Hello! My name is Sergey Fedorov, I have been developing the company for over 5 years [ссылка удалена мод.] in the Renewable Energy market in the US and Canada. I have a small remote team of 30 people. All employees work from different cities and countries. Now we work in Microsoft Teams, but once (like many small teams) we started with Telegram and Google Meet. In this article I want to share my experience: how to approach the choice of software for a remote team so that it does not hurt.
I must say right away that there will be no specific list of what to choose. And not because I’m such a person, or I’m bad at software. There is a reason for this, which I will also explain.
Process first, software later
Often even the most popular and wonderful solutions do not fit. You start to touch, but they still do not fit and do not fit. It suits acquaintances, and they live happily for themselves, but it does not suit you. And it’s not always about the software. It’s just that quite often teams are looking for a service that will solve their problem or some kind of pain, which is fundamentally wrong. You have to go backwards. First, it is important to understand what processes you have, what tasks they have, what pain you want to solve, and only then look for a program. If there are no processes, then looking for software for solving problems is, at least, strange and useless.
In fact, you can work both in chats and in Google Docs. I have seen an absolutely perfect implementation of CRM in regular Google Sheets. And what? The guys are doing great. Another example from wholesale: the team built CRM right in the inbox with labels and add-ons for Gmail. It also works great. The guys are satisfied with everything, and they do not need expensive CRM. This is me to the fact that the sophistication and price of software is far from an indicator whether it will fit or not. Quite simple software can be the perfect solution for your specific needs.
Therefore, you need to start in choosing software from processes that are already working and showing results. And you, for example, want to improve this result, make it more transparent, faster, collect metrics, etc. This approach to software selection will be painless and conscious.
First solve problems in the team, then software
It is important to understand that any innovation is always stressful for the team. Big or small, but stress. And if you introduce new software into a team where there are unresolved problems: toxic people, unhealthy competition, strife, then software will not solve communication problems, it will cause rejection, because new stress is added to old problems.
In any team, innovation is met with resistance. And this is a very important moment for a leader. He should lead the team to the idea that it is time to change something. Discuss with the team the pressing problems, what and where could be better. It is important to understand here that if it is convenient and good for people, for example, to communicate in Telegram, and everything is cool with you, you are growing, the processes are giving results, then do not touch it. And if there are problems with communication: people are often distracted, do not get in touch on time, miss calls. Then you need to bring these problems up for discussion and propose a solution that, for example, isolates personal space and work space.
The software should fit the team’s needs and be liked by the team leader. After all, it is he who will have to “sell” this solution to employees. And of course, the software must work smoothly, have a clear and convenient interface. This greatly simplifies life. For example, we use Microsoft Teams. And it doesn’t always work well on a Mac, but it saves me that I use it more often on my phone or on the web. And everything works quickly and cool there, so for me this moment with a poppy is tolerable.
How we chose software and why Teams
We didn’t specifically look for software. I am still a supporter of the fact that the processes themselves should prompt that it is time. Before that, we used Telegram and at some point began to grow. The number of chats increased to 10. Everything was in different places: chats – in TG, calls – in Google Meet, files – somewhere else, to share the screen with controls – you need one application, write to the screen – another. It was all just getting out of control. When you have only three people in the team – it’s normal, when there are five of you – it’s still bearable. And we have grown to 20 people. We needed a working ecosystem.
We chose Microsoft Teams. For 5–7 dollars per user per month, we get a full-fledged working ecosystem: mail, calendars, calls, disk, chats. Everything we need and fits our size and tasks. There is one more important trick: the solution must fit the size of the team. If you are three people, then you need a shared chat, a calling service, one shared calendar, and a shared folder on Google Drive or Dropbox. Well, that’s all. There are no such tasks for which you need some fancy programs.
There is a lot of software to work with. My personal TOP is quite simple: Microsoft Teams, Slack (left Russia) and Telegram. Oddly enough, Telegram, for all its shortcomings, is one of the best instant messengers that I have seen in my life. Communication in Telegram up to a certain team size is very convenient.
There are many alternatives to the same gone Slack, such as Google Workspace. There are messengers, and files, and everything you need, but I personally didn’t get it. This is exactly what I said above: you, as a team leader, should like it. Because who is responsible for integrating this software into the team? You! If this is your business, then you decide what to work with. You have to feel it yourself and understand whether this is a cool solution or not.
It seems to me that this is the most important thing when implementing software, and indeed any innovation. You must be ready to implement what you implement. And do not automate what is not needed, because it is better to do business than once again re-automate some process that can be done cheaper, by hand, or that the team is used to doing the way it does.
Yes, of course, it is much easier to improve small things than to solve real problems – find new partners, replace an employee. Real problems are always harder to solve. But you can’t build a strong business by solving small things. By the way, this is also an important question to yourself when choosing software: is it really necessary now or am I trying to solve something that does not require it?