What does it take to run a successful business? Every entrepreneur has their own viewpoint. Their personal idea of what it takes to achieve success.
Steve Jobs, had this to say:
“It’s not the tools you have faith in–tools are just tools–they work, or they don’t work. It’s the people you have faith in or not.”
You can have great ideas. You can have amazing tools. But without a solid team of employees working together to achieve a common goal, you’ve got nothing.
Building that kind of team has always been a challenge for business owners. The hiring process  tends to be long and miserable. Even the best efforts at vetting potential employees can go wrong. And then you have to start all over again.
In some ways, it’s even harder to build a good virtual team. But it’s well worth it. There are many distinct advantages to having virtual employees. That’s especially true for e-commerce businesses that run most of their operations online.
But managing a virtual team and keeping everyone working together efficiently? It’s a huge challenge. And the stakes are high. Fail, and your business will suffer.
Be honest: Is your virtual team a mess? Do you need to improve communication, efficiency, or some other aspect of your virtual team?
These apps will help.
A powerful task management app is essential for virtual teams. And you can’t do better than Asana. It covers everything your employees need to stay on track and get things done.
For example, Project managers can use Asana to divide tasks amongst employees and easily review them. This ensures that everything gets done and no essential to-do’s get dropped.
It also prevents workflow failures because of miscommunication or lack of direction. Virtual employees need to see how their tasks relate to each others’ projects. That allows for cohesion and efficiency, even if everyone is in a different time zone.
There are endless task management apps. Here’s why Asana stands out for virtual teams:
Team Calendar View
Projects are color coded. Tasks and subtasks display with intuitive logic across the calendar. This is the perfect way to review and adjust your team’s projects.
It’s cleaner and more elegant than a long list of tasks with due dates. It’s also easy to re-schedule; drag and drop tasks from one date to another and everyone’s on the same page.
File management can become a virtual team’s worst nightmare. Asana avoids this by making most any file attachable to tasks. You don’t have to fumble around with links to outside cloud services.
Documents, photos, and other attachments stay with their tasks. And you can search for them within Asana.
Anything that reduces email clutter is essential for virtual teams. Comments in Asana link to tasks, not a general inbox. Mention members of your virtual team in a comment to send them an alert and add them as a task follower.
Want to show someone you’ve seen their comment without leaving another? Click the heart and “like” the comment instead of replying. Asana’s options allow for powerful communication without long string emails.
If you’ve done any work online in the last 10 years, you’ve used Google Drive. And with good reason. It’s one of the most powerful collaboration tools for virtual teams.
Even if you’re not producing a ton of documents, your team still needs to use Google Drive to stay organized. Here’s why – and how to do it:
Google Drive enables your team this with comment and edit tracking tools. Again, these reduce emails. Skip the multiple reply-all strings. Use comments in your documents and spreadsheets instead.
No More Multiple Document Versions
This is the bane of a good virtual team. Word documents get passed back and forth via email for edits. Everyone on the team has a look. They all need access. But your cloud file manager has duplicate document versions.
They’re all slightly different. And then Pandora’s Box of unrestrained confusion is released. No one is sure which version is the most recent. Naming conventions fall apart. Precious time is lost.
Google Drive helps you avoid this. Don’t create several versions of the same document to share amongst your team. Have employees collaborate and edit the same Google doc. The app keeps track of each edit so it’s easy to see exactly what everyone has changed, added, or removed over time.
It Stays in the Cloud
You need cloud storage for your virtual team. Because you can’t have employees hoarding essential documents on their personal computers. That’s how documents get lost, time gets wasted, and frustrations get epic.
Google Drive allows you to create an entire filing system – with permissions. So everyone on your virtual team has access to what they need. And no one can tamper with documents that aren’t related to their tasks.
One caveat – make sure you don’t over complicate things here. Keep your filing system simple. Resist the desire to create several layers of files. Save your team from digging through endless folders to find the file they need to work on.
Communication is essential for good collaboration. When it breaks down – because of long conference calls or confusing email strings – you get into trouble.
Slack creates the ideal platform for virtual teams. It enables communication and allows you to share files quickly. That includes Google documents.
You can stop sending emails, then copying and forwarding them to multiple parties. Keep everyone in the loop without making extra work for anyone. How?
Create specific Slack groups and chat there. This allows for faster, easier collaboration. It also keeps those communications out of your inbox.
Putting It All Together
Virtual teams need to stay organized and efficient. You need to give your employees the power to communicate and collaborate. Effortlessly.
Asana, Google Drive, and Slack are the trifecta of apps for virtual teams. The big bonus is that they get along with each other. Integrate them to make your team’s collaboration even easier. Each one fills in the gaps in the other, creating a complete approach.
Remember, no tool is perfect. Your virtual team will continue to face challenges. And communication is always a concern when employees are not physically together.
That’s all the more reason to use these essential apps. Just don’t overdo it. There are hundreds of other apps that some virtual teams find helpful. But too many tools is overwhelming. It doesn’t contribute to efficiency. In fact, it leads to confusion, disorganization, and marketing exhaustion .
Keep things simple. Promote good collaboration. Ensure communication is always open and easy.
These three apps are critical for your virtual team. Your employees will feel the benefits of top-notch collaboration. Your business will enjoy the positive results.
About the Author
David Porter is Marketing Director for Brickell Men’s Products  who make high performing natural skincare and grooming products for men. Follow them on Twitter , Facebook , and Instagram .