Virtual workplaces are awesome, but like any office, they need resources to support their efforts. After working on a virtual team, trying my hand at managing projects remotely, and freelancing with online clients, I found the following project management software systems to be particularly useful tools.
Skype is almost a household name at this point. Users can make free video calls to other users with only an Internet connection. It has instant messaging, voice calls, and video, with the option to mute microphones and lots of other useful features. In addition to being an essential virtual meeting tool, it can be used across multiple platforms like smartphones and tablets.
Basecamp is probably my favorite project management software ever. The development team has thought of pretty much everything. Users can keep track of your projects and keep different clients separate from each other, upload files for the entire team to use, save easily-editable text documents, and begin discussions (complete w/ attachments) so you know where to find an entire conversation without having to dig through emails. There’s more, so much more, but that’s the gist of it. Basecamp is the best.
Roadmap is useful for timetracking and scheduling. It allows you to visualize the timeline of a project and stay on top of schedules and budgets. Also, it integrates with Basecamp so things like a to-do list is easily billable. Basecamp users don’t have to create whole new tasks for team members to log time under; it can all be done from Basecamp. You can see your daily agenda, how much progress you’ve made on a project and specific tasks, and more.
Mavenlink, like Roadmap, is useful for keeping and logging time. There is a chat option so you can discuss with other team members, and it integrates seamlessly with QuickBooks to make taxes and bookkeeping a little less of a headache. It also integrates with Google Apps!
A long time ago, back in the Stone Age, I was introduced to Google spreadsheets so I could keep track of the hours I worked. Since then I’ve discovered the joys of Mavenlink and Roadmap, but Google Drive tools have proven themselves useful in so many more ways. Open to anyone with a gmail account, Google Drive allows users to store and access their files virtually, anytime. They are updated in real time, so if I make a change or add a comment to a document I uploaded and shared with team members, they will see it immediately.
Zendesk is a virtual help desk. If customer service is a concern at your company, you should be using this cloud-based customer support tool. It keeps all customer support emails in one easy-to-access location. Zendesk “tickets” (a query/complaint/comment a customer emails your company’s personalized Zendesk email address) can be assigned to different agents (team members) and marked as New, Open (working on it), Pending (waiting for a client’s response), or Solved. You can also create different “Views” to organize tickets depending on who they come from, who they’re assigned to, their status, and more.
Want to show someone how to do something on your computer? Capture a video of your screen with Jing to record how to do something and send it to a client or team member for a quick tutorial. Once you’re done, upload it to Screencast and share it through IM, email, social media, etc.
Share screens during a meeting, allow someone to take over your screen, and make it easy for anyone to join a meeting by following a link.
Using Dropbox to store and share files is simple, straightforward, and intuitive. This is a good choice to share info with clients who don’t need or want the fancy features of other cloud storage devices. You can create folders or organize content, and Dropbox can work much like a shared drive.
This one isn’t really a project management essential, but I’m throwing it in here because it’s one of my favorite tools to manage social media. You can schedule messages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. My favorite Hootsuite feature after the message scheduling is the analytics. It provides great tracking and monitoring software so you can better evaluate your social media/campaign results. Users can also view sent updates, monitor mentions, schedule RSS feeds to publish on your social media, etc.
Virtual teams require software-savvy members and lots of Internet prowess. Many of the tools above, if not free, offer free trials. Play around with them to find whether their services suit your needs!