Communication is undoubtedly the most important tool and skill required for successful business, and with the dawn of the digital age, staff are increasingly working from home, whilst on the go, and even working remotely from different countries. With this in mind, effective communication is becoming more tricky… or is it?!
Since starting back in 2013 we have tried a range of tools and processes in order to conduct consistent, effective communication. One of our founding directors, Abdullah, remote works from Saudi Arabia and we require an effective way to maintain communication with him. Our first solution to this problem was starting a Facebook chat group – though we quickly found ourselves talking over one another and resulted in scrolling through the endless Facebook feeds, which was extremely distracting.
Moving swiftly on to HipChat, by Atlassian. With a bit of googling, we quickly discovered this tool which, when it was first launched, was free for 5 users – perfect! They have since changed their model, making it free for all, with optional upgrade to premium. HipChat is effectively msn for business. With the ability to share files, create rooms, tag users, make rooms private and search. It is undoubtedly the most used tool in our business. The ability to see if users are online, on mobile or offline, coupled with the ability to tag people makes this extremely handy. By creating rooms for each project, aspect of the business and even informal rooms, we are able to keep conversations current and concise. The great thing about HipChat is that it can be used with other tools in our stack.
This brings us onto Asana, our project management tool. Let me first start by saying, we started using Asana way back when we first started, however we hadn’t really galvanised how we were going to use it – meaning it was a bit all over the shop and sporadic (read: we didn’t all use it). However, with a bit of work, we worked together to ensure that it was used consistently across the board.
Our favourite feature isn’t the ability to create project streams with comments and attached files, or the ability to assign deadlines to tasks and then build gantt charts based on these lists. It isn’t the fantastic task progress graphs that allow us to manage our projects effectively. It isn’t even the brilliantly designed mobile app, which allows us to track projects on the go, and even spy one-another’s lists (read: make sure they haven’t forgotten about something).
Our favourite feature is in fact a really subtle feature that you have to enable through their ‘hacks’ menu – a not so subtlety named ‘unicorn celebrations’. This feature, when enabled, sends unicorns flying across your screen to congratulate you for complete certain tasks. It is surprisingly addictive and has had silly big impact on our productivity. Bravo Asana, bravo.
These two tools also speak to one another, with the ability to hook Asana’s notifications into specific rooms in HipChat, we can see what is going on without even having to load a web page!
Another less frequently used, but still valuable, tool is Appear.in, a video conferencing app that allows all of us to keep in touch. With the /GearedApp room claimed on the app, we are effectively always online (feel free to drop by). When someone joins the room, we are given a notification and can join the room at the click of a button. What separates this product from the likes of Skype and Google Hangouts is its effortlessness. With Skype you can’t have multiple video users without paying for premium, and with Google hangouts we have found it can be tricky to invite non-company (we use Google for business) members to our hangouts, making it a hassle for using with clients. Appear.in make video chat easy, and as a result we are able to see Abdullah smiling away whenever we want (or rather, whenever his Internet is good enough).
So there you have it, three simple tools for effective communication. The takeaway from this should be – these tools are only effective if you are all using them the same way. If one user is never signed into HipChat, they will never know what’s going on. Likewise, if I never put any tasks in Asana, the others wont know what I am doing… and I will likely forget to do something!
Happy unicorn hunting.