12 Must-Have Virtual Tools for the Busy Manager
Managing a workforce is difficult enough, but doing it virtually can be downright challenging.
Luckily, technology has made the virtual manager’s job a lot easier. Combine the Internet with the collaborative qualities of the cloud and you wind up with a plethora of productivity and community tools to choose from.
Here are 12 virtual tools you’ll want to check out and add to your own management toolbox:
A virtual communication tool that lets you make both voice and video calls for free online, Skype is a popular too for managers who are on the road, or whose workforces are out of the office a lot. Upgrade your account to Skype Premium and you can run video conference calls with up to 10 people (compared to 2 with the free service); have your own phone numbers; and use tools like group screen sharing. Connecting with employees and managers is also easier with Skype, which allows you to “see” if someone is online and ping them to ask if they can chat. You can also use Skype to record calls and send large files to one another. As an added bonus, Skype offers an IM service that helps you communicate with employees without having to call or email them.
There’s nothing more exasperating than getting that “file too large to send” error message when sending important documents, graphics, and video files to your co-workers, bosses, clients, or business partners. Dropbox is a good solution to this never-ending problem. The free (for up to 3GB of storage space) online file storage service allows you to collaborate with anyone you choose to via the cloud. You can give people access on a folder-by-folder basis, allowing you to share documents with the team members who need to see them. For $99-per-year, you can upgrade to 50GB of storage space.
If your online information sharing needs go beyond simple file sending, Basecamp may be an even more robust alternative. Basecamp is a web-based project management and collaboration virtual tool that allows users to mange to-dos, files, messages, schedules, and milestones. Pricing starts at $20 per month and the company offers a 45-day free trial.
If you haven’t signed up for your free Google account yet, do it now for at least one main reason: the calendar. It allows users to share virtual online calendars with specific people and groups. Set up one calendar for company and project deadlines (so that everyone knows when tasks must be completed) and then set one up for your own personal use (to create some work-life balance). Attach files or docs to your event so you have the right materials when your meeting starts. Calendar sharing makes it easy to find time with the people you work with and the smart scheduling feature suggests meeting times that work for everyone. Create an event calendar and embed it on your website or set up appointment slots so customers can choose the best time for them.
When you work virtually, those receipts, notes, and collected business cards can stack up quickly. Use the ShoeBoxed online receipt management virtual tool to upload your receipts by mailing or e-mailing them to the designated recipients. The company offers free and paid plans (the latter starts at $9.95 per month), and also includes a feature that allows for business card scanning. Your data is secured by SSL encryption (used by online banks), backed up on multiple servers and available on a 24/7 basis online. Compatible with QuickBooks, ShoeBoxed is a great paperless solution for managing important slips of paper.
Ever wish your company had its own social networking platform? Yammer can help fill that gap. A Twitter-like utility that companies use to communicate securely online, Yammer is a communication tool, motivational tool, and social network dedicated to your own firm. Use it to connect people across your company; share status updates, ideas, announcements, links, files, photos, polls, events, and praise; create dedicated team workspaces for a project, department or cross-functional group; brainstorm ideas; and develop and share content.
HootSuite is a social media dashboard with more than two million users that helps you manage and measure your social networks. You can update all your social profiles, schedule future messages and tweets, track your brand via mentions, and analyze your social media traffic. Launch marketing campaigns, identify and grow audiences, and distribute targeted messages using HootSuite’s unique social media dashboard. Streamline team workflow with scheduling and assignment tools and reach target markets with geo-targeting functionality. Invite multiple collaborators to manage social profiles securely, plus provide custom reports using the comprehensive social analytics tools for measurements. HootSuite can be used with Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and new Google+ Pages, plus a suite of social content apps for YouTube, Flickr, Tumblr and more.
Collaborating online in an efficient and cost-effective way got easier when Evernote came on the scene. With Evernote, all of your notes, web clips, files and images are made available on every device and computer you use. Save everything cool and exciting you see online and in the real world to an Evernote page. Snap a photo, record some audio and add it. Save entire web pages to your Evernote account with nifty browser extensions. Keep all of your itineraries, confirmations, scanned travel documents, maps, and plans in Evernote, so you’ll have them when you need them. Consolidate information from anywhere into a single Evernote file and then share it with colleagues or employees.
Having a hard time keeping track of your to-do list and delegated tasks? This applications helps you maximize your productivity, systemize your business, increase your business value, and streamline communication with your team. Create a project folder, identify tasks, assign them and then allow team members to see, update, and track progress all with BizPAD.
Manage your documents more efficiently online with Filocity.com, a cloud storage application that allows you to organize and store all of your documents in one secure online file management system. Upload, edit, share and access anytime from anywhere in the world at any time. Filocity customers have complete organizational control over all their business files, email, and documents. They can get to everything to do with any client, case, patient, project or personal files instantly, and no longer have to waste precious time searching and hunting through cabinets or files, standing at copier or faxes or carrying flash drives. All files are safely locked away encrypted and HIPAA compliant.
The days when teams sat around conference tables hashing out ideas are long gone. In today’s virtual work world, GoToMeeting fills the void by offering easy-to-use desktop sharing/web meeting space. Hold web conferences and conduct online meetings with anyone, anywhere. The company offers an “All You Can Meet®” flat-fee, subscription based model that enables individuals and businesses to use online meetings more often, resulting in increased productivity and a quicker ROI.
If you are worried that important tasks will be overlooked if they aren’t written down – and if you don’t have time to write all of them down – check out GoodToDo. After signing up for the service, all you have to do is send an email to them (or forward one from your inbox) using the date or day (such as “tomorrow”) as the “to” email address, and it will automatically appear on your to-do list. This is a particularly useful virtual tool for managers whose to-do lists stem from emails. Simply forward them over to GoodToDo. You can also receive a daily email reminder via the online application, or check out the mobile application, to manage your tasks.
With these virtual tools, you’ll never again be caught without a critical presentation, lose track of who was responsible for key tasks, misplace new product or service ideas, or lose touch with traveling team members. By centralizing idea sharing and tracking in cloud-based applications, your productivity and organization should dramatically improve.
What are your favorite virtual tools?