Our team was always quite distributed. Advisers in the States, crazy business angels in Scandinavia, developers in Europe and a core team in South East Asia.
Across the globe, quite a nightmare timezone wise. So how did we make it work?
Push your knowledge to everyone
I always found fascinating how you can entrap yourself in information filtering. “Ah, I know about this now, it’s not important to communicate to the team; I’ll just tell them the follow-up decisions”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. So let’s show that we care, and over-share.
1. All notifications go to Slack
IRC was the great battleground of the 90's. Especially with my first company in gaming, we loved hanging out on QuakeNet with our teams in secret channels. Those had custom coded “eggdrop bots” which spit out RSS feeds and what not. That was back then our little tool to keep the whole team posted and organized.
A new story came up on that popular site? Push it to the IRC channel, get an editor to see it asap. New forum entry? *click* reply. Painful to set up and keep updated, but super-handy.
Another hard part of IRC was missing messages, unless you paid for a shell. And of course — keeping up with it on mobile. Impossible.
Thank god there’s Slack now. IRC with integrations on steroids — in your browser and mwah — their beautiful mobile apps!
What they did so great is offering all those service integrations easily from the get-go. I think by now they’re at over 70 services + webhooks which can be set up in just a few clicks.
New customer signed up through the payment gateway? Push it to #customers. New support request on UserVoice? #support in Slack has it. New botched up deployment on Wercker? #deployments already notified you. Customer logged into our app and is stuck at some form? Slack, slack, slack.
Now the whole team knows what’s exactly going on in the app. No need to look through server logs, or trace customer behaviour by looking at the result — you see it while it’s happening.
2. Tasks live in Asana
I’m not sure if Asana needs any introduction. We went through many PM tools, and in the end stuck with it. Making new tasks became as simple as writing a list in notepad.
New milestone? Simple add a “:” at the end of it. Task done? Tag it with ‘needs review’ and push it to any non-techies. Task reviewed and has some issues? Push it back to the dev who made it. Alone in our launch week we went through ~100 Asana tasks this way, and it was super-effective.
Their docs are also super helpful in getting from 0 to hero.
3. Share lists of people in Streak
We started with Streak when they were in beta. Why? Simple — it lives in Gmail. No need to change websites or tabs to keep up with lists of customers or press contacts or whatnot.
3 clicks, and there’s a new list for a project
Plus, no need to forward all those emails to some other email address, it’s already assigned! Call coming up? Just check out what other emails from the team went back and forth with the client. It doesn’t get easier.
And being able to start on their free plan for our small team of 5 — helped a lot. It went so well that Streak became the first major integration with our product.
4. Sqwiggle with your team
Another good one — get the office experience online, and all you need is a cam.
Just having those passive cameras in another tab or on a spare laptop running, makes you feel like you’re with other people in the room. In our first week of using Sqwiggle, we got about a dozen of other customers and business partners into it as well. It was just too easy for making those quick conversations that shouldn’t take a whole half an hour to set up.
The same thing with quick chats about features or product decisions. In the office you can usually walk over to someone, ask them 1-2 questions and be gone with again.
Usually you would set up a longer Skype call, and prolong it until you forget what you started with. Not so with Sqwiggle — just click on a team member, and you’re already talking. Done? Good, tap out.
Such a simple thing, it’s surprising how effective it became in having those quick meetings online.
5. Chrome to the rescue
Now the hardest part of it all is — how to you keep all the different tools open in your browser? Some people do it, but some keep forgetting. One of the main break points of CRM usage in enterprises — having to remember to use it.
Pinned tabs can save a lot of time
There’s a nifty Chrome feature called ‘Pin Tab’ when you click on a tab. Once you pin it, it will re-open with your next closed windows on the left hand side of your tabs, just with the icon.
It also keeps the desktop notifications alive, and makes you forget less about what to keep open.
That’s the basics
For daily communications we still fall back to Skype. It’s the easiest so far, due to most of our customers using it as well. For time tracking with screenshots Worksnaps is quite good - and connecting all the API hooks? Zapier of course!
A few simple tools which make our remote team work so much easier!