These days, many small business owners choose to employ remote workers. Outsourcing work to freelancers is a great way to get some extra help with daily tasks without paying for full-time employees. Additionally, hiring remote workers is often the perfect solution for growing businesses that don’t have a dedicated brick-and-mortar workspace just yet.
Many of today’s small business owners use cutting-edge technology to encourage collaboration, monitor freelance time tracking and keep everyone on the same page in general. There are also new business management approaches that often yield outstanding results. Discover the latest project management trends that help remote teams succeed so you can boost your bottom line.
1) Social Collaboration Time Management Tools
Social collaboration tools are a great way to keep your team up to date and on the same page while also saving both you and your crew valuable time. In the past, email collaboration was the go-to approach, but these days, it’s clearly not the best one.
Social platforms such as Trello and Basecamp are similar (in some ways) to social media platforms, only with a focus on work. They’re like a virtual office where everyone can come together, even from opposite sides of the world.
Social collaboration tools allow you to assign work, interact with team members, post bulletins, and more. Instead of CC’ing people on long emails, you can post on threads similar to online message boards. Your team can provide real-time updates on when they accept tasks when they’re working on jobs, and when they complete them. Members can share content, offer feedback, and communicate in a casual way that helps with teamwork and morale.
2) Chatbots and Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence is one of the most frequently discussed innovations in the small business arena, and it’s more accessible than ever. While most small businesses use chatbots to improve their customer service, they can be used to improve project management as well.
For example, most modern smartphones have virtual assistants. Business-oriented chatbots can be used much in the same way, allowing users to communicate their needs, naturally speeding up their workflow. Instead of digging through files and folders to find that important document or client’s phone number, you can simply tell your virtual assistant to pull it up. Those few seconds saved might not seem like a big deal, but that time really adds up in the long run.
Chatbots can also help to communicate with your team and/or clients more effectively by triggering communications based on specific events. Say you manage a writing team and one of your team members just finished writing a blog post for one of your clients. Now, instead of the writer emailing you or the client to let them know the post is ready for editing, your chatbot automatically notifies whoever needs to know. Event-triggered notifications are also a great way to give stakeholders progress updates throughout a long-term project.
Chatbots can also be used for scheduling purposes. Say you need to schedule a Skype call with your whole team. You could email each individual and try to find out when everyone’s available at the same time, but that takes quite a bit of time and effort. Instead, you can have individual chatbots communicate with one other to find openings on each team member’s calendar. Using that data, the chatbots can schedule a meeting that works for everyone.
3) Data Analytics
To run your small business as effectively as possible, you need to be aware of your financial situation at all times. As a project manager, it’s essential that you’re able to realize when a project fails and when it succeeds. Concrete numbers allow you to track your team’s performance so you can help them perform their best while also assisting you with your financial planning.
These days, cloud-based accounting software and financial data analytics go hand-in-hand. Cloud-based accounting software allows you to track your company’s data in real-time, according to a broad range of parameters. Instead of crunching numbers by hand, you can simply press a button and see exactly what your current financial standing is, allowing you to make informed decisions on how to proceed.
Imagine you manage a team of writers and a client requests a batch of blog posts. First, you could run a report to see what your current cash flow looks like. That way you can decide if you’re going to have enough cash to pay your writers for their work in advance, or if you need to wait until the client pays your invoice upon completion of the project. With that information in mind, you can talk to your team and make sure everyone knows exactly what to expect concerning incoming workload and when they can expect to be compensated.
4) Agile Business Methodology
The agile business approach has garnered quite a bit of attention in recent times. An agile business isn’t a piece of technology; it’s an approach to project management. The goal of the agile business method is to encourage flexibility and rapid changes, hastening the completion of projects. The agile method also helps your team to adapt quickly in unpredictable environments.
Using the agile business method, it’s common for project managers to assign dedicated teams to specific issues so problems are resolved as quickly as possible. This prevents issues from being passed from department to department. In other words, you create teams of niche specialists who stay in their lanes when it’s required but are also able to adapt to new tasks as needed. This reduces confusion and encourages everyone to have a unique role that’s relevant to specific projects. It’s a way to ensure that too many cooks don’t spoil the soup while taking advantage of each person’s unique soft and hard skills.
By hiring a remote team, you’re already embracing the agile method. Another big part of the method is allowing employees to work more autonomously in non-traditional settings, using cloud-based software and mobile devices to facilitate faster responses. In short, the agile business method means working faster and smarter using the best technology available.
5) A Hybrid Approach
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to running a small business and managing projects remotely, and it often takes trial and error to find what works. In some cases, what works for one company may actually hinder yours.
For example, a time management app may help some remote workers to be more efficient and motivated, but it can also discourage creativity in some cases. After all, you never know when inspiration might strike, and sometimes a rigid schedule may not encourage the best results from your team.
The key is to use technology that makes sense within your field and suits your company’s approach. The best time tracking app might help your team work faster, but at what cost? Try to identify areas in your business that could use some tightening up, then actively seek out solutions. Communication with your team also goes a long way in developing a system that works for everyone.
Say you start using the Trello platform to collaborate. After a week or so, you could reach out to your team to see how they feel about it. If they’re not loving it, you could try Basecamp or another social collaboration platform.
Eventually, you should be able to find areas that could use improvement through technology upgrades. At the same time, you may find classic methods work fine and don’t need changing. As long as you pay attention to the latest trends and keep an open mind, you should be able to find an effective system for managing remote teams that blends classic business protocol with a more modern approach.
6) Cloud Software
Cloud-based software allows anyone with an internet connection to access the platform. Naturally, this approach is incredibly helpful for remote teams, as physical servers or offices aren’t required. As long as your team has the proper credentials, they can log into your cloud-based software, ensuring that everyone is kept in the loop.
Imagine you use QuickBooks cloud-based accounting software. Now, even if you’re on vacation, you can check your company’s financial reports, monitor inventory changes, create and send invoices, manage bills, and so much more.
With cloud-based accounting software, you’re not limited to local bookkeepers. You can hire a self-employed accountant to keep your books, no matter where they live. You can also use cloud-based freelance time tracking tools to monitor your workers’ progress in real-time, helping you to better manage your company, even from afar.
Another advantage to using cloud-based software is that there’s limitless scaling potential. Traditional physical servers are susceptible to overloading if a certain product spike in popularity, or if you have too many remote team members working simultaneously, you may experience technical difficulties. Because cloud-based software runs on the internet, adding new remote workers to your team is never a problem.
Physical servers are also susceptible to physical damage. Using cloud software ensures that your team can keep working, no matter what. Even if your hardware is down, they’re still able to get their work done. And, if anyone has a hardware failure, all they need is a new device to get back to work. No software replacements or upgrades are required.
If you’re still relying on spreadsheets to maintain your books, upgrading to cloud-based accounting software is one of the easiest and most effective remote team management trends to follow. QuickBooks Online is cloud-based accounting software that empowers you to run your business more efficiently, no matter where in the world you or your team is located. Millions of Canadian customers use QuickBooks. Try QuickBooks’s powerful project management tools to help your business thrive for free.