Collaboration Tools for Working at Home

Monday March 16, 2020 and the Corona Virus is in full swing. Granger Whitelaw looks at the tools, and tricks, that make them “buzz” – to better help your company stay on track and ahead, in these difficult times. Grab your coffee and, Let’s go!

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Below is a transcript of the episode, edited for readability.

Listen to the full episode at link here:


Granger Whitelaw: Good morning. It’s Granger Whitelaw here with the Lotus talks Monday, March 16th. I hope you all are doing well. It certainly has been an active weekend for me and for all of us. I would imagine the Corona virus is spreading around the globe. It is now in the media everywhere. Again, as we said on Friday, it’s all anyone can talk about. – mental emotional stresses. I think taking a toll on people and the paranoia’s building, I would hope that everyone takes a deep breath and acts accordingly. Read  – research. Do what we have been doing here in Vietnam for quite some time. Good hygiene. Wash your hands wear your masks. Now the government has required all ex-pats and everyone to wear masks. So if you do not know that, please listen to this now. wear your masks Everywhere you go out in public, if you don’t have to go out in public, don’t go.

Granger Whitelaw: If you can work from home, stay at home, stay out of public places. Do so. I will be, leading by example as I am going to be working from home today and this week. I do have a secondary, a preexisting condition, so I have to be really, really careful. but it’s here and Vietnam is doing a great job of trying to contain it and mitigate it. Again, since we had a little, flurry of  coronavirus outbreaks over the last 10 days, hopefully, they’ll shut it down. Hopefully we can all shut it down because the only way it’s going to shut down is if we all do it. We have to make it happen cause they’re public.

Granger Whitelaw: So today at The Lotus Talks, I want to talk about working from home. Businesses all around the globe are certainly telling their employees were from home. And if we have to work for home for the next two to four weeks or six weeks, how do we do that? What tools do you use? If you’re not used to that It can be a very odd thing. A lot of people need a social interaction at work. A lot of groups need to work together and collaborate to be effective. Certainly, when you have different languages, English and Vietnamese for instance, in offices one on one time is much more valuable than on the phone or even trying to do things by email. So how do you better prepare yourself and your team to be able to  collaborate when they’re not in the office. Now being a venture capitalist for 25 years, having worked all around the globe, I have done this my whole life.

Granger Whitelaw: I am going to show you and discuss with you a few tools that you can use and tricks in these tools to be very effective and efficient. At least what works for me and what I see works for a lot of companies. There are many choices out there, but this is what I think works well and what I see working very well today,  so I would recommend them. First of all, Microsoft is a platform that we all use for our word docs, PowerPoint, Excel, and they certainly are the leader in the world for business. and their Microsoft 365 platform. They do have a team version now that you can look at and I would assume that most people who use that are in large enterprises.

Granger Whitelaw: For team communication in real time, real time texting with your teams. A product that is free Slack, Slack, I’m sure many people have heard of it on this podcast. If you haven’t look up Slack, it is free. They do have paid versions that have more functionality. Slack does allow phone calls inside the platform and video, which funny enough, I’ve worked with people who use Slack all the time and they’re like what it does? yes it does. You can dial a phone right inside Slack, or do a vehicle, but it really is a great tool for that, kind of real time team collaboration and threads that you can throw off and have separate conversations inside of a conversation, and set up small groups of people very quickly. I would recommend Slack. It is really the most efficient. Again, I’m recommending what I think you can use the best that I know works well.

Granger Whitelaw: Now project management is key here. If you’re going to have teams working from home and you have your marketing team and you may have different teams inside marketing for content creation or writers or strategy, graphic design, video –  you know, your sales team, you have engineering teams who do drawings or who, do specs – proposals. You have accounting teams that handle a myriad of different projects. ASANA is a project management tool that works great. It really is the leader in this field. You can set up multiple projects, you can track them and really track the employees. It has comments inside of it. It has the ability to set time, you know, what phase of project it is in. You could put calendars to it and you can also add checklists that people can go through inside the projects.

Granger Whitelaw: Asana is really the best project management tool out there. If you’re going to start setting up teams and put projects together, it’s also very easy to use. It’s colorful, it’s, you know, push button. I don’t want to say drag and drop, but it’s really easy to use and intuitive to get used to. And the teams up and running running in a day.

Granger Whitelaw: Now you may have SOP’s – standard operating procedures. The best software I’ve seen out there is called process street You can set up standing operating procedures as a SOP you can download, you can do them in the form of checklists. But what’s great about process street from a workflow standpoint, because it is the best workflow tool I’ve seen, because it has conditional logic capability. So you can set up a task, you can set a checklist, you can make your, your team members or employees would have you go through it and conditional logic, meaning does this happen or does this happen

Granger Whitelaw: And if they pick “A”, it will tree this way and they pick “B”, it will tree a different way and they must complete the checklist before they can go to the next step. Process street is a phenomenal platform for this purpose. A one user could have five people underneath  them. So you can really, build up teams. I think it’s $25 for each login and you know, you have five people under, with multiple logins. It’s pretty affordable too. And it really can make a world of difference. How you integrate these together is, is, is the trick, right obviously in ASANA you can do checklists. Process street is a heavier type of SOP software for workflow, just depending on what you need. Now you’re creating a lot of information. So where are you going to store it Well, Google drive has massive storage capabilities and they’re on the cloud.

Granger Whitelaw: They’re also integrated with the Google business suite. So if you’re using Google, I’m sorry, if you’re using g-mail, you use g-mail, Google docs, the Google docs, which are very much like Microsoft word, PowerPoint and Excel –   not as heavy and good. I do not like the Google docs as much as the Microsoft docs, but you can use them and you can edit in real time and store them in your drive. So it’s more integrated. Also with a calendar for setting your appointments with your with your teams or your own calendar, right Your appointment calendar. But we’re not talking about that right now because we’re working from home. So yeah, phone call integration is key because you’re going to have conference calls and phone calls with your vendors, your suppliers, your partners, your employees.

Granger Whitelaw: And one of the cool things about Google, it also has Google Hangouts. If you want to use a Google hangout to talk to someone, that’s really more of a one on one. I don’t like Google Hangouts for more than just really one on one, but you can integrate a platform called Calendly, C AL E N D L Y calendar. You could just put a link on your, on your email, where people can literally click on that and pick a time to meet with you. And you can set it up for 15 minute, 30 minute, 45 minute, hour increments of time so that you can control your calendar. You can set it for what days you’re available or not available. and this is a wonderful tool to use at this time if you are on the phone a lot. If you do have a lot of meetings and you do want people to have access to be able to set up time with you – cause now they just can’t walk over to your desk.

Granger Whitelaw: Now they can’t just walk into the conference room and grab you or by the by the water cooler, right. Setting up just 15 minute and listen, 15 minutes is enough to get just about anything done. Okay. Unless there’s a major conversation that has to take place Calendly integration with your g-mail or your email, I highly recommend . Storing in Google drive the documents you’re creating or there’s Dropbox or another platform called box BOX, which I think is phenomenal as well for large files. If you need to set up a file directory and you can also set different permissions so that some people can get into it, some people can’t, depending on what they need. Right? What you need for them to do.

Granger Whitelaw: Now we’re going to set this meeting up on Calendly, however we set it up. And how are we going to talk to somebody? Well, face to face is great and there are some great tools out there for face to face. Certainly Skype is the 800 pound gorilla. You can make calls, they’re great for one on one and small groups. I really like Skype for small groups. it’s easy to set up a couple of people on a video conference with Skype in a small group and you can do document sharing, et cetera. The great thing about Skype is they have flexible pricing. Literally like one penny a call you can buy, you know, I think for $9 you can get like unlimited calls to the United States or Asia or certain parts of Africa, wherever you need to be calling. They have packages, they’re really flexible.

Granger Whitelaw: It’s great for businesses to have that flexibility. and it’s so low cost, it’s not going to really affect anybody’s budget at all. It’s coffee money really, right? So Skype for calls and that type of stuff is great. It also works almost everywhere in the world. I Highly recommend Skype. Certainly ZOOM. Zoom is probably the best all around package, considering price, fast, fast screen sharing. If you need to, share your screen with the people that you’re on the conference with, which we all do a lot. So, really all around ZOOM I would say is the best platform out there. Another a very good platform is Uber conference. Uber conference is a great platform as well. Screen-sharing – it has recording capability as does ZOOM – zoom. We can actually record the conferences automatically and then you can share that Uber conference call with the team members who couldn’t be there. This is another great tool that you want to make sure that your conference calling software has his recording capability and that you understand how to use it. And then there’s some big giants like Cisco – WebEx, go to meeting as well. although WebEx and go to Maine required downloading software on your computer, I think they’re really heavy and clunky. A lot of the large enterprises use them and love them. Frankly I think, just think they’re clunky. So, for speed deficiencies, ZOOM, UberConference, or you know, something else that you’d like.

Granger Whitelaw: And then communication rules, right I have this rule and discuss with some of my friends often. How do I get ahold of you and what’s the right way to get ahold of you?Right So do I call you Do I email you Do I what’s app You right So there’s what’s app Viber, we chat Zalo other platforms here in Vietnam and Southeast Asia that people use for, instant texting. How, how do I get a hold of you? So if you’re a set up, I’ll work at home options for your employees. You need to have communication rules.

Granger Whitelaw: These are my rules.

Granger Whitelaw: If you need me immediately, call me. If it’s urgent, call me. If my phone rings, I’m going to answer it because if someone’s calling me, I know it’s urgent and we all know that because most people text or email, right? If you need an answer pretty quickly, it’s not urgent, but it’s pretty immediate. Within an hour or less, send me a WhatsApp, send me a Viber, send me a text, send me a Zalo, send me a chat, write a text message and I’m going to get back to you within the hour. If it doesn’t require immediate turnaround but needs to be done by the end of the day, or kind of 12 hour turnaround or there’s more detail required, then send me an email, put it in an email, describe what’s going on, copy who needs to be on that email. And if it’s urgent market as urgent so it’s not a 12 hour turnaround or send me a text and say, Hey, just sent you an email, please look at it. Right?!

Granger Whitelaw: And now for our customers, we’re not going to be able to respond as quickly to our customers as we previously were able to. We’re going to have a lot of remote teams. There’s a lot more going on. So your customer service, I would notify your customers unless it’s, they must be dealt with immediately that all customer service is going to be happened by email now with a 24 hour turnaround. Right. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours. If it’s an emergency, please call your account manager or your rep, obviously otherwise, 24 hour turnaround, with customer service

Granger Whitelaw: so quickly. Again, if you need me right away, call me. Otherwise I may text WhatsApp or Viber or whatever it is that you use on your texting. If you can get your teams and your friends all on one platform as much as possible. Again, Wechat big in China, WhatsApp is the biggest of the world. Viber is pretty big as well. Lots of Vietnamese use ZALO, so you know, figure out what works for your teams and your groups. That way you guys can share messages in between each other instead of groups within your chat.

Granger Whitelaw: if you’re using large team communication, obviously we’re back to Slack as we talked about earlier. Communication rules, online collaboration tools. Look into it. I’m not going to feature anybody on Friday on this one because I just featured a whole bunch of companies that I know work and know work well and integrate together well.

Granger Whitelaw: If you know all that stuff, great. If any of that was helpful for you, fantastic. I actually just learned something when I was reading and thinking about my notes today and I’ve been doing this for 20 years.

Granger Whitelaw here with The Lotus talks, I hope you all have a fabulous day. Say hi to you. Make sure you give your loved ones a hug. Say hi to your employees in the morning. Encourage them with a big smile. This is all going to pass. It’s going to work out. We really have to come together now as one big family – Globally –  and not separate ourselves by race, ethnicity, or barriers of any type.

Granger Whitelaw: God bless you all. Maybe you, this is Granger Whitelaw. I’ll speak you on Friday…..Bye bye.  

The Lotus Talks is produced by The Vietnam Group and Hosted by Granger Whitelaw.
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