Tools of the (remote) Trade

Published 04-14-2020 into Case Studies & Usage Examples
Before I get started, how you use them is up to you.  When we started using these tools we were unsure of the benefits.  I could not understand the difference between this and gmail.  Now we can’t do without.   I won’t cloud your judgement and creativity by stating example applications I believe to fit into your eco-system (trello does look like a pipeline though).  Don't think these tools can be applied to the independent agency network?  Check out this much more concise article here, from one of your peers.  Also, these aren’t the only tools we tried, but they stuck because of the value they provide.  So experiment a bit, there is plenty out there.  Short term redundancy is a fair trade for long term adoption.   

Slack is for collaboration and communication.  They even say they replace email.  A bit grandiose, but somewhat accurate.  I mean, sure you can see yourself communicating with your team internally, but you’re not going to work a deal through underwriting.  Or maybe you will.  Liberty Mutual has deployed it companywide. (I bet there’s an Emu commercial thread)

We use Slack for project management.  What projects, you ask?  Smart ass.  We have a mobile app in development for one (finally).  This requires the collective effort of a designer, programmer, developer, and whatever it is I do.  If the designer does something the programmer isn’t aware of, things don’t work.  If I don’t provide guidance at critical points, we waste time and money.  

We are also building a new workflow database to include some automation's that will handle redundant tasks (for you, not us).  This could take a year to complete (I’m working on that).  At this stage we have two database architects that need to be on the same page at all times.  Once this database (like 30 of them) is built a new interface needs to be designed, programmed, and linked to make it work.  Integration and expansion need to be considered.  On the fly changes in the unlikely event we get thought out, concise feedback from you. 

At some point our designer and programmer will have to pick up the ball from engineer, and work with developer towards a never finished product that's never really existed before.  There are a million things that can go wrong at this stage (it might not even be the same crew from the app!).  It’s not like programmer can just call architect to understand what he is looking at, and if he could odds are the architect wouldn’t recall (sound familiar?).  

Using slack is like having the ability to transfer one person’s brain to another, which enables faster, more efficient progress.  If my programmer has a question, he can just search for it in the appropriate thread.  Even if I wasn’t involved in the conversation, the answer is still there.  As we build our full-time employee resources, they will have a database of knowledge and understanding to start with, minimizing our on-boarding process.    

Trello is pretty versatile.  You create a ‘board’ (up to 10 at a time w/ the free version) and within those boards you make ‘lists’.  Within those lists you make ‘cards’.  Cards contain titles.  From there you can add detailed descriptions (purpose of the card), checklists, labels, attachments, and so on.  It can be as little or as much as you want, but the hierarchy should be intuitive.  

My board relating to the app tracks progress of tasks required for release.  There is a ‘To Do’ list, ‘Issues’ and so on until the ‘Done’ list.  When there is nothing ‘to do’ and no (pre-release) ‘issues’ I will archive this board (only two left!).  It will disappear from my view, but everything discussed will be available.  So, when we get working on the first round of updates (already 4 on the list) in 6 months everything we otherwise forget as humans can be recalled.  

Where do I keep notes on future updates?  Trello- Future Updates board.  Here I use the lists for segmentation instead of progress.  Some examples of these lists include the app, search capability, data enhancement (we forgot about OSHA and DOT data for almost a year), and partnership opportunities.  

There is a lot of overlap between these two tools.  You’ll probably find that one tool does not fulfill all needs, despite the fact that two or more tools will fulfill a majority of the same needs.  For our purpose Slack is a tool to manage and communicate at a macro, big picture level.  Trello being an excellent companion for granular level management.  It also helps me organize and prioritize the million little improvements that would otherwise be lost in the ether (versatility).  To illustrate, everything was great on the 17th build of the app.  But on the 18th build everything went to hell.  I messaged the entire team on Slack that everything went to hell, noted individual issues in trello, and assigned each to the appropriate party for resolution.  There's your glimpse, hope you can make something out of it.