I used to travel a lot. I’ve been to 27 countries and even did a stint in the Peace Corps. I studied Spanish in Spain and worked with the elderly in Ecuador. There’s something special about moving through places you don’t know with only a backpack of belongings. It’s a special kind of freedom.
Now that I’m back in “The States” working with Solarity as a project manager, I’ve traded cobblestone streets and espresso for an office and Starbucks, but not every day. In fact, internet-based programs and apps allow me to work remotely a lot of the time, offering a similar sense of freedom to this former wanderer.
I’m not trying to say I don’t like the office or see the value in face time (real face time, not FaceTime the app). In fact, what impacted me most about my travels was not the things I saw, but the people I met.
What I am saying is that these technologies are worthwhile tools that allow us to stay plugged in and productive while we’re on the proverbial road, at home with a sick kid, or moving at the speed of a bullet train (which, take it from me, is really fast).
Let me share a few of my favorites:
- Skype for Business. Can’t make it to a meeting? No problem. Skype for Business allows companies to host stable, remote meetings and present content to viewers no matter where they are. A robust platform allows viewers to request control (extremely useful for my software PM projects where I need to share Project Reports and Schedules and Technical Engineers bits of coding and scripting). Whiteboard and Powerpoint upload features make it seem like you are there. Recording allows you to go back and re-watch or catch up if you couldn’t make the meeting at all (sorry, guys, the bullet train was late). Notes can be taken right inside the platform and shared immediately. It’s a one-stop shop for meetings.
- Microsoft Teams. Like Skype for Business, meetings can be held in Microsoft Teams. Which platform you use may depend on what your clients prefers or has access to. Solarity recently migrated to Microsoft Teams, so all our internal remote meetings are organized through this full-service platform. Teams is described as “a hub” that keeps “all your team’s chat, meetings, files, and apps together in one place.” Pretty much the only thing you can’t do in Teams is get a handshake!
- Sharepoint. MS Sharepoint is an online database that allows companies to create libraries and store documents. Everything is stored in the cloud, so if you have an internet connection you can download and edit documents, pull contracts, upload content and more. Microsoft describes it as “your mobile, intelligent intranet.”
- Docusign. What about signing contracts? I’m glad you asked! No need to drive somewhere just to put your John Hancock or something or ask your client to. With Docusign, a legal, secure signature can be obtained from any device. Waiting for a signed document to be delivered, emailed or (yes, I’m going to say it) faxed can bring a project to a screeching halt. With Docusign, it’s easy to get that signature and move forward.
- Scannable. Scannable and Camscanner are two options for situations when I need to scan a document for emailing or uploading. Scannable is the app I use, along with its counterpart, Evernote (see below), and I love it for personal well as business use. Instead of a rat’s nest drawer full of old receipts and documents, Scannable allows me to file everything on my phone in an image or .pdf file format. Papers are easy to lose, but my scans are always there for me when I need them.
- Evernote. Evernote is a note-taking software that I also use for personal as well as business use. The last thing I want to do to this beautiful planet I love is to clutter it up with paper versions of things that I could manage digitally on my phone. With my notes and documents stored in Evernote, everything is at my fingertips. Microsoft Teams has a similar program called OneNote which we use at Solarity. Either one can keep you paper-free and organized.
Of course, working with technology can sometimes be a little bit like working with kids or dogs. Things can go wrong. First and foremost, most of these apps require a fast, reliable internet connection. If you plan to log in to a Microsoft Teams meeting in the middle of a spelunking trip in Costa Rica, it’s probably not going to work. Also, be mindful of less technologically-savvy clients and colleagues– getting used to doing everything digitally can be frustrating for them. And lastly, always give yourself a buffer for those tech-related snafus (WIFI password, anyone? Why isn’t this mic working? Are you muted, Sharon?).
So there you have it! My favorite apps for working remotely. If I missed one of yours, drop a comment below and tell me what you use and why you love it. I’m always up for adding a new tool to my digital backpack.
About the Author
Cole Guthrie, is a Project Manager with Solarity. Cole provides PM services to organizations by managing key projects by planning, initiating, monitoring and executing client projects based on their needs.
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