For years I’ve been a “road warrior”. I pick up my laptop and it travels with me. I’m used to being on call 24×7, and keep in regular touch with the internet and any services I need to be able to deliver the services our customers expect.
To make that work, we’ve had to develop tools, systems and processes which support our technical team, sales and operations teams – ones that allow them to remain in contact with each other, manage incidents as they occur, share information and exchange ideas; while attempting to maintain positive and effective communication across our team.
This isn’t easy.
A lot of our ideas seemed great, but haven’t worked.
But we have a solution that works well for us, and we’re happy to share our formula.
We use a mix of Google Docs, Dropbox and recently Office 365.
I am often co-editing documents with other team members; whether it be a response to a proposal, copy for a marketing document, a blog post, draft emails, RFOs (Reason For Outage) responses when something goes wrong. Google Docs is the perfect tool in these cases. It allows multiple people to make edits and changes at the same time, and see in real time where someone is working. We’ve recently started using Google Sheets to handle complex price books as well – and we can even give Customers direct access to these with view only permissions, making it easy to keep complex pricing sets in their hands and up to date.
We use Dropbox to store more permanent documents. We back up our Dropbox data internally, and also pay them for unlimited document retention. Every team member has access to our Dropbox account and we use permissions to manage access and remote wipe data. Every file access is logged, along with where and when it was accessed.
We’ve started using Office 365 and OneDrive because of the native integration with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The collaborative editing is good, but not quite as advanced as Google Docs – but Microsoft is constantly improving, and we expect it to get even better in the future.
Regular communication – Chat
A big part of our regular communication is messages between our team. We want to know where people are, what they are up to, and create a way to have conversations about things.
Often our team members are working in different locations, states or even countries. Mark needs to know if I’ve stepped out of the office for a Coffee when he’s trying to reach me. Lachlan might be on site and need to ask me a quick question.
We use Slack as our primary method for inter-office communication. When someone arrives in the morning they pop in a “Hello” message, and at the end of the day they let everyone know they have left. We break our Slack conversations into “channels” for different things. We have some common, general slack channels for day-to-day discussions (phone calls, information sharing, etc) and specific slack channels for more complicated issues, projects or other things.
We even use Slack to communicate with some customers and suppliers using Slack’s “Shared Channel” feature.
Voice and Video
As great as typing messages is, we also need to chat to each other. I often get an email and know that it’s easier to just pick up the phone and have a conversation. We use our CloudPBX to drive this. We have CloudPBX Mobile on our iOS and Android devices so that we can call each other, transfer calls and have conference calls. Because CloudPBX Mobile supports video, we can also use it for video calls and hangouts.
We also use our CloudPBX Desktop app. This means that our mobile users can take calls, see who is on the phone and interact with each other all from one device. It helps reduce cost, stress and energy. For staff working from home, it replaces a traditional phone – and means that they can still help our customers with problems, without needing to be on their mobile all day.
We use two tools to document things that we need to remember. Within our Helpdesk package (Zendesk) we run a knowledge-base with information for customers about how to do common things.
Internally, we use Confluence and IT Glue to keep track of important information. We can include diagrams, spreadsheets, process maps and other things that we need to use day to day.
The reality of business is that sometimes you need to share passwords for systems with colleagues. We employ strong password policies, and so need to keep track of passwords across multiple system, accounts, customers – and keep track of who accesses what and when.
We have deployed LastPass Enterprise for password management. This allows us to centrally store passwords, manage sharing and access controls, audit usage of passwords for systems and share passwords between team members. We enforce sensible things like two factor authentication, authenticate devices that access the system individually, have geographic and IP address restrictions and other useful things to ensure that information is not mishandled or accessed incorrectly.
Email and Longer Communications
Many of our team drown in email. Personally, I get around 400 emails per day. But sometimes we need to communicate something with some more words and information. Generally if we need to share more than 100 words, email is better than another method. It takes a bit of time to read, but it is still important.
Do you need help working out how to transform your organisation?
We’d love to help you. Every business is unique, and what works for us may not work for you — but we love helping our customers work out the best way to communicate and connect. Almost all of the solutions we’ve mentioned above can be bought from Real World and placed on a single monthly bill too!