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Choosing Remote Working Software

It's fair to say we're fans of remote working at Garden Spaces. Several of our staff work either from home or from one of our garden offices. Our working lives have also taken us down a wide range of career paths and so we've had our fair share of office life to give us a good understanding of the benefits that can be found from working from home.

One aspect of working in a different location to your colleagues that can prove a challenge is collaboration - but now with the internet this really is much less of an issue. There are so many options for sharing files, instant messaging and video conferencing that it really is quite feasible to have colleagues working remotely, even located across the globe. This wealth of software choices can lead to a new problem - which cloud software to use?

As our staff are located across the UK, from Brian in Scotland to Roger in deepest Cornwall, we had several routine business tasks for which we needed a solution. These are not particularly complex tasks but simply trying to email documents to each other quickly gets confusing as does ensuring everyone has the most up to date details for our clients and their buildings.

We explored a lot of software in our search for the perfect solution. These were mainly online cloud based tools that would enable us to access the same data with the aim of making us super efficient. We use several tools from day to day but we settled on two tools which now form a key part of our business - Basecamp and Highrise from 37signals.

The people at 37Signals know a thing or two about remote working as they have employees in several countries and have even written books on the subject.

Here's an overview of how we use Basecamp and Highrise.

Highrise - Cloud Based CRM

Highrise is where we manage our sales leads, it helps us track quotes and conversations between not only ourselves but also our suppliers and clients. Throughout the quoting stage we can add to client specifications and our team can access the information they need - regardless of where they are in the UK.

Highrise lets you store up to 250 contacts for free and you can tailor the client records to store the sort of client specific details you need, it's quite flexible in this way.

If you are a sales orientated business then you can track 'Deals' which can be marked as Won or Lost depending on your teams progress.

Highrise also has a section called 'Cases' - we use this to store documents our team need when speaking with customers, for example our latest pricing, upgrade options, planning information or just our latest building specifications. This ensure our team are all working from the same files which helps us maintain consistent pricing and product details.

The system can collect data by email too so you can simply forward emails in to Highrise to ensure the details are kept safe and can be accessed by who ever needs them.

Visit the Highrise site for more info.

Basecamp - Online Project Management

Once we have secured a new order we setup the new build in Basecamp. This is primarily a project management tool and is used by a huge number of businesses across the world. Basecamp helps us organise our client projects using a central calendar and todo lists which we use to tick off project requirements as they are completed. The system can only be accessed by who we choose and even lets us give access to specific suppliers on a per project basis if needed. Find out more about Basecamp.

Our data in the cloud

For a long time we looked for a solution to enable our team to access our business data and tried several much more expensive options. Basecamp and Highrise have replaced the need for a physical server within an office where we all meet. Instead we can get to our data wherever and whenever we choose from our PCs, Macs or phones. The best bit is we can rely on 37Signals to securely back everything up giving us one less thing to worry about. Both these tools also have many options for integrating with other online software from invoicing and email marketing to sales pipelines and calendars.

Give it a go for free

If you are considering moving your business processes online these two tools are worth a trial and could well provide a great starting point as they offer a low cost solution which is relatively easy for staff to get to grips with. Although there is a learning curve they are not over blown or too stuffed full of features, buttons and things you will never use, so it's definitely a case of less is more. They both have 30 day free trials which is plenty long enough to see how they could work for you.

It's worth remembering both Basecamp and Highrise are designed to fit many different business types, from web design companies to people like us building garden rooms. On first glance it could seem as if the software is not as suitable as a bespoke solution might be but if you spend sometime working out how they can work for you then you may find they are ideal and a fraction of the price.

Date: 08/11/2013 | Author: Roger Hedges