While the ability to manage remote teams from anywhere is awesome, trying to find the right tools for the job is not. We looked at 5 of our favorites to help you narrow it dow.
I used to work for a company (not remotely, unfortunately) that began and ended each day with a stand-up meeting designed to review our tasks and projects. These meetings were incredibly valuable for reviewing project statuses, assigning daily tasks, and encouraging interactions between teammates. At Visiple, when we approached the issue of how to keep track and manage remote teams, we wanted to recreate something similar but were limited by the time and location differences of our employees.
The result was a Frankenstein-esque solution powered by features from the following tools that are designed to help make remote teams easier to track, motivate, and manage. What follows is a breakdown of each, including the good and the bad, so that others looking to better manage remote teams can get the benefit of a standup meeting regardless of location.
This post is part of a series we are doing on tools designed to help remote teams. To read more you can check out our post on 50 of the Best Tools for Remote Teams and 6 Collaboration Tools for Remote Content Writers!
What’s Wrong with Email?
Some of you might be wondering why emails wouldn’t suffice as a means to track and manage remote teams.
The truth is that emails are great for a lot of things and it’d be unreasonable to expect you to stop using them to interact with your team, but they fall short when it comes to effectively overseeing remote workers. Compared to the tools on this list, they are time-consuming, far less organized, and they tend to neglect one invaluable aspect - building rapport.
Rapport is defined as relation marked by harmony, conformity, accord, or affinity and is the “most potent skill you can master” according to HR.com. Rapport is essential in building the foundation for team growth and the impersonal nature of emails does nothing to promote it.
The tools we looked at and used not only serve a practical purpose, they also introduce a social aspect that allows teammates to be aware of each other's progress, celebrate accomplishments, and provide feedback. So why settle for just emails when they are notoriously unhelpful and unproductive when it comes to furthering team growth and collaboration?
Tools to Track and Manage Remote Teams
Status Hero allows team members to submit a daily status update through any device, compiles those statues into an easy to decipher format, and allows them to be shared internally. It’s a great way to see what people accomplished the day prior as well be alerted if there any issues keeping a teammate from meeting their goals.
No Downloads Needed - users can check in with any device using a secure link. Their responses are tracked via a dashboard by their manager.
Solid Integrations - statuses are pushed to tools like Slack so that everyone can monitor progress and people who haven’t checked in are tagged as a reminder to do so.
Too Frequent? - I love daily checkins but there’s a chance it might rub some team members the wrong way, despite being quick and easy. Still, it only takes 20 days to form a habit so if you love Status Hero there’s a good chance your team will come to love it also.
15five is similar to Status Hero in that it lets you receive and manage feedback from employees with the difference being that it only happens once a week. The idea is that team members take 15 minutes each week to identify what they are working on and what they have accomplished, and managers take 5 minutes to evaluate and respond to the feedback.
Custom Reports - A robust reporting option allows managers to track things like satisfaction and goals.
Easy Responses - Managers can either reply to an update in full or simply like it as you would a Facebook update, making it easy to acknowledge responses without having to type much.
Limited to 1 Reviewer - Only 1 manager can oversee a group of employees, responses must be ‘passed up’ in order to be shared among other managers.
Infrequent - 15five is designed to be used once a week which, in my opinion, is not frequent enough to have a thorough understanding of your team.
No Search Functionality - The inability to search for updates makes it tedious to find previously submitted information.
Jell has attempted to virtualize the standup meeting by creating daily checkins that ask employees 3 questions:
What did you accomplish yesterday?
What are you planning to do today?
What challenges stand in your way?
How Jell differs from the other tools on this list is that it allows users to incorporate todo lists into the tool and add items from that list into their daily statuses. These can either be assigned by a manager or user and are checked off as they are completed, thereby giving the team a more well-rounded picture of their accomplishments.
Finally, managers have the option of creating custom surveys where they can ask more questions, request feedback on a sliding scale, and provide a list of choices. These reports can be customized to go out at any interval, enabling managers to collect feedback on a regular basis and compare the results.
And, as expected, it integrates with both Slack and Hipchat so you can stay up to date with ease or publicly shame your co workers for not updating their statuses.
GOOOOOAL - The ability to add and track both team and personal goals is handy.
App Required - Users need to use the app or website to input statuses.
Time Doctor is a time tracking tool on steroids - not only does it allow your team to track custom projects down to the second, but it can also recognize when they are getting off task and display a reminder. Managers are able to view time spent, including time spent browsing the web or on other distractions, and are able to export time reports and even pay contractors through the tool.
Managers can also enable the tool to take screenshots at regular intervals so they can better monitor work, give partitioned access to clients, and interact with Time Doctor’s API to meet the need of any team.
Infinitely Customizable - Not only does Time Doctor integrate with almost any tool you need, it’s customizable to the point of being over the top. Managers can limit hours, configure and trigger custom reminders, add and view multiple managers, configure custom reports, customize the tool’s header, etc.
Integrates with Almost Everything - I touched on this above but Time Doctor does an amazing job of playing nicely with the most common PM, payment, communication, and CRM platforms. You can even integrate with your accounting software and pay your team members through the tool.
Bordering on Intrusive - Personally, I would not like using this tool if screen shots and website monitoring were enabled, I think that goes too far towards invading my privacy. If you want to use these features, I’d suggest talking to your team first to make sure they are ok with it and reevaluate if necessary.
iDoneThis is definitely one of my favorite names for a tool and its ease of operation lives up to easy-to-understand moniker. Teammates get an email at the end of every day asking what they accomplished and then another email at the start of the next day summarizing their team’s progress. Everyone is able to see and celebrate goals and achievements as well as see where people might be stuck so they can lend a helping hand.
One of iDoneThis’ biggest strengths is that employees only need to respond to emails in order to use it - managers and those that want more control can use the cloud-based dashboard to measure progress and view team details.
Easy to Use - you really can’t ask for an easier tool than one that only requires you to respond to one email a day and then sends you the results the following day.
Social When You Need It - There is a social aspect to iDoneThis but it’s not touted as much as other tools. Users can like and comment on updates as much as they want but the fact they it’s not shoved in their face is a huge plus (and it’s likely to be integrated with your chat tool so there will be plenty of time for commentary).
Not as Feature-Rich as Other Tools - iDoneThis is great for keeping up with daily statuses, but it lacks other features like todo lists and custom feedback that are available in other tools.
Even if you don’t love any of these tools, it’s easy to take away some of their core features and create your own solution to track and manage remote teams. We did exactly that and ended up with a process that allows us to interact, stay informed, and grow as a team like never before. I will forever be a proponent of standup meetings and love that I am able to get the benefits of them even as a remote employee.