Carbon Five has worked with a variety of clients across the globe and within our own five offices that require remote collaboration while maintaining a sense of camaraderie and team cohesion.
With a lot of teams transitioning to remote workforces, we opened up the conversation to share some of our best practices. We would love to hear what you are doing as well. Tweet us at @carbonfive to share any other tips and tools your team finds effective!
Running remote planning exercises
When we kick off a new project we spent a few days collaborating with the developers, designers and product managers to identify a few things:
- The problem we want to solve
- The people who have the problem
- The product we’re building to solve it
- The process we’ll follow to built it together
Below are some of the activities that we run to uncover answers and fully scope the project. While we like to run these in person, each one has been adapted with digital tools that allow for team collaboration.
Using Stickies.io you can create virtual priority sliders to discuss tradeoffs between Feature development speed versus quality and consistency, or use it to gauge design values. Have your team add their initials to a sticky, change the color and place it on the spectrum between your two endpoints.
The 2×2 Method
Use Miro to create a virtual 2×2 framework to assess risk, prioritize features, or decide what to test next. After agreeing up impact and effort you can use the 2×2 rankings to set your first, second and third milestone releases.
New to the 2×2 method? Read our full guide on how to create and use them here.
Using Excalidraw you can easily whiteboard with your team. Copy and share out with your team afterward for easy documentation.
Use Miro or Stickies to create experience maps with cards to represent users, artifacts, and systems to get a full view of the scope of work needed for a phase or project.
New to experience mapping? Read up on how to effectively use them when kicking off a new project or feature set here.
Tool overload? You can create experience maps easily in Google Sheets!
The retrospective might be our favorite meeting of the week, we think they are extremely important, especially when your team can’t all be working next to each other in person.
We created Stickies.io for our own team to run retrospectives with remote teams and added a few features specific to retrospectives. Typing I Wish, I Like, I Wonder or I Will automatically changes the color of the sticky allowing for easier visual sorting. Once you identify themes, stickies can be grouped together and given a title. Each sticky has a +1 in the corner, allowing team members to upvote other’s sentiments and identify the most important stickies to discuss.
Keeping your team and company connected
Utilize your slack channels
Create an announcements channel for management to communicate company updates outward to staff.
Create an internal blog
We use Notion to host our internal blog documenting all business level changes that new employees can read through and learn about the history of the company. This also helps everyone focus on one source of information when there are multiple channels such as slack, email, and meetings where other information is being shared.
Curate an internal newsletter
We distribute a monthly newsletter that collects information from all of our offices and highlights company-wide news and employee milestones such as anniversaries and new hires.
Encourage team connection
As a remote team, it’s important to have opportunities for connection woven into your day-to-day routine. We’ve found remote happy hours to be successful and can be done at different levels, such as the project team, local office, and the whole company. We have a dedicated shared zoom account that employees can log in to and chat with their colleagues throughout the day. An all-hands retrospective can be helpful in taking a temperature on how your team is adapting to remote work.
User research and testing
How do we balance staying close to our users while also staying close to our team with the changing needs of our business and company?
We use Trello to stay organized and track experiments and user tests across remote teams. This allows us to keep a digital board of assumptions and questions and prioritize them like you would a backlog. Once we’ve shared our learnings with the team, we can come up with ideas for opportunities or challenges we want to address that would go into the next experiments. Check out this article on how to help your remote team plan and execute experiments.
Use our Trello template to get started.
For qualitative research, such as one-on-one interviews, we’ll partner with a designer or another product manager and record the interview using a platform such as Zoom. Then we’ll keep our notes in one collaborative document and synthesize the research as a one-sheet that can be easily shared out with the team.
If you don’t have many users and you need to find users in the right segment, there are a couple of great tools such as userinterviews.com for one-on-one interviews or usertesting.com for asynchronous prototype testing.
Keep in mind that remote user testing can be challenging when working with an audience that isn’t tech-savvy. Think about the demographic that you are working with and work with the early to ensure they have the right software downloaded, understand how to use platforms like Zoom or other conferencing tools. Sending written instructions in an email before your meeting can cut down on setup time during your interview.