Remote working tools for small business

Posted on 07 Dec 2016
Reader Question:

Hi Doctor Digital, I have just relocated to Tasmania to live the dream while running my global software startup. I’ve got NBN and a good café nearby, what are the best tools to use to connect with my team in their various locations?

Doctor Digital Says:

Welcome to paradise, and being part of the vanguard of how the new office is run. The idea of place based working has changed so much in the last five years. As information and communication technologies have become more social and connected, and businesses operate across multiple jurisdictions through this enabling technology, the post-industrial role of the office and/or the business workplace has dramatically shifted.

For those not familiar with how it all works, remote working can be defined broadly as work that happens predominantly outside an office/fixed environment. It differs from outsourcing in that its not the replacement of in house skills with lower cost workers.

Remote workers can be freelancers and solopreneurs that have chosen to deliver their services from home, they can be individuals who work for organisations from two employees to 100 000 employees. With adequate and mobile network access, remote workers are locationally independent.

All of the technology and infrastructure required to enable remote working already exists. There is abundant modelling on the financial and productivity benefits to individual workers and businesses from having workers operate remotely. There are some key reasons remote working works for workers and for business owners, these include the capacity to get work done without continual interruption; the reduction in commuting time; the capacity to find the right skills anywhere in the world and the lowering of infrastructure costs. For business owners and employers this translates to higher productivity and lower operating costs.

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of market entrants in apps and cloud based services to get your team running remotely, are a few of the more commonly used ones.

Slack

This product is great for real-time communication for one-on-one conversations or with everyone on your team. You can also organize chats by subject, and integrate activity from Github, Trello, Pingdom, etc. Slack is as close to a virtual office as you can get and for even better organization you can create one channel for every client, and invite only the people on that project to be on that channel. Slack is free to use as long as you want with an unlimited amount of users.

Evernote 

Evernote is a popular catch all collaborative tool. Perfect for sharing all kinds of notes, ideas, docs and conversations, it integrates well with everything and has a number of helpful tools (see Skitch below). Evernote offers a freemium model with a number of useful features from free to $13/user per month to an enterprise level cost.

Trello

Trello helps with project management in a simple but powerful way. Projects get a full graphic display that can be customized with the different phases of the project (called lists) and the individual steps along the way (called cards). With members editing, moving and adding things to your board, Trello makes it easier to see a project making progress. Trello is free to use, but for if you want to add in additional business features, it will cost you $5/user per month.

Basecamp

Basecamp is heavily used project management software (100 000+ customers) which has had a long period in the market to grow and evolve as business has changed. (Interestingly the founders of Basecamp are massive advocates of remote working and have a fantastic book on how to transition your company to a remote working organization, which you can read about here.) The cloud based software helps you arrange your calendars, set meeting schedules, track assignments, and store documents. Pricing is per month, with a sliding scale of costs, first project is free, no matter how many users, or how long it goes for.

Go To Meeting

GoToMeeting has really dominated the video chat space, and is also a key player in the delivery of webinars. Key features are reliability, clarity, lots of in screen tools, screen sharing is easy and calls are of a high quality. You can give it a red hot go with a 30 day free trial offer, and then payment terms can be per organizer, per month or annual.

Seriously thinking about the benefits of remote working? Check out the comprehensive fact sheet with all your key remote management tools covered here.