This guest post was written by Phil Montero, the founder of YouCanWorkFromAnywhere.com and recognized expert in cloud computing and mobile work, has created a blueprint for "virtual work" that he calls The Anywhere Office. He conducted a webinar for WebEx where he shared his three secrets to mobilizing your work style and making your business and projects more flexible. This is part two of a two part series answering questions about how to succeed with The Anywhere Office®. [Read part one.]
Q: What is the best way for a few employees to keep a task list for their boss that we can all access remotely?
There are a number of tools that can be used to keep a shared task list. If your organization already uses some type of web-based virtual office or online project management solution this functionality is most likely included.
If not, there are a growing number of free and low-cost task management services. Three popular ones are Remember the Milk , Toodledo and Orchestra. [Editor's Note: the new Cisco WebEx which will be shipping soon will have many of these tools. Learn more here!]
For a really simple, free solution you can also consider using Google Docs and setting up a shared document or spreadsheet that everyone can access and update online.
Q: Do you have some basic tools that you think are absolutely “must haves” for a virtual team?
The tools you need for successful virtual work will vary depending on several factors (the size of your team, the type of projects you do, your work style, etc...) but here are some of the top ones I recommend:
An instant messenger program like Skype is a key communication and collaboration tool. This allows your team members to easily "see" each other online, ask quick questions, share feedback, and communicate. I love that Skype supports lean and rich media allowing you to easily move from text chat to audio to video to simple screen sharing depending on your needs. I encourage the use of video for one on one conversations when practical as it can really enhance your level of communication and improves the "know, like, and trust" factor for virtual team members.
Web meeting services, like Webex, are another no-brainer. This allows not only your team to meet and share documents in real time but also allow you to include or present to clients, consultants, and vendors. A picture is worth a thousand words and I find that having a web meeting rather than a typical conference call drastically cuts down meeting time and reduces miscommunication, contributing to a higher level of clarity.
Online project management services like the new WebEx, Basecamp or Teamwork PM are a huge help if you have more than just a few people trying to collaborate. As I mentioned earlier, having shared documents, calendars, tasks lists and discussion boards that everyone can access remotely from any web browser or mobile device, can really keep everyone on the same page (no pun intended). These tools are especially useful if your team works across multiple time differences as they provide a simple way of collaborating asynchronously without requiring everyone to be available in real-time.
My final tool recommendation depending on how mobile you want, or need to be, would be a Smartphone or tablet. Having a mobile device allows you the flexibility to seamlessly work from anywhere without lugging your laptop everywhere you go. Today's Smartphones and tablets let you use the other tools I just mentioned from anywhere.
I hope that the webinar and this Q&A help you to mobilize your work style and make your business and projects more flexible. The key to success is embracing the change about what defines work and taking the time to really think about how business gets done. Choosing the right tools and using smart strategies to thoughtfully applying them to how you handle information, communication, and collaboration can turn your office into The Anywhere Office®, allowing you to work with people around the world as if they were across the hall.
If you have further questions or thoughts please share them in the comments below, connect with me on twitter (@philmontero) or visit my blog at TheAnywhereOffice.com as I would love to continue this discussion. Also, visit Phil's special offer for WebEx readers - use the coupon code "WebEx" in the shopping cart to get the 20% discount on our on-demand training for managing virtual teams.