3 Foundational Tools for your Digital HQ in the Google EcosystemNov 21, 2022
COVID made us rethink our physical offices and invest heavily in redesigning our HQs. But if we want to give everybody an equal chance to access information, opportunity and each other, physical HQ is not the way. For that, we need to carefully design and build our Digital HQs.
Digital HQ means that digital space, rather than a physical office building, is the primary place where people can access information, opportunity, and each other. (How the Future Works p. 117)
Digital HQ stands on an MS or Google-based ecosystem and 3 key applications. In this article, we focus on the Google ecosystem (Google Workspace) and these are the apps we consider critical:
- Internal communication tool
- Calling tool
- Shared workspace
Internal communication tool → Slack
If you are still using your email as the main tool for internal communication, this might be the most important part of the article for you. We know that you’ve already heard it many times, but the difference between using Slack (or MS teams) and emails is huge.
So why is Slack so much better than emails? Because it
1. Integrates and structures communication in a user friendly-way
It combines the real-time (chat) functionality with an async (email) communication and structures it in team/project/topic-based channels and direct messages.
2. Gives you the ability to prioritize communication much more easily (and set different notifications accordingly)
We are talking about direct messages, ability to tag key people or set up the keywords that you want to be notified about. On top of that there is the killer feature of Slack - channels that inherently give your “internal inbox” so much more structure than emails.
3. Enables your asynchronous collaboration and communication
If your team communicates well, Slack is basically a real-time snapshot of your team's asynchronous work in all the tools you use. That can be immensely powerful and save your team a lot of time and energy.
4. Fosters trust and open culture which is such an important thing for remote teams.
We are big fans of keeping most of the channels open, so everybody can peek in and find the information that they need without bothering anyone else. Cross-team or project-based channels also support much better communication and collaboration between teams and departments.
5. Integrates with everything
You don’t need to be a developer to integrate most of the SaaS tools into your Slack in a meaningful way (i.e. Zoom, Jira, Calendar). You can also set automations (personal and channel reminders, notifications from your apps) or turn on some of the pre-built bots that can provide you with fresh data on that lead you are working directly from Salesforce or Gainsight.
This makes it so much more than just an email upgrade.
We also have a bonus reason that your security and compliance team might appreciate
* Security - there are no phishing emails on Slack so if you have your access management covered, you should be much safer than with the emails.
The only real alternative to Slack is MS Teams. If you have MS Office 365 licenses, you get it free as a part of it. It is very similar to Slack so you would be able to replicate many of the advantages. However, Slack still has an edge in terms of remote and especially async work.
Calling tool → Zoom
This is the most obvious category that is most widely implemented in companies. In other words, you probably already have at least one calling tool implemented.
So why should you pick Zoom?
You can use it for one-on-one meetings with the same convenience as for team meetings or client meetings. Moreover, you can easily get a flexible room setup (you are free to choose the equipment that works for you best). And with a little help from AV people, you can use it for a fully remote all-hands meeting or even remote (or hybrid) offsite.
It runs well on any device (even older mobile phones or notebooks).
Whether you are a 5 people startup or 500 people company, Zoom always has a compelling offer for you and grows with your company. You can start for free and upgrade (or downgrade) your plans every month. The best thing is that you can keep some of your staff on free plans and only upgrade people hosting bigger meetings and client-facing people.
You can also add or deactivate your Zoom-equipped rooms based on your needs.
Again, in a world where you can choose the most suitable application from the market, it is very important that the apps integrate seamlessly.
Thankfully, you can easily integrate Zoom into other tools that you use (calendar, Slack, custom API integration) and you can also integrate other tools into Zoom (Miro, Asana, Coda and many others).
Obviously, there are a lot of alternatives for Zoom.
If your budget is tight, you can settle for Google Meet. For smaller businesses, it might be a good enough solution.
If you have MS Office 365 licenses, you might consider MS Teams.
And if you are a little adventurous and want to try a purpose-built remote work calling tool, we recommend checking Around.
Shared workspace → Notion
You (or your CFO) might ask "why would I need another tool for this?" We argue that implementing a shared workspace is always worth it. Moreover, it is a tool that unlocks the full potential of async work in your company.
The main use cases for Notion are
- Knowledge hub for note-taking and idea-organizing. Shared or for personal use.
- Single source of truth of the async work documentation (recordings, meeting notes, async tools integrations) as well as the traditional knowledge and data (goals, strategy, frameworks)
- Projects and operations management for managing teams' day-to-day operations and small projects
We have great a experience with Notion (for smaller projects as well as for 200+ people companies), but there are other great apps worth checking out as well.
Coda is very similar to Notion and is even more focused on documentation. Here you can find a great detailed comparison with Notion.
While Notion and Coda are highly customizable, but require you to build your workflows, Qatalog provides ready-to-use automated solutions which might be useful as well. But the customization is a little limited.
Gitlab and Github are also very robust tools but oriented more towards developers and technical heavy teams/companies as they are directly integrated with key dev tools.
Remember, every tool is only as good as you make it and tailor it to your needs. That is why we recommend dedicating enough time to regularly reevaluate all the key practices that you have in place for every tool that you use.
Andrej is a co-founder of Remote People. He helped to build Slido and transition it to "remote first" company. During that he led several teams including Customer support, Internal IT and Internal projects team.
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