Tools of the Trade

Tools that can help virtual teams collaborate more effectively.

Tools that can help virtual teams collaborate more effectively.

Debates abound on the internet about virtual teams and if they can truly work collaboratively or in an agile manner. One could pick a side and join the debate. Or do what most of us do, adapt and make the best of both worlds. This is how we do it at IndyRise.

It has been an interesting few months working on new products. We’re still navigating the not-quite-treacherous-but-nevertheless-tricky-waters of working mostly virtually with each other AND in varying time-zones. For the most part whatever it is we are doing, works. The “it” equals a large measure of empathy, trust and respect, and a significant measure of the right tool set.

Bringing collaborative physical tools to the digital world isn’t easy. Sure there are virtual post-it notes, online whiteboards and productivity apps. But which ones to select? And how many tools is too many? The following approach seems to work for us:

  1. Let the owner of the task pick the tool and let the consumer of the work product qualify it

  2. Keep an open mind

  3. Admit defeat quickly if you don’t see an immediate uptick in adoption

  4. Be consistent

  5. Use what the client uses

Most of us agree that at the end of the day what matters more is the achievement of the goal, and not the tool that was used. Professionals can get almost fanatic about their tools or processes or templates. But when you’re dealing with people, you have to give a little if you want to get anything good back.

Here is a list of some of our favored tools at IndyRise:

  1. Realtimeboard - great for collaborative whiteboarding and sharing ideas visually; we use it for wireframes, research and mind-maps

  2. Pivotal Tracker - great tool for agile projects; reasonably priced for the space

  3. Skype - for video-conferencing and team messaging; love the mobile app for keeping in touch with the team on-the-go

  4. Google Drive - there’s nothing better than free; powerful word processing and collaboration tools, love that it can sync with offline folders on the mac

  5. Bitbucket - great alternative to Github and free for small teams

  6. Pixelmator - great alternative to photoshop for those quick graphic laden presentations and quite user-friendly; not for designers but definitely for creative story-tellers

We’ve also tried the following tools and while they are robust, user-friendly and good at what they do, the verdict is still out on whether they are a good fit for our team:

  1. Trello - list-based project management (love that their mascot is a husky!)

  2. Asana - task management and task-based project management

  3. Basecamp - flexible and collaborative project management

  4. Dropbox - similar to Google drive, but it costs a bit more

What tools does your team swear by? Comment and tell us. We’d love to know.