Tools for Remote Collaboration
Harry Snyder, Chief Technology Officer
Joe Kloehn, Marketing Analyst
Due to COVID-19, many of us must now become comfortable working remotely. For some, not being able to meet with your team in person may be a new experience, so we at Ryan Specialty Group have put together a list of tools that can help you communicate, collaborate, and manage from afar. You have no doubt encountered several, if not all, of these tools before, but now is the time to put them in place and make sure you are using them to their full potential.
Of course, before adopting any new software or business practice, always consider your specific information security requirements and thoroughly review these programs’ privacy policies. It is important to understand if and how your data might be recorded and stored. When implementing any of these tools, create guidance around what can and cannot be shared across these platforms and make sure they are properly configured to meet your security standards.
Over the past decade, a new class of software has been developed specifically to assist with team collaboration. These applications look like instant messaging platforms, designed to help teams to communicate more quickly and efficiently than through email or other more traditional methods. They allow teams to chat as a group or divide their chats into separate channels by project or topic. These applications increase the speed and transparency of conversations, which is vital when managing remotely. They also often have built-in tools for many of the services mentioned below, including document sharing, video conferencing, and project management. Two of the most popular versions of this software are Slack and Microsoft Teams, both of which Ryan Specialty Group has utilized.
One of the trickiest parts of working remotely is the lack of face-to-face contact with your team. Audio-only conference calls don’t create the same sense of inclusion and make it difficult to ensure that projects and communications are properly understood. Video conferencing can help significantly in this regard, allowing your team to see each other’s faces and share their computer screens, adding much needed clarity to your meetings. There are a wide variety of video conferencing tools available, so take time to consider your options. In addition to the video chat features in Slack and Microsoft Teams, Ryan Specialty Group also uses Zoom for remote meetings.
If you’re not accustomed to working remotely, one of the first issues you will encounter is document sharing. Many files are too big to send over email, and tracking documents as they are edited and reviewed can be difficult without a dedicated tool. If your company has a shared drive that you can access remotely, that will help alleviate these issues, but you may still have trouble working with contractors and people outside your organization. In these situations, consider a tool like Dropbox, which will allow you to upload large files or collections of documents and share them by simply sending a dedicated hyperlink. In terms of document editing and reviewing, live document tools like Google Docs and Office 365 allow multiple users simultaneous access to a document, track each user’s changes, and always show the most recent version.
If your company is larger than just your team, it is vital to have an online resource for sharing news, resources, and documents company-wide. As opposed to public networks like the Internet, intranets are private computer networks designed for an organization’s internal use. They can be a critical tools for disseminating information across your company, sharing event schedules, and storing industry knowledge, which is all the more important when working remotely. We recommend providing each department with their own intranet page where they can post whatever documentation and tools they have developed for the company, improving inter-departmental collaboration. For RSG’s intranet platform, we use Microsoft’s SharePoint.
Finally, if working remotely has impacted your ability to track projects and meet deadlines, it may be time to consider implementing project management software. Project management tools can help you create project timelines, track team member’s assignments, share files, and generate reminders. These applications come in many different shapes and sizes and should be chosen carefully to meet your team’s specific needs. Some of these tools are light and free, functioning like advanced calendars, and others are designed as platforms on which to conduct entire projects from start to finish. Consider Trello, Jira, Basecamp, and Confluence, to name a few.
It takes extra effort to properly work with a team remotely, but it can also help you build management skills and learn a suite of tools that will always be useful, regardless of your situation. If this is the first time you have had to work remotely, use it as an opportunity to hone your collaboration and communication abilities and explore all the resources you have available to you.
Good luck and happy remote collaboration!