10 Apps That Improve Performance, Efficiency of Distributed Teams

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10 Apps That Improve Performance, Efficiency of Distributed Teams

More and more employees are able to do their work from anywhere at any time. This enables a high level of flexibility, convenience and geographical coverage that benefits both employees and the companies for which they work. However, it can also make getting things done as a team difficult—that is, if you don’t have the right tools in place. Distil Networks, for one example, has 130 employees spread across six offices in three countries and so is all too familiar with the benefits and challenges that come with distributed teams. The 10 apps listed in this eWEEK slide show are ones that, for Distil and other companies, have become fundamental for collaboration. Certainly, the right tools for your business will vary depending on the work being done, company culture, personal preferences and other factors. Identifying those tools is required for distributed teams to realize their full potential.

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This cloud-based set of team collaboration tools and services is better than email in many ways. You can create channels based on teams or topics, share large files—and everything is searchable. The private channel and external guest features give project managers and customers an open forum to discuss ongoing implementations. Pro tip: Use Slack instead of email for as much internal communication as possible but make sure to establish a set of rules or best practices to ensure smooth and organized communication.

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Distil’s customer service team uses Zendesk to interact with customers and track all incoming and outgoing customer communication. The company can manage all customer emails in tickets and see who is viewing or editing a customer case in real time, regardless of location, which helps manage workload more efficiently. Pro tip: Use Zendesk to record all inbound and outbound customer calls, so anyone working the case can listen to the calls and pick up the case seamlessly, wherever they are.

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The visual cues of face-to-face interactions create a certain dynamic that phone calls and chat messages simply can’t replace. Zoom masters this by unifying cloud video conferencing, simple online meetings and group messaging into one easy-to-use platform that works across all of Distil’s conference rooms, laptops and mobile devices. Pro tip: When scheduling a Zoom meeting, use the Google Calendar plugin for one-click invitations that sync with Zoom-enabled conference rooms for idiot-proof, live-presence meetings.

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Sli.do is an audience interaction platform for meetings and events that allows the event organizers to crowd-source top questions for Q&A sessions, gain instant feedback via live polls and share presentations with the meeting attendees. Pro tip: Utilize the poll function to gather anonymous feedback in real time during a live session.

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Asana makes it easier for teams to track their work with greater clarity, accountability and efficiency. It allows Distil’s project managers to organize their deliverables and see what specifically their team is working on at any given time. You can establish dates and assignees for respective tasks that the whole team can see. Pro tip: Utilize the preset templates to help dictate your meetings. The Company Goals & Milestones and Bugtracker templates do half the work of setting it all up, and all you have to do is plug in your team’s specific information.

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Dynamic Signal

This tool is designed to encourage, manage and measure employees’ efforts to promote their company on social networks. Distil employees stay up to date with the latest blog posts, case studies and media mentions delivered to their computers or phones, which they can then easily promote across their social networks with two clicks. Pro tip: Use the categorization feature so employees can quickly find and share company news, case studies, white papers or industry news. Encourage employees to download the mobile app and share news on their commute in or out of the office (but not while driving!).

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Distil Networks’ software development team uses Atlassian’s collaboration, development and issue tracking software to manage projects using the agile methodology in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. One person’s role in a project changes depending on another team’s progress. Pro tip: Each team’s dashboard should always encourage action from a team member. Use card colors in the software to highlight items that are about to come overdue to flag for team members.

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Engagedly is a dynamic and interactive goal and performance feedback tool. Distil uses it to document its regular manager: employee check-ins in a very easy and lightweight process. The company also captures its goals and tracks progress. The company especially like its ability to thank colleagues via the praise feature. Pro tip: The praise feature is partly integrated with Slack, which is a heavily used tool.

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This compensation management tool is used to determine market rate for both recruiting and retention. Its features include multiple geographies, as well as the ability to set target market rate (i.e., 60 percent of market) and analyze merit increases. Payscale is an essential for geographically distributed teams because it enables the talent function of a company to diversify across multiple regions. Pro tip: Link to your human resource information system if possible to allow automatic updates of comp, new hires and departures.

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Google Docs

Transitioning from traditional word processors to Google Docs has eliminated the need to ask, “Who’s got the latest version of that presentation?” For teams that want to easily share docs and work on shared projects, version control has never been easier to maintain. Pro tip: Use Google Drive as a file server and make documents either restricted to internal users or accessible to external users. Then, you can build any kind of interface on top of it to access that data—for example, using Google Sites as an intranet that points to documents. You also can integrate it with other visual-data apps, such as Tableau. 

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