REMOTE CONTROL: Technology to help teams work together in isolation
Published on 16 April 2020
SmartHub Business Manager Elize Hattin invites Daniel Johnsen, founder of ShakeSpot and the SmartHub’s expert in residence to talk through popular technology tools Trello and Monday.com, to help your team work remotely, while keeping them working together.
Project Management tools assist an individual or team to effectively organise work and manage projects and tasks. In the wake of lockdowns and work-from-home orders, these tools have come to the fore; allowing people to remotely login to 'plan, track and collaborate on projects they would otherwise do in person, in an office context.
Most project management software platforms have a free tier, meaning smaller businesses with few employees will avoid a payment plan. Businesses with upwards of five employees will likely need to pay, however this is still a modest investment.
Daniel cautions there are some mindsets he encourages people adopt before engaging in an online platform.
"Just putting something online doesn't make it better. You have to change a couple other things at the exact same time for it to be an improvement over what you're doing.
"Putting technology in for the sake of technology is not recommended," he warns.
Daniel encourages new technology adopters to think about implementation like a triangle; the top of the triangle being the technology and what you're trying to do, then another edge of the triangle is the process behind what you're trying to do and the last one is the people or users.
"If we only select one of those, for example just the tech and then we put it in, it is a guaranteed failure. You need to change two out of those three pillars. So either the technology and the process or the process and the people, it doesn't matter which one you do.
"If you really want to guarantee success, you change the tech, you change the process and you empower the people to embrace the technology"
Just signing up for a project management tool is not going to change your business or help you work out better, unless you create a process for this new technology, hold people accountable for utilising the tech and of course train them so that they know this is the new path forward, Daniel advises.
He also warns there is no going back to the old way of doing business.
"If someone who has been with the company for many years can still go back to their piece of paper and not put it on this online system like everybody else, we've got a problem…we either need to encourage this rogue person more, or we change the people … which is not what we want to do in this environment.
"Train the people, introduce them and make sure the processes support what you're trying to do," Daniel summarises.
Daniel Johnsen admits he is a Trello fan, having used it for his own business, Shakespot, and now as a consultant, for many years.
In this HubLive, Daniel walks through the process of setting up a free Trello account for the first time.
He explains like most platforms, Trello makes it very simple for users to navigate, with clear instructions and videos on what to do.
Trello lets you work collaboratively and is task orientated, displaying visually who is doing what, who has completed what or who has something still to do. The platform is free to use forever, with the option to scale up to more complex add-ons for a fee.
After signing up, when you open your Trello page users will see boards, which Daniel likens to the different projects a business may have in progress.
"You can have one or more boards…maybe you have one for website redesign, one for your new marketing campaign for 2020, personal boards for a bathroom remodel, etcetera.
"Trello has this cute little dog called Taco that will guide you through the process of how to set up your boards… Taco will say, hey, let's get started and it'll go through this process of creating a new board," he explains.
Once a new board has been created for a project, Trello will prompt users to create lists. Here, Daniel shares his own approach to setting up his team lists, by creating:
a 'Parking Lot' list
a 'To do' list
a 'Doing' list
a 'Completed' list
"Think about these lists just like you're at the pool…we can call these swim lanes so you can quickly see what is in what stage of the process.
"I use the 'Parking Lot' for all the things I know I want 'To Do'. You click on add card and you can keep adding all the different tasks that you need to do," he demonstrates.
Daniel uses the hypothetical task of installing a sink (a Trello card) as part of a bathroom remodel project (a Trello board) to demonstrate how the platform captures task details and allows collaboration within teams.
"The description is more information for anybody that sees it…we can say, "I want a white sink that has two tubs…that's our reminder of what we're doing. Now, you may go to a bathroom store and you may put links or images in the card and make comments about likes, dislikes and invite others onto the card for their feedback.
"You may have a checklist which could be the install checklist, you can add items like adding grout, installing the taps and any other checklist items you know we need to have happen," he explains.
Daniel says when he decides to work on a task, he'll move it from his 'Parking Lot' list to his 'To Do' list, making this his weekly list of the goals or tasks he wants to progress in that particular week.
When work commences on a task, he moves it into the "Doing List" and once a task is completed, it moves to his 'Completed' card, which is a visual way to know it has been finalised with no further action needed.
"Trello shows me how far I am progressing…if I complete another task, now we know we're 67% done. At a glance you can quickly see what's going on," Daniel demonstrates.
Daniel suggests businesses may also opt to set up a final 'Archive' card to keep a historical record of projects.
"A lot of people do so much work, they actually don't know what they completed over the past week, month or year. An 'Archive' gives you a beautiful list of the amazing things you've done," Daniel recommends.
The Trello platform also allows users to invite team members and assign tasks to people who receive a notification and can log in to see updates, comments, actions to be completed and progress made.
"You can add labels…you may have something that is high priority and then you create a label and make it red… now it shows as red, which means we’ve got to do something now," Daniel explains.
Like most other project management platforms, Trello shows and shares user activities to track how and when people make progress, write comments, tag and notify users, to simplify communication with everything in one place.
Daniel acknowledges the wealth of online resources including Trello's Taco, Google, YouTube and Facebook groups for Trello advocates to guide new users through the actions and troubleshoot any issues.
More advanced users can even set up their smart phone's intelligence assistant (e.g. Siri or Google) to add tasks to Trello while on the go. Watch the 'how to' YouTube tutorial here.
According to Daniel, Monday.com is a more advanced project management tool suited to bigger organisations requiring delegation, describing it as 'Trello on steroids'.
He advises Monday.com is more expensive, adopting a pay per user.
"If you have 10 users, Monday.com will command $50 per month, which is $5 per user.
"Monday.com offers a free trial which allows you to do amazing things, but it does not let you access the calendar view, which some people are beholden to so they can see everything that's due on a certain date," he says.
Daniel recommends starting out with the basics for Monday.com, assess if works for you and then scale up and pay more for more features, if required.
He explains Monday.com has examples or case studies on how people use Monday.com, including working with remote teams.
"There is a case for HR processes, so if we are hiring people or we have a new employee onboarding process. It may be a sales process, marketing…these are all good use cases and they step you through what that these boards would look like.
"They show how big companies used it and give you some titbits on how you may be able to do use it too," Daniel demonstrates.
Monday.com operates on the same concept of boards for a big project, lists for the different components that need doing and tasks, being the smaller actionable steps.
Similar to Trello, items can be assigned to a team member, however it also includes a status.
"You can give it a status…for example they make red as a stuck, I need help on it, waiting on advice. You can always assign it a due date and receive updates too," he notes.
WHICH ONE IS BEST?
Daniel acknowledges both platforms have great functionality and recommends businesses pick one they are willing to learn and that works best with their process.
"I wouldn't use a lot of the tools in Monday.com, but a more advanced business definitely could benefit from these.
"If you get stuck while you're trialling or using them, just Google or YouTube what you need help with.
"Webinars and tutorials are readily available and if you go to Facebook you will likely find there is a Monday.com.com enthusiast group of people that love it so much they teach other people how to use it," Daniel encourages.
Beyond Trello and Monday.com, there are countless other platforms to explore, including Asana and Zoho that allow you to easily delegate, track task progress and communicate with teams no matter where they are physically located.
Most software platforms will sync with all devices to, allowing you to check in via laptop, desktop computer table or phone.
OTHER HELPFUL TOOLS
Daniel says for teams working remotely during the Corona virus crisis, communication is crucial, as people are not interacting with each other as much as they were before.
"Slack is a message board, people can go back and forth and it lets people have independent conversations and topical conversations.
"There's a silliness and random chat room…just because you're at home doesn't mean that you need to be head down and the only thing you do is think about work. You still need to have a bit of fun. Give yourself permission to communicate," Daniel urges.
Often these tools will integrate too, whereby every time you receive an assignment task in Trello, it will ping you on Slack, he comments.
Daniel advocates for personal communication and connection rather than just typing in platforms, as humans only use about 7% of our communication ability through typed out words.
He encourages businesses to explore video conferencing tools, his favourite being Zoom.
Free to use for one-on-one communication, adding a third person or more will limit users to 40 minutes of video collaboration.
At $140 US annually, Daniel says Zoom is one of the most valuable, low spend item he is willing to pay for because it significantly simplifies his life.
He suggests utilising both, with typed out communication with your team through Slack and visual communication via Zoom.
"Make sure if you're on these calls that you're present. Don't be eating and doing other things…humans are horrible at multitasking.
"Be present, know the right communication tool, document it if it doesn't exist and then align your tasks and your processes to the technology and the people," he recaps.
If it is not documented, it does not exist
If we do not document what we need to do, Daniel says it will never get done.
"Out of sight, out of mind, you'll never get it done. This is another thing you can automate too.
"For example, every time a lead is filled out on a website, it gets added to a Sales inbound list, and once somebody fills out that form on our website with customer name and phone number, whatever it is, it can be assigned to one of our employees automatically and then they know that's their To Do list," Daniel proposes.
He encourages all businesses, even those with teams working in offices, to think about their own business processes, saying this is a fantastic opportunity to document processes, use the platform to track where everyone is at and use it as a delegation tool.
Google is your friend, not foe
Both Elize and Daniel implore anyone new to technology or who may be intimidated by emerging technology to familiarise themselves with Google, saying this is a great opportunity to pick up skills that will set them up for success in the future.
"Technology will probably play an even more fundamental and integral role in as managing our businesses, so setting your team up for success now and learning and teaching yourself to use Google and YouTube to find the answers to some of the questions is a great use of your time over the next few weeks," Elize says.
Reset and challenge the norms
Daniel believes this is also an incredible opportunity for business owners to look at their process and decide what no longer serves them.
"If there's something in the process that no one likes, it doesn't add value, doesn't help you do your job better or add a dollar to your pocket, get rid of it and start something new," he advocates.
Watch the HubLive session here…
Daniel Johnsen is the founder of ShakeSpot and the SmartHub’s expert in residence. The SmartHub encourages entrepreneurs and business owners to adopt technology and modern based business practice to make the entire business journey more profitable, more enjoyable, more effective and more efficient.
Being part of the SmartHub gives local business owners opportunities to meet with and learn from mentors, to help them learn the discipline required to succeed in business.
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Phone: 07 4936 8444