As members of virtual teams ourselves, we’ve used a number of different apps and services.
Here are some of our favourites:
E-mail’s great for some conversations, but for managing a project with a virtual team, it’s hard to beat a dedicated project management app, like Basecamp. For one, it keeps your inbox free of clutter, hosting focused discussions on a dedicated project webpage that your whole team can see. You can track your team’s progress towards a goal and manage to-do lists to help your team get there on time. You can share calendars, files and collaborate on text documents too.
2. Google Drive
Google Drive is the new home of Google Docs, which is Google’s answer to Microsoft Office. The real benefit for virtual teams is the ability to collaborate on documents in real time. You can leave comments on your team’s work or chat while you work together.
When you collaborate in a virtual team, it’s sometimes easier to show rather than tell. Skitch is the solution in this scenario. It let’s you quickly take a screen grab of what you can see on your desktop or in your web browser and annotate it with shapes, arrows, quick sketches and text.
Another app for show-don’t-tell scenarios, join.me lets you share your screen with up to 10 other users, let them control your computer, chat and swap files. It’s sort of magical how quick and easy it is to do this – and it’s great for showing work in progress or for helping out team members with technical difficulties that are hard to explain over the phone or over e-mail.
For day-to-day communication with your team, Skype is an essential app to have in your dock or taskbar. Not only does it allow you to call and video call your team members for free, it’s a really easy way to instant message one another and swap files directly. We use it in our team for quick conversations and to let each other know when we’re working and where we’re working, which just helps us feel like we’re together, even if we’re miles apart!
With Dropbox software installed on your computer, and on the computers of your team members, files are automatically updated, so everyone has the latest version, and they’re backed up too, so you won’t have to worry about losing your stuff.
It can be easy to feel, in between hearing from your team members, that no work is being done. This is a crisis of faith that needs to be overcome, but it does take some time – and, crucially, trust. In the meantime, there’s iDoneThis – a simple web app that’s more about celebrating your team’s achievements than it is about spying on what’s been done. It sends an evening email reminder that everyone on your team writes a quick reply to saying what they did that day – just one line per task. The next day, everyone gets a digest with what everyone else has been working on.