Don’t know which tools to use to optimally communicate and collaborate? Here are my favourites!

Digital tools, always a hot issue amongst Agile coaches. Some swear by only using post-its and other physical means. Others are more… realistic ;). Whether you are a distributed team or collocated, you probably want to use some digital tools. Don’t get me wrong: I love tangible, physical tools for creative work, but I don’t limit myself or others to them. Like everywhere it is about finding the right tool for the right job.

What is the right combination of digital tools? There are four kinds of digital applications you minimally want to have at your disposal1: a messaging tool, a conference tool, a tool for storage and a tool for organising. I’ll show you for each kind which tools I like best.

Messaging tools

A great messaging tool allows you to have focussed discussions. Messages are easily searchable and it makes it easy to share different kinds of media. A big plus if you can use it with any device. These I love best:

  • Slack
    Slack uses channels to categorise conversations. Members of a Slack workspace can subscribe to a channel and only follow conversations that are relevant to them. Users can share files and documents easily. What I also like is that Slack offers a lot of integrations, with for instance Trello, Jira and Google Drive. The basic version of Slack is free and fits basically all of my needs. Accessible on any device.
  • Rocket.Chat
    Rocket.Chat looks a lot like Slack, but with one distinct feature: it is open source and you can host it yourself. Which is a big plus if you don’t want your data hosted outside your company. Rocket.Chat also offers integrations with other tools, though not as much as Slack. Works on any device.

Conference tools

When distributed you want to have access to a great meeting tool. This means high quality video and audio, stability, screen sharing ability and ease of use.

  • Zoom
    Zoom is a very easy to use conference platform. Clear audio, high quality video, ability to chat and share your screen: it’s all there. Also features encrypted communication. Free to use, but limited to 40 minutes per meeting. Paid plans as well.
  • Skype
    Old kid from the block Skype is still a great option. HD audio and video, screen sharing, chat and encryption. Totally free, but group videochat is limited to 10 people.
  • Cisco Webex
    Market leader Webex offers a lot of functionality, though is on the free plan limited to 3 attendees in your meeting. In addition to all the basics Webex offers whiteboarding, thought I never really used this functionality.

Tools for storage

As a team you want to be able to create and share files. Documents, presentations, spreadsheets, etc. Ideally the tool enables you to collaborate in real time on the same document.

  • Google Drive
    Google Drive is my goto storage tool. It’s free and really easy to use. The Google Suite of docs, spreadsheets and presentations allows for real time concurrent editing.
  • Microsoft Office365
    This is Microsofts answer to the Google Suite. Microsoft OneDrive is the storage facility and Office365 contains web or desktop versions of the industry standard apps like Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Also supports real time collaboration. In contrast to the Google Suite not free to use.

Tools for organising

Knowing what you are working on, and are going to work on next, is essential to good teamwork. So you need a tool to organise your work in a clear and effective way. Of course in our line of work that also means a tool that supports an Agile way of working. So it should at least support Product Backlog management and the visualisation of a sprint.

  • Atlassian Jira
    Jira is a very elaborate projectmanagement tool with support for Scrum boards, Kanban boards, roadmap visualisation and many agile reports. Easy to use, but can be overwhelming for new users. There is a free edition as well as different paid options.
  • Trello
    Trello is a lightweight tool that essentially enables you to create lists that visualise your workflow. So it is really easy to create a Scrum board for instance. Though much more basic than Jira, it is very easy to grasp. Basic version is free.
  • Notion
    Notion is an all-in-one collaboration tool that supports the creation of notes, docs, tasks, pages and even lightweight databases. Nice if you want only one tool, though it lacks in certain areas like Product Backlog management. Free version and paid options.

Here you go

These tools should support your team communication needs. The contents and structure of your meetings are up to you. Now you can focus on the important stuff: the products and services you are building!

By the way, if you need help bringing some structure to the communication and organisation of your work, I can help. Whether it is configuring above tools or (co)creating agreements how to use them efficiently. Ping me!

  1. Handboek Teamcoaching, Martijn Vroemen

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