Cheap & free tools to help teams in multiple locations
I came across a couple of people yesterday through a group I am involved with who manage teams across multiple locations. As a result we started discussing various tools that are useful in assisting communication.
They found the list below useful, so I thought it was worth sharing it with everyone.
Fonality – we pay $40/month/phone and have multiple units. We took a few to India and just plugged them in. We had to set some of it up using their control panel but it wasn’t anything we couldn’t figure out. Also the price gives us unlimited calling across Australia and really cheap International rates.
I dial our India team on extensions such as 6000 – so its like they’re in the same office, different desk. It makes things really convenient because you can just pick up the phone!
I know there are other similar providers like Engin, MyNetFone, etc who offer similar value and plans. You can also set up extensions, dial-in numbers – change numbers, etc very easily using a web based interface.
Skype – we use Skype groups excessively for different teams. That way different teams report their status and discuss issues in such a way that it is visible to everyone.
We use Google Chat (its part of Google Apps) in case I can’t reach someone on Skype. Again fairly convenient to get a response and important to keep in touch.
Google Hangout/Chat – we use Google Video given the high quality of the output. But if you don’t have Google apps, there are other options that you can consider that help.
Hu.tt – I really like Hu.tt! It is early, but I click on ‘Get Started’ and it goes. I can have up to 3 people for free right now and its quite good. The protocol they use may not work on older browsers or Internet Explorer. You may need Chrome or Firefox to make it work.
I know of similar applications such as Talky that are the same idea. Easy to set up and get going with no crazy hardware required.
Video conversations are always great – much better than phone or emails. Those expressions always help you convey your sense of emotion at the time better than email ever does.
Other Project Management/Communication:
Link Sharing/Reading – something that I find is really helpful in our business is sharing what we’re reading. We have set this up internally: http://links.langoor.com/ where people share what they’re reading. We only set it up a month ago but it is a great way for everyone to help each other stay ahead in our field. And this operates cross borders for us which is nice!
Basecamp: We used this for the first two years in our business. It is a really good and simple project management system. It was very easy to get started and set up all our projects in there.
Asana: We use Asana a lot – to complement our Skype teams. It is great for task management driven work. Effectively you can organise work around tasks/things to do and very easy for anyone to pick up.
Qwilr: One of my friends is involved with this startup. We use this to create and collaborate across proposals. It is a great way to have multiple people edit proposals across different locations and then publish them.
We’ve also customised internal systems, use Google Docs, but all of these tools can only complement the fundamental requirement that applies to differently geo-located teams – over communicate!