11 mins read time

Tools for Remote Teams

Flash Hub founder, Manuel Pistner, shares some of the tools he recommends for virtual teams.

The success of virtual teams and organizations depends very much on the right tools and the right setup.

It happens often that tools are not implemented correctly or something is missing or not adaptable.

Manuel shares some of his experiences using various tools for virtual collaboration and project management. He also talks about the importance of having the right on-/offboarding processes in place, as those can be really time-consuming. But listen for yourself, which tools are used within successful virtual teams.

Listen to the episode below:

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CHRIS REEVES

Hello, and welcome to the virtual frontier, the podcast about virtual teams created by virtual team. I’m Chris and I’m part of the team here at Flash Hub. On today’s episode our founder Manuel Pistner spend some time talking about the tools he recommends for virtual teams. So here is Episode Three of the virtual frontier. Take it away Manuel.

MANUEL PISTNER

Hi, today I want to talk about tools for remote teams. I’m always asked the questions, which tools do you use to organize your remote team? Where did you Where do you get your talent from? How do you ensure that you get the right talent? And how do you ensure that you don’t have to trust people, but that you can really make sure that the project is on the right track and everybody’s doing his or her work? So one very important thing is to find the right people and there are many, many talent marketplaces out there. I mean, you can see LinkedIn as a talent marketplace. But there are more specific communities like Fiverr or upwork or freelancer.com guru.com, and others. There are some specialized platforms for virtual assistants etc.

So there are many marketplaces to find people, but it’s as I mean, it’s the same as when you work with local people with employees, you need to find the right one. You just don’t need people that have time. But you need people that have time and are experts in a specific skill set and can do your job pretty well with experience. So what we do is that we have Assessment Center developed and we have a virtual HR team with recruiters and people that execute the assessment center, and they ensure that we have people that match the hard skills that we require. This could be technology skills, this could be like PHP or project management, agile project management or whatever we need. And we also want them to assess their soft skills, which is how they communicate how they behave in different situations. This is especially important, for example, for roles that should manage things. For example, manager should not be creative people. Creative people are less structured than it is required for a project manager.

And the project manager can never be a user experience designer or a designer for user interfaces because this person might not be creative enough its’s a structure person and that’s what we want to figure out when working with people. Of course, their experience and the results that they delivered in past projects is very important. That’s why sometimes we asked for references from past projects and we analyze these references and understand how these people contributed to the project. And we always ask them, which KPIs did you use to ensure that your work is successful. And then you see if people really understand what it means to focus on results, instead of doing just work. If you have a virtual team, and this is the same if you have a local team, you don’t want people just to do work.

You want people to deliver results. And you want people that work self responsible, and that can understand and decide what they need to do. As a manager, you also need to understand that this is a very important tool, don’t be a manager, be a leader. Lead people hire the right people, and then let them go. Don’t tell them what they should do. They know if you provide them with transparency and give them all data that they need to make decisions. They will make the right decisions. If you don’t let them do the right decisions, they will either leave or they will just be like robots that just execute tasks.

And then it’s you who takes the whole responsibility. And you need to decide everything in the project and your virtual team will be a real mess for you because they will not do your work. They will just ask you questions all the time, what should they do next? And what is their job and how to do this and how to do that. It will not make your project succeed. So don’t tell them what to do find the right people, ensure they have proper experience, ensure they have soft skills and hard skills, and then let them do their job. Another thing is, for example, the communication tools. You want people to communicate every day using digital tools. They don’t sit net next to each other. They are working distributed all over the world. This requires understanding of when people are awake and when people sleep if you’re working cross different time zones. Just use a calendar and at availability of everyone and make them watch on the same availabilities of every individual in your team.

And then once you find a common time where you can communicate, you should have a daily stand up and talk to each other. Talking to each other is more personal. It avoids misunderstandings, and it helps everyone to keep track with the results and to understand problems and also to solve common problems in the team. This is important, I mean, you can use almost any chat tool or video tool. There are plenty out there. It’s like Skype or Slack or Rocket chat. You can use Go To Meeting. Just go to Google and google for video tool, video sharing screen sharing messengers. So it doesn’t matter which one you use. It’s just a matter of if you use it right and frequently. There is another podcast which is called Collaboration Superpowers. It’s a very interesting one. And there’s also an episode where I talk about tools and how people use that leverage tools to collaborate properly and ensure that they have a good performance and deliver results. So I can just recommend jumping to your podcast app and also have a spend a short time on hearing Collaboration Superpowers.

Whenever you decide or make a choice for the tools that you want to use, use Cloud tools. I would not recommend to put everything on your own servers, not only because you have to maintain it by yourself, but it they are not as accessible and they can’t be integrated in the same way as clouds tools can be. So there are some exceptions, of course, but my experience is that if you don’t use the clouds tools, it’s always a mess, and it’s hard and you will spend time and money to integrate tools with each other and to ensure that you have a good flow of data Between the tools. And the flow of data between the tools is very important.

You don’t want to enter data in each and every tool individually. But you want the data to be synchronized between tools so that you have data everywhere you needed and where it is required to make decisions. So use Cloud tools for example, we use JIRA and Confluence and Slack and we have everything integrated. We use also, the Folios and portfolios of Tempo which is a plugin for JIRA. This is to measure our KPIs from a financial perspective and to measure the Earned Value method. We have that integrated with with upwork, for example, and other talent sources and we have it integrated with Billomat to create our invoices.

We want to we try to automate everything and avoid manual work that needs to be done every day again and again. This is work that people don’t like that’s work that has no real sense, and no real purpose. And it can be automated, pretty easy. So yeah, we don’t try to waste time of people with doing repetitive tasks. But we try to give them a sense and to give them purpose in their daily job. What is very important, especially if you work with many, many freelancers around the globe, which we do, we have currently more than 150 people working in our projects and virtual teams and our virtual steering organization that helps us to operate and develop the company and the organization. And for that, we need a central Access Tool.

You could use Ldap up or cognito or different cloud tools, but make sure that you have one central access where you can set up your teams and you give them the credentials to look in in all the tools and make sure you have authentication and authorization in one in one central place. Otherwise, you will have to add people in the onboarding to each and every tool and assign them to the project and each and every tool.

And if you have offboard them, which can also happen pretty often, then you need to remove their permissions and credentials from each and every tool and each and every project. And by the way, you need to ensure that you don’t remove a person’s account. If this person is involved in another project. That’s a real mess and it will make your other team members very unsatisfied. So make sure that you avoid repetitive tasks and make sure that you have one central Access Management available. Also, you need to ensure that onboarding and off-boarding can happen really fast. Especially if you want to work with Flash hub teams or flash organizations or however you want to want to call them. Those are the teams that will be created almost on-demand. They are there to do one project and then they are shut down again. This requires a fast onboarding and a fast off boarding.

And for onboarding, make sure that every role is clearly defined, that every role really has all the documents and all the onboarding processes available that you need to execute to make sure that this person in the specific role can work and be successful in this role. Otherwise, you would struggle with onboarding and your project will have a delay from the beginning. The same as for offboarding.

It is very interrupted, if you always know that there is a person that left the organization and accounts are still up and running and you are afraid of your data. So make sure that you have people off boarded in the same fast and streamlined way as they are on-boarded. Regarding data, of course, you need to make sure that you have an NDA and the data processing agreement with them, especially if you are from Europe. You need to comply with GDPR and all these things so that it’s important that all the regulations are respected and you have to proper documents signed by your freelancers.

And this must be part of an onboarding process. Just imagine you are a project manager and you want to set up your team. You don’t want to struggle with all that administrative work, finding the right people is a huge thing. And then you need to onboard like six to 10 people. And then two people leave you need to offboard them this is your time. So ensure that these things are automated. And this is what we do with Flash Hub where we provide fully managed virtual teams and you get them like in three or five days, and you don’t have to care about all these things. So we’ve built all the system and that’s why I can I can talk hours about what can go wrong and I experienced many, many things that did go wrong.

But that helps to improve and this is a very, very important understanding that I experienced that I made during this process. You will never find the right tools and the right processes from the very beginning, it’s always about improving, failing early, failing fast, failing often, and then see every failure as one start to improve. Don’t fall down and keep laying on the floor. If you made a mistake that happens and see there is an improvement. And this is the same for tools. You might pick one tool that’s not a good fit, then take another one, forget about that, migrate your data and move ahead. And this is much more easy if you use Cloud tools that are integrated with each other and where you have consistent and streamlined data flow between the two words.

What is also very important regarding tools is one tool and I don’t know a name because we developed it by ourselves is to measure KPIs. There are tools for JIRA they are called tempo and tempo for you and portfolios and tempo budget. They are there to measure and track the progress in the project. But you also know need to ensure that not only your project is on the right track, but also that the performance of individuals can be measured by KPIs and that KPIs are measured. Yeah.

Every day every week depends on the interval that you want to ensure that those KPIs are up to date. What we also do is project audits. You and I talked about this in previous podcasts, you don’t want to trust and rely on people or teams, you want to ensure that they are successful and you want to make sure that you help them to be successful. This requires audit of independent individuals. So we hire additional experts and they do a audit of a project like every month. And this is an audit from a project management perspective, where we ensure that all the tools are set up that all the data is entered properly, that people communicate well.

The reports are up to date and the project management process are followed, etc. Then we also have technical audits where we hired technical experts that assess that the architecture is done properly, the documentation is available tools are used in the right way. And the infrastructure and the deployment infrastructure is working properly. This is especially important for software projects. So that’s an important thing.

Don’t rely, don’t trust, ensure that everything works. And this should be done by independent individuals and not people from the same team because they will never be so critical. They will never tell a we did not do a good job in our project because the documentation is not available. They will most likely write the documentation and then tell you Okay, here’s the documentation. But this is not what you want. You want a continuous process where you ensure that everything is up to date and on every time This can only be discovered by independent individuals.

If you don’t want to use the the big tools like Confluence and JIRA, which are pretty expensive, you can start with Trello. Trello is a pretty good tool to start immediately to have your own processes to assign tasks to a team and communicate there. So that’s one thing where you can start immediately invite your freelancers and just do your first project. If you want to understand or want a template for process that you could use, just contact me I can send you some process steps that I would recommend for short or small software project to ensure that you have quality assurance covered in your process.

What I also had as an experience is that we set up JIRA and Confluence on our own servers. And from a financial perspective, this just does not scale pretty well. If you have 100 users, the next level is 250 users. And this cost you a lot of money. And if you only have 110 people for one project, you can’t scale down in a short time. And that means you have a huge upfront invest for buying the additional licenses.

And if you don’t need them anymore, it’s not that easy to cut them down. So I would recommend to go to the cloud version where you can scale by user and you can pay by user. That’s just much more scalable. And the application is also better accessible. So I would recommend to use Cloud tools also for JIRA and Confluence. Yeah, that’s pretty much it. I mean, these are lots of tools that we use, I hope that you understand the architectures and the components that you need. Just go to Google at Google for different tools. T

here are many, many out there. If you want my list for recommendations, just contact me. I can send over some tools to you and if you want some other recommendations How to integrate them with each other. I can also share my experience in a personal conversation. Yeahh… Thank you very much and wish you good success with your virtual teams. Bye bye.

CHRIS REEVES

I’d like to thank manual for sharing the tools he recommends for virtual teams. You can subscribe to the virtual frontier or leave us a review on Apple podcast, Google Play Spotify or anywhere else podcasts are found. On behalf of the team here at Flash Hub. I want to thank you for listening. So until next episode, keep exploring new frontiers.

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