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5 collaboration tools to increase productivity with your offshore developers

Collaboration is one of the most critical skills. Most jobs today, if not all, cannot be done by one person. Success is not an individual matter – it takes teamwork and a comprehensive set of skills that only a team of diversifying talents can fulfill.


FEBRUARY 28, 2020         |         Reading time: 8 minutes

Great things in business are never done by one person. They're done by a team of people - Steve Jobs

Reproduced from thequotes.in (nd) [1]


If you know how to work in sync with those who own different skills, experiences, and knowledge from you, you are literally put in a vantage point [2] [3].

As a matter of fact, collaboration:

  • Puts everyone on the same page: Besides getting everyone to work on the same goals, collaboration keeps them aligned with team strategies.
  • Gathers different ideas and inputs from different minds: This promises higher productivity and increases the likelihood of delivering greater values to customers.
  • Promotes organic learning and knowledge sharing culture: Team members naturally acquire knowledge of and even grow interest in the areas they were not interested in the first place.
  • Gets each team member to know themselves and one another better – especially with respect to complementary strengths and weaknesses: It brings them together as a synergistic team.
  • Serves as launchpad for creative innovations: When done correctly, ideas are shared freely and without fear of being humiliated.

Growing globalization, increased specialization, and diversified demands – along with the increasingly advanced technologies and fast Internet, have made the world closely connected.

That also means co-located working mode is getting obsoleting, giving place to remote collaboration – a concept downright alien a decade ago now a widespread norm in business.

In the US alone, the number of remote workers increases by 91% since 2005 [4]. In Switzerland, “70% of professionals work remotely [a]t least one day a week, while 53% work remotely for at least half of the week.” [5]

In this scenario, there are a great number of online collaboration tools out there that you and your offshore team can work with. Thanks to these tools, working remotely while outsourcing software development becomes a gain. Great collaboration tools don’t have to be expensive.

But, which tools are the best?

This article will give you the 5 tried-and-true collaboration tools to get you to communicate and to collaborate well with your offshore developers.

For ideating and brainstorming, use MURAL

example of mural canvas

Reproduced from Jim Kalbach (2016) [6]

As you start a new Mural page, the big white virtual canvas will give you enough room to brainstorm and plan any project/product in whatever way you and your team see fit.

Mural boasts a treasure trove of templates particularly friendly to Agile practitioners, such as Team Backlog, OKR, Retrospective, User Story Mapping, Weekly Kanban and Retrospective, Personas Canvas, or Empathize: Human-Centered Exercises.

The tool also offers a wide range of other ready-to-use templates: SWOT Analysis, Mind Maps, and Fishbone, among others, are kept handy in Mural’s template bank.

To help you navigate through the bountiful resources that it has to offer, Mural offers you how-to’s to do a wide range of things on the app: from brainstorming, planning your design, organizing your content, to learning and teaching, etc.

As an online collaboration tool, Mural easily eliminates the barrier of geographical distances between you and your offshore developers, enabling everyone to work together, be on the same page, and follow up with what needs to be done after each working session.

mural tips: organize your content by room (where you create and store your murals) and workplace (consist of share rooms and murals)

Reproduced from Mural.co (nd) [7]

Sign up with your work email, and enjoy more than 100 templates on Mural here.

Below are some handy tips before starting your brainstorming:

“The most basic principles for successful group brainstorming are:
1. Defer judgment about the quality of ideas (often expressed as “no criticism” of ideas).
2. Quantity, not quality, is the goal of brainstorming.”– Chauncey Wilson (2006) [8]

Mural alternative: Miro.

For task and time management, pick TRELLO

Collaborating offshore demands trust from one another.

In other words, offshore collaboration requires the highest possible level of work transparency, keeping everyone on the same page on job statuses, visualization of tasks and due dates, while keeping everything organized [9].

Trello is a tool designed to help you do just exactly this.

Following the Kanban concept, a basic Trello board typically includes 3 columns: To Do, Doing, and Done – through which your tasks move. The tool is freely adapted to your needs – be it an advanced, or a simple, task board.
Basic Kanban with 3 columns: To-do, Doing and Done represents work flow. Create and move your cards (which represents tasks) through the process.

Reproduced from Trello [10]

One of Trello’s significant advantages centers around its friendly interface, making it super easy for you and your team to learn and use it in the everyday work routine.
Click on a card to see, add or edit details

Reproduced from Trello [10]

Click on a card to edit project details, manage a task’s timeline, create checklists of things that need to be done, add members who are involved in the task, or give your feedback in the comments, and many more [10].

As your project grows, feel free to add more columns, as shown in the example below.
full-fledged Trello board

Reproduced from Entrepreneur Platform (nd) [11]

When your project matures too fast and seems to outgrow the capability of what a single Trello board can handle, why not divide your project up into categories?

You can then create boards that only take care of these smaller “projects” you’re dealing with. Attached other cards and boards to your cards, linking them allow easier access between dependant projects

Reproduced from Trello [10]

Linked card

Reproduced from Brian Cervino (2017) [12]

Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see how easy it is to keep everything on track without breaking a sweat.

Give Trello a try here.

Trello alternatives: Jira, Infinity

For meetings and video conferencing, choose ZOOM

A big part of excellent, conflict-free collaboration is underpinned by good communication [13].

Almost a third of all project failures were due to poor communication – Karthik Ramchandran

A new meeting and video conferencing that has quickly gained its popularity over a short course of time, Zoom is worth a try.

Despite being a late-comer compared to Skype, many see Zoom overcomes its predecessor in the quality of video conferences and support for customers [15].

Some even think of Zoom as “one of the most reliable solutions on the market” and a trusted tool for stability [16].
Zoom has 5 services: Meetings and chat, Room and workpace, Phone system, Video Webinars, App Marketplace

Reproduced from Zoom.us (nd.) [16]

Some of the free features that Zoom is best rated for is the 40-minute time-boxed meetings and conference calls for up to 100 people – which are designed exclusively for “collaboration” and “training” [16].
Customers who switch to Zoom reported: 92% increase in performance, 82% increase in sense of trust, 91% increase in engagement, 85% increase in video usage

Reproduced from Zoom.us (nd.) [16]

Zoom group collaboration features in free package

Tips: To enhance your online video call experience, don’t forget a pair of good conference room microphone/headsets and webcam. We recommend table speakerphone or noise-canceling headset from Jabra, and HD cameras from Microsoft or Logitech.

Explore Zoom on multiple platforms here.

Zoom alternatives: Skype, Whereby.com

For measurement of your team’s happiness and productivity, go for TEAMMOOD

Do you know? An increase in happiness predicts an increase in productivity by at least 12% [17] [18] [19].

The best-selling author of Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time and founder of Scrum Inc., Jeff Sutherland, has found this to be particularly true in his company.

“ScrumInc used the happiness metric to help increase velocity over 500% in 2011. Net Revenue doubled.”

– Jeff Sutherland (2014) [18]

For that reason, instead of giving you a traditional productivity-measuring tool, we recommend you TeamMood.

A tool that gauges your team’s happiness anonymously and reports you daily, TeamMood is easy to introduce and incorporate into your team’s routine.

By joining TeamMood, you can make informed decisions about your team with:

  • the average mood scores spanning a select period of time
  • the days with best and worst mood scores
  • donut chart report on the distribution of your team’s happiness status for a selected period
  • an overview of user participation frequency

(All of these can be found in the Team Analytics tab.)

Teammood features: mood over time, mood distribution, wordcloud from commend,
What’s more, the Mood Calendar puts all daily reports and comments of surveyed members in one place, giving you hints on where exactly to improve on your team.
Detailed mood overtime

Reproduced from TeamMood (nd.) [20]

Check out TeamMood here.

TeamMood alternatives: Reetro, CompanyMood.

For cloud storage, document collaboration, and file sharing, try GOOGLE DRIVE

When working with your offshore team, it is crucial to keep everything in sync and in one place.

“7 benefits of cloud storage:
1. Secure backup storage
2. Increased security
3. Allowing people to work remotely effectively
4. Increased productivity
5. Saved costs
6. Easy access to files
7. Increased efficiency”– Rochel Maday (2019) [21]

Google Drive has been long a great option, especially for offshore teams, to collaborate simultaneously on the same documents, store them in a central location, and share updates to one another with ease anytime anywhere.

Although the editable types of files on Google Drive are limited to Word, Excel (spreadsheets), and PowerPoint (presentations), it can store a wide spectrum of file types – from archive like .zip, to different design formats like .tiff or .psd [22].

It's a free, lightweight, cloud-synchronized less-featured microsoft office

Reproduced from Dominik Feiler (nd) [24]

Google Drive alternatives: DropBox, Microsoft’s OneDrive

Summary

In this article, we’ve given you the five collaboration tools worth trying, i.e., Mural for ideating and brainstorming; Trello for task and time management; Zoom for meeting and video conferencing; TeamMood for measuring your team’s happiness and productivity; and Google Drive for cloud storage, document collaboration, and file sharing.

We have been using these collaboration tools ourselves on a regular basis – internally between our team members and externally with our clients. To us, these tools’ effectiveness has been proven in easing our workflow and enhancing efficiency, especially in our work with offshore clients. We hope you will enjoy these tools like we do, too.

References






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