Collaboration tools for a remote non-coding team?
March 19, 2015 7:06 AM   Subscribe

I am working with a new, small remote team, and I'm trying to establish good norms for software tools to manage projects. I'm looking for advice on workflows and getting less tech-savy members up to speed. Specific questions, including Asana and Slack, below.

1) We've set up a team Asana account and I've watched the quick start videos. About half of the team members have started putting tasks into Asana semi-regularly, but the other half are still relying on email to communicate. Does anyone have experience in getting folks comfortable with tools like this? The team as a whole is on board with the idea of using project management software; we just need help in getting a baseline comfort level so it's not easier to reach for email.

2) One of our team members has suggested adding Slack to our toolbox. It looks like a well designed tool, but I don't know what it adds above Asana project comments until you start integrating lots of services. Any Slack veterans that can share how they use Slack in their remote workplace?

3) My Asana workspace is starting to get overrun with projects because we're a small shop and so almost everyone has some role on most projects. Any tips for keeping things organized when most projects will touch most people?
posted by philosophygeek to Computers & Internet (2 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
1) I found Asana to be very hierarchical. What makes it harder that email to use is that you have to find your place in it work, whereas with email, you can just go. I think you just have to ask people to commit to it, if that's the way you want to go.

2) Slack is easy to get into because it's not very hierarchical. It just seems like chat. But the kinds of information you can share are rich. You can share documents and images in the context of text explaining what it is informally.

Our team used it to communicate progress and nitty gritty technical details about specific problems. We were able to share links and screenshots and well-formatted code snippets to express ourselves. When similar problems popped up weeks later, we were able to find our previous discussion about them, along with surrounding context. It's a good source institutional memory, like email, except that it's real-time.

According to some email I got from Asana, looks like you can also integrate Asana into Slack. (I don't know exactly how.)
posted by ignignokt at 7:46 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I recently got into Slack about four to six months ago. I've been on Trello for longer, but found it way less sticky (in other words, I'd use it then not use it then use it etc etc). I also attempted to get into Asana, but FELT like you needed "project management" people to keep up with it.

As I can't imagine employing someone who enjoys being an authoritative project manager (I'm in the arts), I recommend using Slack and Trello. Here's what I send all new clients, requesting that they make the leap with me.

I tell them that IF AT ALL POSSIBLE they communicate through Slack. Anyway, here goes:

[and, btw, email me if you want a photo of our set up]


Here’s the problem with emails:

• Massive email threads create information that will be lost along the way
• This needs lots of scrolling through email threads to find changes
• Inefficiency: “hi Peter”, “thanks, Nick”, subject line, hitting “reply all” – all the normal parts of emails (the pleasantries) add seconds if not minutes to each email. We may have hundreds of emails pass between us. Think about how much time will be lost saying "I hope all is well" or even just "sincerely".
• Emails have no “checklist” to add/delete items – you have to scroll through lots of text to find fixes
• With Slack, you'll have no more lost attachments – and you only need to send attachments once
• No more endlessly repeated information
• No more cluttering up of our inboxes (this affects all our other projects too!)
• No more constantly updating ALL members, all the time
• No more endlessly repeating email signatures

Below is how I believe we should work together in the future. I almost insist on it, because it really is transformative.

• We don’t send emails within my team anymore. It’s just not done. No emails! Amazing.
• We don’t miss changes on our internal projects anymore
• We don’t endlessly repeat stuff.
• It’s all automatic

Please review, and let me know if it sounds good. I’ll be happy to do a live test/workshop lesson with you via Skype. Both these tools update in real time, so we’ll be able to instantly see what the other has done. It’ll be really quick.

Please don’t be worried by having two more things to get to know/understand. It’ll take MAYBE 30 minutes to learn.

It will save HOURS, be WAY more efficient/clear, and it’ll even improve the other things you do for work as your inbox will no longer be cluttered.

We use “Slack”.
It has “channels” (e.g. “automatic email”, “homepage”, confirmation page” etc)

You chat within the channels, just like you would on a FB or Whats App or gchat thread

All members of that channel (in other words, the whole team) can see what’s written there

And hey presto, all the different topics are kept separate

It integrates with dropbox/gdrive, and has file upload features, so no more need for email attachments. And it integrates with Trello……..

We also use “Trello” –

Trello is “task management” software. You create a “List” ("Current Issues" on the left, then “in progress”, “done”, “tested”)
• the left list (current issues) is everything,
• the next one (in progress) is what you’re currently working on,
• the next (done) is what’s finished,
• the last one (tested) is done and confirmed.

Within the left column, you’d add all of the tasks that need to be done (e.g. “Automatic email fixes”)
Then, within each task, you can add a checklist. For the “automatic email” checklist we had:
• “glasses up” phrase and logos centered
• Add artist song/title
• Please check your junk folder as well
• etc etc

When it’s been enough time, you “archive” the material, and it disappears off the trello board (although you can always find it again later)


We add tasks to the “current issues” column of the Trello board
We add checklists to each task (if needed)
We discuss the task in Slack (if needed)
If there are files that need to be accessed (like a list of download codes), they can be uploaded to either Slack or Trello or both
When the job is being worked on, that person drags the task into the next column – “in progress”
When it’s done, it’s dragged to the “done” column
When it’s been tested, it’s dragged to the last column
Every update on Trello is automatically indicated in Slack – no more need to notify people all the time
Every task can be set a person responsible and a due date – no more missed responsibilities.
posted by omnigut at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2015 [11 favorites]

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