As the world adjusts to the continually developing COVID-19 pandemic, companies, schools and organizations everywhere have transitioned to working remotely. No one knows how long these remote working conditions will last, but each organization must now quickly source and adopt new technologies, as well as develop new work methodologies to maintain productivity.
For organizations caught unprepared, the sudden transition to remote working can quickly become overwhelming. At Eventene, we’ve utilized a remote workforce from day one and it may be helpful to learn from our own experience.
Tools for Remote Working
As a software company, we are divided into two primary groups: a software development team and an operations team that covers marketing, sales, support and administration. Our workforce is spread across three continents and as many timezones, with team members in California, Brazil, and Italy. To function well as a team, we need online tools that work worldwide and are cost effective.
When we started the company in 2016, we evaluated a number of different apps and services. For general productivity (word processing, spreadsheets, presentations) we chose Microsoft Office 365 over Google’s G-Suite. Microsoft’s productivity apps Word, Excel and PowerPoint are the industry standard, have excellent web versions, and are cost-effective. Microsoft Office 365 also includes Teams, an essential communications tool for daily chat, document sharing, virtual whiteboarding, and video conferencing.
For project management we selected Trello from Atlassian, since it’s entirely web based and allows our team members to interact with it in real time while on our weekly video conference calls. Trello works best for agile-based development teams. It provides a board, list and card approach for tracking design, development, testing, and release workflows. Team members can leave each other questions and responses directly on the cards. It’s also easy to go from viewing the project at a high-level to diving deep into a single issue. For us, Trello has become our virtual project manager.
Our service, Eventene, is an event planning system consisting of web and mobile front-end clients and back-end cloud-based servers and databases hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS). All components live in the cloud and are accessible from anywhere. Going completely cloud-based allows our developers to work remotely from anywhere. Additionally, all our 3rd party service providers (e.g. Stripe, SendGrid, Freshdesk, and others) are also cloud-based, allowing our all our workers to operate them remotely.
For source code management, we leverage GitHub, a hosted system from Microsoft. The service provides full versioning and works incredibly well for remote teams submitting and reviewing updates to our code base. With a system as complex as Eventene, we could not stay organized at scale without a service like GitHub.
It’s difficult to replace the human element of meeting live. However, we’ve created some traditions to replicate the sense of camaraderie and team building that comes from seeing traditional work settings. For example, on our Monday morning planning call each team member shares events from their weekend. This call is held across three timezones: 9 am Pacific, 1 pm Brazilian, and 6 pm European. Each person shares for a few minutes how their weekend went and something interesting going on in their lives. It’s a great way to start each week off by re-enforcing the personal connections. Plus, it’s a great way to see what’s going on around the world.
During the rest of the week, our team lives on Microsoft Teams, allowing us to instantly communicate with each other and pull a few team members together to have quick group chats. If we need to switch to voice chat or hold an ad-hoc video conference, the whole team is just a click away.
Besides the weekly calls, as the team leader, I make a point of visiting everyone in person at least once or twice a year. If you’re starting out a new company and hire a remote development team, I believe it is vital that you meet them in person before you really get rolling. The virtual team meetings will become much more impactful if you have gotten to know the team members personally first.
Marketing, Sales and Operations
For marketing and sales, we use leverage Office 365 productivity suite for communications, document creation, and operational analysis. We also use HubSpot for tracking customer relations and sales pipelines. Like Trello, HubSpot is a cloud-based app that facilitates easy collaboration between team members. It’s easy to track a potential customer’s sales journey through the sales process, as well as transfer responsibility of customers to anyone else on the team and providing a useful overview of our sales pipeline.
We also use Grasshopper for our virtual phone system, which provides a toll-free number for customers to call and leave messages. We can check our voicemails from anywhere and the software replaces a traditional private branch exchange (PBS) system. For an added authenticity and flair, we had a British voice actor record our greetings!
Our support center, powered by Freshdesk, is also cloud-based and provides trouble tickets and email-based communications with our customers. Freshdesk is also fully cloud-based, allowing any of our support team members to review and process trouble tickets from any location. Our help center writers can also review and edit documents from anywhere, as well.
We could not function remotely as a team without great productivity and communication tools. Every organization’s needs are different, of course, but hopefully sharing the tools we use at Eventene may help your own organization get up to speed as you transition to a remote working environment. By going all in on cloud-based collaboration tools, we’ve been able to maintain a lean operation where each team members shares only a fraction of the responsibility of the project management and overhead, saving critical headcount expense that we can deploy elsewhere. In turn, this will allow us to maintain productivity and communication as the world addresses the Covid-19 pandemic.
Feel free to reach out if you want to learn more about how we leverage our remote working process.