3 Tools to improve your team's workflow

Take it from us: seamless processes can turn remote individuals into a highly efficient team... no geographical restrictions need to apply. 

Our team currently live in 3 different time zones and work from 4 different office spaces. We swear by integrated apps, automated bots and 100% online communication. Technology enables us to do more. Big time. 

Outshinery's founder, Laurie, and tech guru, Tra, are constantly on the hunt for new apps to improve our operations. We often get asked on how do we do it when we all work miles apart!!!

Read on to discover our top 3 tools that make our small-and-mighty team flow.

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." - John C. Maxwell

The Outshinery team, deployed worldwide.

Please note, none of these apps have endorsed this post (although we'd love if they share it!).

1. Slack, for real time messaging (with Howdy + Giphy bots)

A typical Slack window at Ousthinery: channels on specific topics (left), team exchange (middle) and in-depth conversation on a specific item (right).

Emails may be your prime tool for communicating with customers, but internal conversation between staff members has come a long way from the email strand. Long gone are the days of "can you forward me that email again?" or "where's that link you sent me last week?", Slack keeps everything in one place, in a fun and intuitive way. 

We also added 2 handy bots to exponentially leverage this internal messenger:
        - Howdy: this bot can schedule team feedback or weekly 'stand ups' and turns Slack into the "water cooler" where people are bound in more ways than one.
        - Giphy: why say it with words when you could share fun and expressive mini video? (We love using those!!!)

2. Asana, for project management‎

Screenshot of our Content Marketing board in Asana: we use different column for each status, moving our tasks like sticky notes from left to right, making us aware of our progress.

I may have been called the ultimate "task master" before, but Asana, without a doubt, would be called King. Founded in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, the platform was designed to help teams track their work.

Whether you're in the sales team, web development or the "I wear all the hats" department, a task management system allows for efficient collaboration and centralization of all your work tasks.  

In Asana we jolt down all our ideas, client work, product development, website fixes and so much more. Everything related to our business is in the app. And since it lives on the web, any team member, at any time, has a clear understanding of the tasks at hand and the progress accomplished to date.

3- Coaching (and Skype), for quarterly team calls

"We all need people who will give us feedback. That's how we improve" - Bill Gates.

Four times a year, the whole team gets on a Skype group call. The goal of this meeting is to discuss, plan and celebrate our achievements! Without a doubt, this also gives us the chance to catch up and discuss our love of WonderWoman or baking... you know the very business-y stuff!

What makes these quarterly virtual roundups so valuable?

First, doing the prep work. Each team member has to answer a series of questions days before the actual meeting. These might be:

  • Over the last 3 months, what are 3 things you are proud of with regards to your own work/contribution?
  • What do you love about your role?
  • In the next year what do you want to do more of? What do you want less of?

The questions are carefully crafted, yet open. People have time to answer them, no "on-the spot pressure." This process gives members the opportunity to step back and reflect, to pause the day-to-day "busy-ness" and focus on the bigger picture.

Second, being on the call: live video conference. Regardless of timezone (some have to check  in at 7am while others at 11pm!), people show up and turn their webcam on. After regular "faceless" communication on Slack and Asana, it's pretty awesome to experience first hand body language and wait for it... each others voices!!!

The call itself is hyper-focused and never more than 2 hours. It is memorable for everyone involved and the level of energy that comes out of the call is priceless. When we hang up, we are charged to the max and eager to execute all the ideas we discussed!

Outshinery team call (Laurie, Lucy, Phung, Tra and Bay)

Outshinery team call (Laurie, Lucy, Phung, Tra and Bay)

Slack, Asana and coaching are the 3 main tools we use at Outshinery to communicate and work efficiently. This allows us:

  • Efficiency AND shared responsibility. Every single task is someone's responsibility, nothing slips in between the cracks.
  • Autonomy AND teammate support. No crisis, nor wins(!) go unnoticed. (And we always aim for the later!)
  • Seriousness AND fun. Yes we run a business, but we also take the time to goof around; this is how the work gets done while having a spring in our step.

We hope you found this post useful! Let us know how you expect to leverage these tools with your own team in the comments below.

Lucy Armstrong