For teams working virtually, there’s a seemingly endless array of digital tools and apps at their fingertips. They all claim to be the best at organising, simplifying and supporting our virtual team get-togethers, but which ones are truly the best? How do you know which virtual team connection tool is going to give you the best bang for your buck? And more importantly, how do you avoid making the mistake of signing on for an annual subscription only to find that the so-called ‘best’ digital tool doesn’t quite fit your team?
Today we’re exploring some of the best tools for teams working virtually. It’s the stuff we’ve been obsessing over for the last 12+ months after taking our own team from co-located to hybrid. We’ve experimented and tweaked our tools to fit our needs, and have come to a list of the best of the best.
The three best tools for teams working virtually
Selecting a platform that allows teams to stay connected, be productive and collaborate while working remotely is a key strategic decision that impacts the employee experience.
We’ve experimented with a number of software tools over the years in our quest to replicate face-to-face creative collaboration in a virtual world. This exploration has led us to Miro; a fantastic digital collaborative tool.
The interactive, easy to use digital whiteboard enables distributed teams to contribute from anywhere, both asynchronously and synchronously. The limitless white space fosters free thinking or you can use frames to structure digital workshops. With Digital Sticky Notes, collaborators can type ideas, cluster them, and place ideas together to support an overarching story or theme.
Miro also has a large amount of integrations that allow for integration of your workflow. You can embed and use Miro in Trello, Airtable and Notion. View Miro outputs like in UXPin and Invision, integrate to Dropbox… even Jira and Slack.
We’re not your average team and we don’t run your average style of projects, so finding a tool to help us coordinate and manage our projects has always been a challenge.
Monday.com allows each area of the business to manage projects and tasks via separate Workspaces. This allows project coordinators and contributors to add, assign and work through tasks, in a colourful, visual, and up to the minute way.
Using a visual collaborative system like Monday allows us to set projects up with the client outcome in mind, and manage clients expectations and deliverables.
Monday.com is very user friendly, provides a great colourful layout and the added bonus is its use of emoji’s /gifs making it fun to use. Meaning everyone can learn the skills to use this tool and we have a visual way to understand our resourcing, project status’ and where we need to lean in and help one another.
The automation options allow for streamlining processes and remove some of the rework that can cause angst and slow down delivery.
Of course, a great system does not replace important conversations, so we use a combo of Zoom and Monday to set up new projects, hold handover and project update meetings. This way we are seeing one another, being able to catch up and collaborate on projects, to produce successful client outcomes.
Which is the ultimate video conferencing tool for team collaboration? Ask that question and you will receive support for both Zoom and MS Teams. But in our opinion, this battle-royal of video conferencing platforms is a one-sided beatdown. Zoom wins, hands down. Why? In a few words; breakout rooms.
Now this isn’t to say that MS Teams isn’t a solid, secure and reliable contender. Please don’t think we are saying that Teams isn’t a great tool – in fact we really like it. The reason Zoom stands out as the video conferencing platform best for team collaboration is the breakout room functionality allows for more intimate conversations, and to have every voice in the group heard.
Think about a typical office collaboration session. Often, we would get 5-10 people in a conference room to hash out an idea. What naturally happens though is we vacillate between whole-of-group discussion and have a side-chat with the person sitting next to you. This of course allows for the ‘breakout’ groups to come back to the main group with ideas they’ve explored in their own tangential conversation.
A big challenge of having 10 people on a video conferencing call is that we can lose the immense value of these side convo’s. It’s particularly a risk that in this larger group video chats that we may lose the ‘voice’ of the introverts who are less likely to speak up in a more public forum.
It is for these reasons that Zoom’s breakout room functionality is such a game changer. Although the process of moving from large to small group conversations may be less organic, it still allows for those important small group chats that lead to big ideas. As a ‘how to’, simply discuss the problem/idea/focus with the large group and then send people into breakout rooms to brainstorm. Have the different rooms come back together, harvest ideas to discuss, rinse and repeat as many times as you need. Add in a Miro board to post-it ideas, and you’ve got a recipe for a productive and efficient virtual collaboration session.
So, there you have it, our wrap up of the top three tools your team will find useful while working virtually. Add ’em to your toolbox and give them each a clear function within your organisation.
Talk about the platforms and regularly review your approach to ensure you’re making the most of each and every feature. For more suggestions on taking your virtual team to the next level, take a look at our guide to keeping your remote teams engaged and happy.