Infinity, Inc. - Tools for Communication and Management during COVID-19

Chuck Brown

Wednesday, April 15th, 2020

If you are like me, you get about a dozen emails a day telling you how to work remotely, how to protect your business from phishing campaigns, or that electronic threats are increasing. Our team is well versed in all of these subjects and we can certainly assist you or your business. However, my goal in this article is to bring a little more depth to the conversation about specific tools that we have found helpful in our business while adapting to a new working environment.

Our team has been working remotely for a few weeks and the results have been great. Our people are dedicated and simply get it done, regardless of their work space. That makes it sound easy, and it’s certainly not. We’ve spent years cultivating our company culture, finding the right people, and putting systems in place to be able to adapt and evolve. But the point here is that remote teams require a different management style. You need to make sure you have metrics to ensure you are getting the quantity and quality you need. This is true for any office environment, but it’s doubly so when you can’t really see what everyone is doing. 

We use a variety of tools to help us work efficiently and communicate as a team. Some of these tools are specific to our industry and others have a wider application.

As an industry example, our version of a customer relationship management tool or CRM, is ConnectWise. Every time a client puts in a request, it becomes a service ticket in ConnectWise. The tool keeps track of when tickets are entered, who worked on them, and how much time it took in addition to a host of other information. This is where we start…simply logging the work to be done and assigning it to a specific person or team.

For measurement and reporting, we use a tool called BrightGauge that dips into ConnectWise and presents the numbers in a variety of formats; including overhead displays, reports, and spreadsheets. The overhead displays are not as useful for the team right now as they are not in the office to keep an eye on the monitors, but that same information can be presented to a manager to keep track of the team’s work pace and backlog.  While this tool can be used with a variety of data sources, it is geared towards our industry. There are a lot of programs that can do this kind of reporting for you, depending upon what you need. Microsoft has one called PowerBI that is designed to turn data into reports and graphical displays.

For communicating, we are heavy users of Microsoft Office 365 Teams. Teams is how we quickly ‘chat’ with each other or within groups (teams). Anytime someone needs a quick answer to something, they do it with Teams. We’ve also used it for meetings. Depending on your configuration, another meeting tool may work better for you, but the video, file sharing, and recording features in Teams has definitely been beneficial for us. 

Slack is another communication tool we use heavily. Where Teams is primarily used for one-on-one or small group conversation, Slack really shines with keeping the whole team updated. Each member of the team checks into the group with a ‘Good Morning’ on Slack. We notify each other when we need to step away or break for lunch.  If there’s a big problem or we need someone to volunteer for various projects, it goes out in Slack.  And when we need to break up the workday with a joke or news update, sharing in Slack is the perfect way to lighten the mood.

And last, but most certainly one of the most important systems for communication is our phones. Sometimes there is just no substitute for a voice-to-voice conversation. Our hosted phone system comes with a free mobile app that lets us mask our personal phone numbers and get calls as if we were at our desks in the office. It also has conferencing features and built-in reporting—again, useful for managers to stay informed and involved.

These are just a few resources we used before and that have continued to be beneficial in our team’s new norm. As trusted advisors to our clients and as members of this community, we’re walking down this road with all of you. We are continuing to determine which resources not only work best for our clients but those that work best for our team. Communication is key at all times, but it is especially important to maintain connections while you are not in a traditional office environment.