The nature of our service-based business is that we're all spread out the majority of the time. This means that finding the rights tools for us to be able to complete our work and serve our clients from near and far is of the utmost importance. With that said, here are the internal tools we use that not only make remote work possible, but incredibly efficient.
Basecamp originally launched in 2004. As such, it’s one of the more mature tools out there. It’s not fancy and it doesn’t have sophisticated tools or intricate bells and whistles. It’s a simple interface that when used correctly, can help anyone accomplish even their more complicated tasks.
Basecamp is an easy way to not only track projects, but to also share important documents, and have a place to discuss the progression of those same projects.
The great thing about Basecamp is that while there are unified ways of using the software everyone can have their own individual rhythm as well. The way I used Basecamp may be slightly different than the way Lucas uses it.
As an organization that runs a help desk, we have to have a way to communicate quickly with all of our Delivery team members. With that said, we have a “Campfire” (a group chat feature in Basecamp) setup specifically for our Delivery team. What this means is that when technical problems come up and we need to discuss a resolution, it takes place in the Delivery Campfire.
When a Campfire is created, everyone on the team is setup to get a notification by default every time someone posts. The good news is that often people don’t need to be in those conversations so they can unfollow that specific Campfire. They no longer get notifications for that chat unless someone specifically mentions their name.
Little features like this are what make Basecamp so valuable to use as a mostly remote team. When I talk about a lead generation campaign we’re running, most of our Delivery team members shouldn’t have to worry about that (and they probably aren’t interested). I can add them to the conversation, but they quickly have the option to unfollow so they aren’t pestered with notifications they don’t need. This allows everyone at Foojee to responsibly pick and choose where and how to involved. It makes us all better.
Slack is a hot commodity these days. The company is well known in many circles and seems to be one of the most popular communication tools on the market for teams. We used Slack for the better part of two years, but after a while it became clear that Slack does not work for every team.
With our smaller team (8 people on the Foojee team), Slack appears to be a perfect tool. It allows us to see who is online and there are a plethora of options for communicating with groups, individuals, and customized channels. What most people won’t tell you is that the seemingly nonstop notifications are exhausting.
Following what’s happening on Slack (so you don’t miss out on important company or project details) can become it’s own full-time job. Slack makes it easy to get distracted or to sit and have watercooler conversations that are fun, but kill productivity.
Slack bills itself as an email replacement and to be fair, it did reduce our number of internal emails. However, we quickly found that Slack is best for real-time conversations and not much else. While that’s great for our Delivery team and help desk needs, it doesn’t do much for the rest of the team. If the conversation isn’t real time then why use Slack? Why not use Basecamp? And if only a few conversations happen in real time…why not just move to email or Basecamp for all conversations?
Don’t get me wrong, for a service-based business like ours it can be invaluable to know exactly who is online at any given time in case a client has an emergency. But is that worth the frantic pace and distractions that Slack undoubtedly brings to the table? Or are there better tools out there that serve a similar purpose?
In the end, we ultimately decided to move away from Slack and now almost all of our internal communications happen via email or Basecamp. We haven’t missed Slack. I think that tells us everything we need to know.
GSuite encompasses a lot. Google Docs, Google Calendar, Gmail, and more are part of this robust tool set. We don’t use Google Docs often. It’s such a powerful replacement for Microsoft Office and is amazing for a lot of teams. Google Docs offers seamless collaboration and it’s all in the cloud. No lost documents, no fried hard drives, and no multiple versions to wrestle with. We can’t argue that it’s a robust tool and a number of companies would benefit from using it more. We, however, use Dropbox (we’ll get to that later) to manage our documents.
Gmail is one of the best email services out there. It’s simple, intuitive, and easy to use. We have no storage issues, and we can easily use whatever email client strikes our fancy.
We would be lost without Google Calendar.
Okay, that’s not entirely true. We’d just be using a different service, but because so many other businesses use Google Calendar it works well for us. We have a shared work calendar so we can see everyone’s appointments for any given week. Who has a doctors appointment? Who has meetings? Who has onsite appointments with clients? Who has free space on their calendar and can take an appointment? All of these questions are easily answered with a glance at our shared calendar.
Having each of our people stay on top of their calendars enables others to be able to request meetings or for our Team Coordinator to schedule appointments. It is an essential part of our daily operations.
Hangouts are a simple solution for video calls and they integrate with our email and calendar. The video calls aren’t amazing, but they get the job done. Every two weeks our team meeting is remote and we utilize Google Hangouts in order to get our entire team together. With the ease of use and integration with other existing services, it’s an easy choice for us.
We have a ton of files. Keynote, Word, Pages, Excel, Numbers, Video Files, and more that take up a lot of storage space. Dropbox for business is the perfect solution. At the business level each person on the team is allotted 1 TB of storage. That’s far more than we’ll ever use, but it’s great knowing that we have it if we need it.
Dropbox is a perfect tool that allows us to organize our team wide documents and ensure we don’t lose anything important on an individual hard drive. Our Dropbox is used for Marketing, Operations, Sales, Infrastructure, Videos, Workshop Documents, and more.
Dropbox also makes it incredibly simple to share documents and files with a third party should the need ever arise.
The software also enables one user to open a document, make changes, and save it right back to the same place so the next person who opens it will see the updated version. It’s much safer for you, your employees, and your clients to have all of these files stored on Dropbox instead of an individual hard drive. In the off chance that a hard drive were to fail or a disgruntled employee had those files on their personal device, that could be bad news for any business.
As an IT Service company with help desk capabilities, we need a ticketing system. We need a way for people to email us in order to open a support ticket to document their request and ensure an appropriate resolution.
For a long time Foojee used ZenDesk. For the record, ZenDesk is fantastic at what it does, but as our company grew we found ourself desiring a more robust tool. We found that (mostly) in AutoTask. AutoTask is a ticketing system and CRM built in to one platform specifically for IT service providers.
With AutoTask we can have all of our contacts and clients stored and when they email firstname.lastname@example.org a ticket is automatically created for their issue. We can create contracts and invoices with AutoTask as well as reports. AutoTask IS a powerful piece of software.
However, as lovers of Apple products and beautiful design, AutoTask leaves something to be desired. It is a bit unintuitive and clunky. It gets the job done, but not without some bruising along the way. There’s a steep learning curve and it is not always easy to learn or figure out how to do what you want to do.
The bottom line is that AutoTask helps us do things we couldn’t do with ZenDesk and provide a better experience for our clients.
MailChimp was born and raised in Atlanta and we’ve been using it for years. If you’ve ever received an email communication from us, there is a 95% chance that it came from MailChimp. While this piece of software is primarily used by our marketing team, it has proved invaluable to the entire company over the years.
Whether we’re spreading the word about Apple product announcements, a new video we shot, or a virus for Macs that is going around we’re leveraging MailChimp to ensure our clients are up to date.
MailChimp allows us to create multiple lists so we can send tailored emails to specific segments (Creatives, Education, Law Firms, etc). It also gives us a healthy look at our analytics after the emails have been sent. How many people opened our emails? Who opened the email? How many people clicked on our email campaign links? Who clicked on those links? How many people unsubscribed?
On top of normal campaigns you can also set up automated email campaigns in MailChimp. We love the simplicity of using MailChimp and highly recommend it.
We’ve talked about 1Password on the blog before, but it is one of our tried and true tools. We would be lost without it. 1Password is a tool to store all your login/passwords in a safe place. At Foojee we have a shared vault that everyone can access for specific, sensitive login information.
With so many tools, it would be easy to waste time trying to remember or find specific passwords. 1Password totally removes this paint point for us. It truly pays for itself.