Remote teams are useful because they allow companies to be cost-conscious while still getting the quality work needed for smooth business operations. However, in my experience managing remote teams for the last 15 years there are certainly challenges when managing teams operating especially in different geographic regions. Making the most of technology advancements provide ways to help overcome these obstacles so you can reap the benefits of remote teams.

The main challenge of managing remote teams involves communication, both verbal and written. As the internet has evolved, online collaboration has become a true asset for project management. But what if you’re working with teams separated by language barriers and time zone differences? In some occasions, companies are leveraging international teams, creating situations where teams are literally working on opposite schedules. We use a number of tools to keep us headed in the right direction.

A ConnectSolutions study shows that 77 percent of workers get more done in fewer hours when working remotely.

Tools of the remote team trade

A large part of the success of I’ve had with remote teams has been due to tools that aide in keeping remote teams on track:

Regardless of who owns the budget, it’s critical that executive sponsors from IT and the business are aligned on what capabilities the project will deliver, when will they be delivered, and what resources will be required from their respective departments.

  • Document management tools: Document management tools allow for team members to work from a single source, contributing to one document without having to pass around multiple copies. Good tools often include a versioning system so that you can track who made what changes and fix problems when necessary. Document management tools include Microsoft Sharepoint, Atlassian Confluence, and DocuWare Cloud.
  • Task management tools: These tools are helpful for assigning tasks to individual team members so that everyone stays on track. Often, task management tools have dashboards which provide additional work details for projects and make it easy for team members to seek assistance from coworkers. These tools include software such as Wrike, JIRA, and Smartsheet.
  • Real-time messaging: Ever since the days of chat rooms, we have been accustomed to the possibilities of a messenger platforms. However, it’s important to use one that offers persistent chatting on a secure network. You could opt for a tool such as Slack or HipChat.
  • Screen sharing tools: When team members work in separate locations, it’s often important to bring workers together for group collaboration. Secure screen sharing is important when you want to reap the benefits of the collective brain. Screen sharing tools such as TeamViewer and Skype are great for bringing teams together.

Improving how we work with remote teams

Although these tools make remote team management immensely easier, real communication is still absolutely necessary. The downside of a robust digital toolset is that people want to talk on the phone less and less. To eliminate any gaps that might develop as a result, it’s important to have a daily touchpoint. The real communication is so important, even down to the small talk. Real conversations should be a big part of your process.

BlueSky is a certified Atlassian Expert. We utilize the Atlassian toolset in our daily operations, and because we recognize the value of these tools, we highly recommend them for remote team management.

Read the full article on Remote Leadership Institute here.

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