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23/03/2020

How do remote teams work in the cloud?

The number of companies that allow remote work or at least experiment with it is steadily increasing. And that's no longer limited to nerdy online startups or freelancers - remote work has become a real trend. At least in the area of online companies and service providers, because it is also clear that this concept does not work for everyone. There are already a few cooperation networks and companies that only operate remotely and function successfully.

But how do remote teams work in the cloud? And what exactly is cloud computing?

What exactly is cloud computing? 

Simply put, cloud is a metaphor for the internet. In fact, cloud symbols are used over and over again to visually represent the internet. When you think of the Internet as a virtual "space" connecting users from all over the world, it is like a cloud. It exchanges information over networks.

Actually, cloud computing refers to the sharing of resources, software and information over a network, or better "the Internet". Information and data are stored on physical or virtual servers that are maintained and controlled by a cloud computing provider. As a cloud computing user, you can access your information stored in the "cloud" via an Internet connection.

Collaboration in the cloud (cloud collaboration)

Cloud collaboration enables two or more people to work on a project at the same time. Depending on the structure of the collaboration, the relevant documents and files are either stored outside the company or can also be stored within the company on dedicated servers. The latter makes sense in particular if you value your own data sovereignty. This is particularly recommended in times of GDPR. In any case, the team members have access to the project files and can work on them together. At the latest since the free and cloud-based Google Docs, this has also reached the masses.

Whereby you have to make it clear that the possibilities here go far beyond shared Google Sheets. Vendors and software models are very diverse and there are also plenty of industry-specific solutions today.

Remote teamwork in practice

How does remote collaboration look in practice? The answer may surprise one or the other and is not spectacular: in most cases, working remotely is actually not much different from working in the office - only the circumstances may be slightly different.

Meetings

Meetings take place in the same way as in an office environment, with the only difference that you are not physically sitting in the same room. Remote teams usually use one of the relevant video chats, such as Skype, Google Hangouts or Zoom, to name just a few. The choice is huge and, as is often the case, the decision depends on your needs. In larger meetings with several people, however, there are some technical challenges to master and not every video chat can do this right away. Otherwise, once you get used to it, the process is no different than in real meetings. 

Coffee gossip and hall discussions

Of course, they cannot take place as they do in the real world, but alternatives have become established here too. After all, the Internet doesn't take away the habit of exchanging the latest rumors or chatting for a few minutes about fashion or sports. Shared communication software, such as the very popular Slack, offers the possibility of creating channels sorted by topic, where you can chat with text and upload files. In addition to the work-related channels such as #allEmployees or #Sales-Team, there are also channels such as #Haustiere or #Kaffeklatsch where you cannot have small talk other than in the real office. And just like in real life, you can pull a colleague aside and deal with a topic in private in the private chat room - up to and including the possibility of accessing a call or video call.

The virtual donut is particularly popular with Slack. Two or three colleagues are randomly selected and animated to hold a video call together - for which at best you have a coffee and a donut ready. Most of the time, people talk freely about everything, private and work. This is how you get to know and appreciate your colleagues from other teams better. 

Tasks and team management

Today, cloud or intranet-based team and task management software is already used in many companies. In industry, for example the relatively well-known SAP. Remote teams usually prefer the cloud-based modern solutions, such as Trello and Jira, to assign tasks to team members and to keep track of things as managers. 

Jira works with freely configurable Kanban boards, which are used to visualize your own workflow. We divide the respective status into columns, such as to-do, in progress, finished - and the individual tasks and their description are then placed depending on the status. A filter can then be used, for example, to display all open tasks or those of a specific colleague and so on.

In this way, all members of the remote team and, if necessary, other departments, keep an overview of their own tasks and also find possible blockers and can act accordingly.

There is such a large number of solutions for operational tasks, some of which are also very industry-specific, that we would just like to list a few examples here.

The most widespread solution is Google Docs, which allows several colleagues to work on the usual Office documents simultaneously. For example, to make tables for budget planning, to work on a blog article together or to write down ideas from a brainstorming session with the entire team at the same time.

Use tools in combination

It becomes interesting when all the tools are combined. A typical remote team situation from my own everyday life:

The entire four-person team comes to the appointed date in Google Hangouts Video call together and the manager gives the marketing briefing. We need a new blog article and we have five minutes to write our ideas on the virtual post-it notes and stick them on the pin board - we have to do that today http://note.ly/ used to test how this tool works for us.

After the subsequent discussion, we have decided on a topic for an article and end our meeting.

Tim from Marketing writes a first draft in Google Word, Frank, our IT specialist, keeps checking in and giving comments on the technical points. After completion, Tim sets his task in Jira to “done”, our copywriter Katrin receives a corresponding message from the system, reads the article against and posts it live on the blog after the corrections. Tim from Marketing can now set up the campaigns and start promoting with a clear conscience.

The team manager is informed about the entire process and the respective status in his dashboard. He has the opportunity to quickly get an overview at any time, to create a report for the board or, if necessary, to actively intervene.

What is left out is a lot of individual communications to find out things, everyday work is more efficient for everyone involved - and if someone is concentrating on a certain thing, he can communicate his answer a little later - which is usually much faster is than in a classic workflow.

In summary, a well-organized remote workflow offers more efficiency and independent, self-determined work for all team members. 

Documentation and knowledge management

When it comes to filing files, Google is way ahead with its free Google Drive. But solutions such as Dropbox or Adobe Cloud belonging to Adobe are also quite widespread.

You can quickly lose track of what is stored where and, above all, when it comes to process and project documentation, which may also be related to different files, you quickly have the same orderly chaos as with one Filing system reached.

As the name suggests, the aim of knowledge management is not to lose knowledge that we have acquired, but also to make it accessible to others by creating our own “Wiki”. One of the best examples of this is Confluence, which, as expected, is already in use and very popular with many remote teams.

Processes can easily be documented, as can projects and even more general knowledge. Any files in the cloud can be easily integrated and even the project and task status from Jira can be integrated live if required.

In practice, for example, we can create a product roadmap in Confluence and list and link all relevant external files in a table. In another table, we list project-relevant tasks from Jira and thus see the respective status - for example “planned”, “in progress” or “completed”. 

The possibilities are diverse and the tools allow to be adapted to (almost) every need.


If you are interested in what a solution could look like for you and your team, contact us. We offer you one non-binding and first direct consultation. Or try out Confluence now, directly and without obligation, with our free one Test account - without automatic renewal.

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