When you suddenly get a great idea, you can usually grab the people you need, lock all of you in the meeting room, and discuss all the changes it will bring to your project. However, what if you could not do that? What if you manage a remote development team working in a completely different part of the world?
Of course, it’s the XXI century, and you can use one of many communication tools available. Except, there’s a lot of them. Too many, in fact. And that’s why we decided to write the most excellent guide to all decent software development team collaboration tools and other services that will make managing your remote employees easier.
These services allow you to store, edit and share documents with your team. Unlike the classic Office experience, collaboration tools allow you to work together on the same document at the same time instead of sending files back and forth.
Price, user/month: $6-$25, with a limited Free option
Google is pretty much dominating the market of online collaboration suites. Google Suite is the most feature-complete tool available, and Google is constantly adding new instruments and improving the UI.
With Google Suite Enterprise you get:
The killer feature for Google Drive is definitely the ease of conversion. You just upload all your current documents into your Drive, share it with your team, and that’s it — Google will even automatically convert all your MS Office files into its own internal format.
UPDATE: As of 2019/10/29, Google no longer requires you to convert your files and can edit MS Office documents on-the-fly. However, using these formats slightly limits collaboration capabilities.
Price, user/month: $10-$25, with a limited Free option
Dropbox is a great alternative to Google Drive if the only thing you need is storage. Unlike Google Drive, it has very primitive collaboration tools and is much less useful for the remote development team management. On the other hand, their scanning tools are more powerful and often catch malicious files that Google does not.
If you just need a place to store some assets and don’t care much for the document editing — Dropbox Business is the best available option.
Sometimes showing how to do something is more natural than explaining it. Which is to say, you are going to need a way to screen-share or even remotely manage your employee’s computers.
Price, monthly: $49-$199, with a limited Free option for personal use.
Teamviewer is the most popular screen-sharing software in the world — and for a good reason. It has everything you will possibly need:
There are also additional bonuses that might be interesting to your IT support department — like the ability to shut down/reboot the controlled device without disconnecting the session.
However, there is also a downside. You need to install the Teamviewer client on both your device and the one you will be sharing with — and that might not always be convenient.
Price, monthly: $10-$30
Join.me is an up-and-coming screen-sharing software that takes a slightly different approach than Teamviewer. It’s a web application — which means that you don’t need to install anything. Just open the page, sign in, and share your screen.
Join.me also works as an audio/video conferencing tool with up to 250 participants per meeting. You can create whiteboards, swap presenters, and, of course, share your screens right on the go.
Join.me not as technically involved as TeamViewer; however, it doesn’t have to be. It’s not there to help you provide IT support. But if you want a simple one-click screen-sharing solution that works across all devices and lets you hold meetings — you just found it.
These tools will help you manage the productivity of your remote team, track the time spent on tasks, and assign tasks to all members of the team.
Price, monthly: $99, with a limited Free option
Basecamp is the definitive project management software that includes everything you need to control your remote teams.
Here’s why Basecamp is awesome:
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg — we have yet to talk about Client access, automated reports, notifications, and the kitchen sink. Basecamp can pretty much manage your remote development for you. Well, not really, but you get the idea.
NOTE: Basecamp is a very powerful platform that includes many features from other tools mentioned in this article. However, it’s not always the best at each task, and a well-selected combination of other tools can outperform it.
Price, user/month: $5, with a very limited Free option
JIRA is a very powerful development team management tool, even if it’s no longer the monopolist on the market. While the interface is not as robust and streamlined as it could be, the sheer flexibility and number of options JIRA provides are unrivalled. Which is precisely the reason we at Relevant Software are using it.
That said, it works best when backed up with Hipchat (or Slack), Confluence, and other Atlassian tools. Otherwise, you might not be able to integrate it in your management workflow as smoothly.
Price, monthly: $10-25, with a limited Free option
Asana is an up-and-coming competitor to JIRA. It is not as powerful as certain other tools, but it’s a very intuitive and streamlined task manager. If you do not want to read the manuals and spend time setting things up, Asana is a great alternative.
The planning and collaboration tools are particularly exquisite and make Asana a life-saver on large projects with complicated Epics. Unfortunately, the high price might scare many teams away.
Just how desperate are you for a free Kanban board? If the answer is “very much”, you may try and use Trello as an impromptu project management tool.
Trello is the simplest Kanban board you can find. It lacks any concept of Sprints, and suffers performance issues when you keep over 100 cards on the same board. It also has only very basic integration with many collaborative tools — including other Atlassian platforms. There have been some improvements lately, but they are rather slow.
However, if your project is straightforward, and you don’t have many employees — Trello will work in a pinch.
Video tools give the feeling of sitting in the same room and working in the same space. They are also a great way to get a feeling for the team’s mood and engagement.
Price, monthly: $99
Appear.in is very similar to Join.me. It just used to have a focus on video instead of audio. In fact, these days they are pretty much at feature parity — with Appear.in being a much more expensive option.
What we are trying to say is “skip it”. Even if you really need a dedicated video-first chat. After all, other options on this list are free and provide similar — if not better — performance.
Skype is a serviceable messenger — even if it doesn’t have all the amazing features it should have had by this point. And instead of modernizing the UX and introducing third-party tools, Microsoft seems content with adding new animations and making the UI more “hip”.
Most importantly, Skype is completely free — which makes it a great budget remote team management tool.
Price, host/month: $15—20, with a limited Free option
Zoom is a very simple corporate communication tool with screen-sharing and file-transfer services. It’s available for smartphones, tablets, desktop computers and is very streamlined over all.
The most interesting feature is the ability to adjust the video-feed in processing. Zoom can change the backgrounds, slightly beautify the speaker’s appearance and overall make preparing for a call less strenuous. That said, don’t expect miracles in that department.
Instant messengers have revolutionised communication and corporate messengers are a necessity at any workplace with more than one location.
Price, user/month: $6-$12.50
Slack is an amazing communication platform that seamlessly integrates group chats, direct messages, and third-party apps to create the ultimate experience. It got to the point where features from Slack are slowly dripping into the general messengers like Discord or Telegram.
That said, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Slack is rather tied into the Atlassian infrastructure and you lose some convenience features if you do not use JIRA as your project management tool. There are some plugins for the third-parties but their functionality is remarkably limited.
You can even improve upon Slack with third-party tools. For example, Jell is a great tool that simplifies remote development team management — especially the team is in a completely different time zone.
NOTE: There is a self-hosted alternative to Slack called Mattermost. Give it a shot if you want to keep all your data on-site.
Having to use a lot of different tools and complicating the routine can lead to bad morale and poor performance. Rewards are a great way to engage your teams and make sure that they give the project their all.
Price, user/month: $3
Wooboard is a social and gamified platform for engaging and rewarding your employees. It’s a great tool if you want to create a better atmosphere in the company and motivate your team to work harder.
The platform comes with an integrated Rewards Store where employees can cash in the points for company merchandise, days off, and other bonuses.
Calendars keep the dates of the scheduled meetings, send notifications and keep the to-do lists in order.
Google Calendar is a part of the Google Suite, so it’s no wonder that it’s pretty amazing. It automatically synchronizes events from different calendars, offers multiple notification methods and overall makes everything it can so that you get to your appointment on time.
On the downside… actually, there is no downside. Google Calendar is an amazing free tool for everyone who wants to be efficient with their time.
Microsoft To-Do is a very streamlined to-do list, focused on simplicity and customization. However, and as of late, the development has been extremely slow, with rumours that Microsoft is simply keeping the project on life support.
All that aside, Microsoft To-Do is a great tool for people who just want a tool that works from the get-go. It’s especially interesting for those who are already in the Microsoft ecosystem, since it provides rudimentary integration into Office 365 and other tools.
Price, user/month: $5, with a limited Free option
Todoist is a slightly overdesigned and there is no way around it. That said, once you are comfortable with the many options it provides, you can adapt it to pretty much any possible workflow. And the ability to use labels and filters is a godsend on large projects with hundreds of tasks.
There is an embedded productivity tracker, a selection of templates, sharing and collaboration options, activity log and many other features. Todoist is by far the most powerful application in its category, even if sometimes it comes at the expense of intuitiveness and simplicity.
Security is extremely important when working on sensitive projects. However, security should not become the key point, interfering with normal development.
Price: $3, with a limited Free option
LastPass is a powerful password manager and an easy way to manage access credentials across the team.
It also increases the general information security across the board by allowing for more complicated passwords. LastPass will even point out if you are using the same password on different sites, help with generating random passwords and (if you wish) remind you to update your passwords if you’ve been using them for too long.
Now you have a list of the best remote development team management tools available on the market. However, there is a secret to them — they are useless without a development team that knows what they are doing.
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