By Jake Meador | 7 May 2020
Like most companies, Mobile Text Alerts is working with a fully remote workforce at the moment as we push through the current pandemic.
That said, this wasn’t anything new for us: MTA has been fully remote for our entire history.
To do our work well, we use a number of different software tools to help us work better. In this post, we’re going to share some of our tech stack with you in hopes that it can help other companies trying to figure out how to work effectively with a fully remote team.
We also hope that by showing that a company can grow and thrive at any time with a fully remote team that we can help normalize remote work more in the American tech world. Remote work offers a ton of personal benefits for employees and the actual costs to the business are far less than is sometimes thought.
We’ve organized this post by looking at a few fairly common apps and explaining how we use them and then also a few less common ones that are also part of our tech stack for at least some of our employees.
We have also included additional links with each post to show you other content that explains in greater detail how to get the most out of the various tools we describe in this post.
The MTA team uses Slack the same way most companies do—it’s a communication hub for our team that allows us to give product updates, discuss marketing and sales problems, and stay abreast on what everyone is working on.
We have also added app integrations to Slack that provides regular updates on new customers won, customers lost, revenue gained, and so on so that the entire team is always aware of how we are performing according to the most fundamental metrics for any business.
In particular, we use the Stripe and Databox integrations. That said, Slack has extensive integrations supported within the app that also include Hubspot, Trello, Asana, Google Calendar, Zoom, Dropbox, and Loom.
If you want to learn more about how to use Slack, you can also check out these helpful articles:
Google Docs and Google Sheets are especially important Google products for MTA.
We edit all our marketing and web copy inside Google Docs before moving it to our website. We also use Google Docs for internal documentation of various projects and meetings that we have had over the years.
Google Sheets, meanwhile, is a useful tool for compiling, evaluating, and visualizing large amounts of data. Many of the graphics we use on the MTA blog are actually made in Google Sheets using their chart creator tool.
Finally, though technically it is not part of Google Drive, Google Hangouts is also essential for the MTA team. Our team-wide meetings are all done in Google Hangouts.
Trello is our project management software. Any time you’re running a large enterprise, your project list is going to multiply rapidly and soon become unwieldy. Software like Trello helps us keep track of everything.
You can use project management software to create boards for organizing your work more generally. Within each board, you can add lists that will have individual project items on them. You can also move items from one list to another, which is how MTA usually uses Trello.
More generally, we use Trello to track projects that are ongoing, projects that are paused, completed work, and potential future tasks.
We also take advantage of Trello’s ICE feature to score the relative value of various proposed projects. ICE stands for “Impact, Confidence, Ease.” It’s a method of evaluating possible projects your team could attempt in the future.
“Impact” refers to the expected impact that the completed project would have on your business.
“Confidence,” is how confident you are that it would have the impact you have chosen.
“Ease,” is how easy or difficult it would be to complete the project. Easier projects are rated higher, harder are rated lower.
Thus by adding together the three numbers, we can get an ICE score, which helps us make decisions about what projects to prioritize.
If you want to learn more about using Trello to greatest effect, read these articles:
Zendesk is our preferred solution for customer support. One of the basic challenges that comes with being a company that sells software access to customers is how best to provide helpful support when they need it. Zendesk is one out of several common help desk software tools that helps companies like us provide this assistance to customers. It has been our greatest asset for assisting customers, especially during the pandemic.
Our live chat, emails, and voice are all connected into one main hub of Zendesk. This hub is searchable and customizable which allows each member of our team to pull up any chat, email, or voicemail that they might need to reference at a later time. An index like that helps improve our efficiency and eliminate the need for customers to re-ask their question should they contact us twice and get two different support representatives. Ultimately this leads to the easiest and fastest resolution to whatever question our customers had.
There are many alternatives to Zendesk, many of which we have used in the past, but none had quite the same level of polish nor were they as feature rich. Additionally, in the case where we have had a question or an issue, Zendesk’s own customer support staff have been quick in their responses, knowledgeable in their recommendations, and eager to provide a solution to any problems they are presented with. Zendesk has been a great resource for Mobile Text Alerts and will remain so long after our business routine gets back to normal.
Typeform is an excellent tool for embedding various types of interactive forms on your website. Forms can be used in a variety of ways—to ask customers what features they most appreciate or would like to see added to a product, cancellation surveys to ask departing customers why they’ve left, etc. You can also use Typeform to create quizzes or for more internal uses, such as employee onboarding and even job applications.
For MTA, we use Typeform as a shortcut to add interactive features to our web content on both our blog and product pages. One of the difficulties with selling software access is that it can be hard for people to picture how your product will help improve their life. So having embedded forms that are interactive can give people something hands-on to do that can help them anticipate what it will be like to become an MTA customer.
Bear is a note taking app similar to Evernote. It’s something that some people on our team use to keep track of notes from meetings, organize their own personal goals for the day, and to do very early drafts of marketing and website copy.
What makes Bear exceptional is its simplicity. It’s a highly polished, highly stripped down word processing tool with a fairly specific list of things it can do. It’s very much a no-frills writing app, so it’s not something you’d use for collaborative writing projects—Google Docs is best for that—or for long-form work—something like Scrivener is ideal there. But for the more specific uses Bear is designed for—note-taking, list management, and short-form solo writing—it is very hard to beat.
One of the biggest difficulties with being a fully remote team is that sometimes it is just much easier to communicate face to face rather than over text via email or Slack. What’s more, while you can use Google Hangouts or Zoom for video conferencing, there are times when you don’t want to go through the work of setting up a conference or when you don’t actually need to use video for conversation, but simply for telling someone something important. That is where Loom shines.
Loom is a basic video recording software that allows you to record short videos that can then be easily sent around to your team without needing to upload them to a third party service, such as YouTube or Vimeo.
If you want a no-fuss video recording solution to use for internal communication or even limited external communication, Loom is a great option.
Done correctly, data visualizations tell stories concisely and accessibly. Unfortunately, data visualization is really hard to do well. You have to figure out what you’re wanting to communicate, identify the metrics that matter, and then find the right way of visualizing that data. It isn’t easy.
That said, you don’t need to struggle with data visualization software. Databox allows you to pull in data from a large range of sources and then organize it in basically any way you can imagine.
MTA uses Databox for mostly internal purposes. One of the best ways to keep your team on track with your goals is to have an obvious scoreboard that allows everyone in the company to see how they are performing relative to your objectives. Good scoreboards are basically good data visualizations: they’re simple, vivid tools for helping people quickly understand the problem at hand. Databox is how we do this. We have reports that update us on financials, marketing, sales, and a host of other things as well. It’s the simplest way we have to quickly see how we are performing and where there are potential problems needing to be addressed.
Finally, one of the classic problems for any tech business is web development. Ask anyone that works for a tech-based company what their biggest bottleneck is and it’s likely they’ll say development. The problem is almost never the developers the company has already. Rather, it is that they don’t have enough developers to do all the tasks that need to get done.
One workaround for this problem is to find specialized software that can help non-programmers build basic tools and features for your website or app. ClickFunnels is one such software. At MTA we use it to quickly design web pages that help our prospects move through the sales funnel.
Doing all the technical work required to design good funnels takes a great deal of time—time that your development team probably doesn’t have or probably should use on other projects. So for us ClickFunnels has been a great tool to help our marketing team in particular get certain web projects done on their own without requiring as much assistance as might otherwise be necessary from our development team.