Are you thinking about your remote team’s tech stack all wrong?

Many digital-first teams have accidentally been adding bandaids to their tech stack instead of truly solving the problems their remote team is facing.
You're thinking about your remote team's tech stack all wrong
Emma Giles, Co-Founder & Head of Product
December 30, 2022

Remote teams, like yours, need to come together to drive results as fast and effectively possible so they can take over the world - from anywhere in the world. And to do that, you need the right tech stack to support your team.

But if you’re like most remote teams that pivoted - or started - during the pandemic, you’re likely thinking about your tech stack all wrong.

What’s wrong with your tech stack

Your business operates differently as a remote team, and your tech stack needs to support those differences. The same tools that supported your team in a physical office are not likely to support your digital-first team. You got a lot of things – like a place to feel together, work collaboratively, and to connect spontaneously – for free within a physical office.

But you added Zoom and Slack to your tech stack, so that should mean you’re all set, right? Wrong.

The Slack + Zoom combo is not the silver bullet

We’ve all heard about Zoom fatigue and we’ve all dealt with it in some form or another. Maybe you and your team got used to it and things seemed to be fine. But then you sensed your team’s culture eroding. You only talked with each other when you were in scheduled meetings.

So you added Slack to your tech stack and your team could chat with each other any time. They kept casual conversations going between meetings, shared recipes and sent silly cat gifs around. 😹 Culture recovered … or at least not totally gone, right?

But then your team scaled over 30 people and the small cracks you could ignore at 20 people started to turn into serious problems that are slowing down your team.

All the new channels, different time zones, unique schedules, etc. are impossible to keep track of, not to mention the number of individual conversations you have open at any given time. 🥴 You regularly return from lunch to see 20+ missed messages you have to dig through before you can get back to doing any actual work. And good luck if you need to schedule a meeting to address even half of those messages - you’ll be playing calendar tetris for the next hour, and you’ll be stuck in back-to-back Zoom meetings for the next two days.

Looks like you need another tool to solve this problem. ☹️

Or maybe you could make a few more Slack channels so messages can be further divided? What about adding Donut to Slack to help connect with each other better? Or is there a different app you can add? Maybe you should have someone on the team research the latest Slack apps.

This. Is. Not. The. Way.

How to think about your tech stack

Let’s zoom out for a second. A tech stack is the set of tools you need to collaborate and communicate with your team. And the way you collaborate and communicate is different on a remote team than it is on an in-person team.

It stands to reason that you can’t just layer a couple tools on top of your existing, in-person tech stack and hope it helps your remote team run effectively. You’d just be slapping on a bandaid instead of solving the underlying problems. Or adding a new limb to an ever-growing Frankenstein of a tech stack.

But that’s exactly what most teams have done - add Zoom and Slack, and hope things run smoothly. It might run fine for a while, but eventually their team starts slowing down, and they realize something isn’t working.

To build the right tech stack, you have to look at how your remote team needs to be able to collaborate and communicate. Once you do that, you can finally assign tools to serve each of the needs.

The problems under your tech stack

Let’s lay out what your remote team needs to be able to do, knowing that every team’s needs will be slightly different.

  1. Communicate synchronously - a.k.a. have meetings – both structured (pre-scheduled meetings) and unstructured (spontaneous conversations).
    Potential Tools: Zoom (structured, video), Slack (unstructured, chat and call), SoWork (structured and unstructured, all forms of communication)
  2. Schedule synchronous time - You need to be able to schedule synch time with people on your team.
    Potential Tools: Google Calendar
  3. Track work - You need a way to know and share the status of projects. You also need a way to ask someone to do something and know it’s been picked up by the other person.
    Potential Tools: Asana
  4. Create asynchronous communications - You need to create information and communications that you share with your team asynchronously - written, audio, visual.
    Potential Tools: Notion (written), Yac (audio), Miro (visual), Loom (visual and audio), Twist (written conversations, without the Slack urgency)
  5. Handle information and async communications - You need to be able to store information, retrieve information, and keep information up-to-date easily. This could be two types of information: written or other assets, though not every team will need to handle both.
    Potential Tools: Notion (written), Google Drive (written and assets)
  6. A place your culture exists - You need a place for your team, some sort of glue that holds all the people and tools together. As your team spreads across different communication platforms, they become fractured, no longer having a place to belong and connect. They’re just people scattered around the world, jumping between different tools. Some teams try to solve this with occasional social gatherings, but you need a persistent place to be present together.
    Potential Tools: SoWork

Picking the right tools

Most articles about tech stacks and remote working tools spend the bulk of their time talking about the actual tools, but, as we’ve mentioned, this is the easy part. Once you’ve got your outline of problems, all you have to do is map tools to each one.

There are lots of options for each type of tool, and you’ll be able to tell pretty quickly which ones solve your specific problems better than others.

Remember that designing your tech stack isn’t a burden, but an opportunity for your team to get closer, faster, and more effective.

Want to talk more about remote work tools?

Come swing by our office! We’re always game to riff on the ways remote teams can push work forward together, no matter when, where, or how they work. 😄

Quick tips

  • Choose one tool per problem - If your team has more than one tool to solve each problem, your team will slow down, checking multiple platforms for each back-and-forth. If you need both tools in your tech stack for some reason, designate one official tool per problem.
  • Avoid tool overload - Look for opportunities to solve more than one problem with a single tool.
  • Reevaluate your stack from time to time - As your team grows, your tech stack may need to change as well. We’ve found 30, 50, and 100 to be milestones that often require a shift in tools.