is, what should they be working on next.
Our company uses Trello to track our work. We’ve tried a lot of solutions and this just seems to be the simplest and easiest to use. We use the “free” version but using some of the “power-up” paid features helps enable custom fields, better user story tracking, and much more. Because Trello is so flexible, it’s easy to create shared To-Do Lists, custom Kanban boards or create complex flows like managing sales pipeline tracking. Other nice features include using tags, attachments, and enabling multiple boards. Whatever work that needs to be tracked - Trello is worth looking into for your local or distributed teams.
Pro Tip #6: If you work with a team, try Trello as a starting point. It’s easy to create a value stream that is simple (To Do, Doing, Done) to something somewhat complex. But the main idea is that this gives everyone real-time insight to what the work pile looks like. You get 10 boards for free so there’s no excuse not to get started.
Jira is another option to track more complex work. Like Trello, Jira can track your work using backlogs or Kanban. Now, we’ve not used this for our company just yet, but we’re testing it with managing job candidates. Jira has built-in features that help with workflow management as well as a host of features that help to manage projects and products simultaneously. The free version allows up to 10 users.
These are a few of the tools that Hyperdrive enjoys and we hope these are helpful for you, too!
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