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BeeCanvas Buzzed to the Next Level to Solve Remote Collaboration

solve remote collaboration

When teams left the office for Covid-19, they left a lot of loose ends. One of those threads, collaboration, has been picked up by BeeCanvas.

Launched this past week, BeeCanvas is best described as a virtual whiteboard.

BeeCanvas is a powerhouse under the hood. This tool is one part visualizer, one part brainstorming hub, and one part project management tool.

How Will You Make the Most of Collaboration?

Why did BeeCanvas blend all of those functions into a single platform? And more importantly, how can teams — virtual ones, in particular — make the most of it?

To see what the buzz is all about, I caught up with BeeCanvas’s CEO, Raymond Hong. And while we didn’t whiteboard our interview, Hong painted a clear picture: Remote work isn’t as easy as many initially imagined it would be, especially in the context of collaboration.

BeeCanvas Began Without a Hive

Like many of the companies it works with, BeeCanvas is a remote team. The difference is, it didn’t suddenly become one when Covid-19 struck.

“We built BeeCanvas because we needed it,� Hong admits. “We’d been working out of coffee shops, struggling to get on the same page about pretty basic stuff. I tried to use other collaboration apps out there, but none of them truly solved the problems we had, so I decided to build a virtual collaborative space for us. We wanted to build a best-in-class virtual war room online instead of developing another collaboration app.�

Although BeeCanvas now has a home office, it began four years ago without one. Before communication issues boiled over, BeeCanvas got together to discuss a new vision: a cloud-based virtual whiteboard and meeting room.

“To us, the keyword was ‘visual,’� Hong explains. “Across time zones, cultures, and languages, everyone understands an image. Text-based tools simply can’t get the message across as well.�

That isn’t to say, Hong cautions, that BeeCanvas can’t accommodate text. He points to BeeCanvas as a tool where people can transform a non-visual file or link to a visual asset through simple and easy interactions like the drag-and-drop chat tool. Like a physical whiteboard, BeeCanvas users can sketch, type, and add graphics to their heart’s content.

Also like a whiteboard, BeeCanvas has a huge range of use cases: It can be a chart, listing out project deadlines; it can be used to pitch or present on a project’s status; it can be a space for play, whether to build a culture or brainstorm a new marketing campaign.

solve remote collaboration

So what does BeeCanvas work best for? Here, Hong has a few suggestions.

Visualization: A Canvas for Everyone

Every successful startup challenges at least one assumption. At BeeCanvas, it’s that only “creatives� need or can use a visual canvas.

“Look around you: Everyone on your team can be creative if you unlock their creative potential,� Hong says emphatically. “The role of a modern leader is to transform teams to be more highly engaged and aligned creatively.�

To illustrate, Hong points to a slider of use cases his team has compiled. Near the bottom of BeeCanvas’s homepage are rotating examples of canvases that “non-creatives� put together using the tool.

One manager put together a template for his team’s daily stand-up meeting. An executive team developed a flow chart to show how strategic initiatives break down into department-specific projects. Salespeople created user-profiles and case studies to showcase who their leads are and what problems they’re trying to solve.

The Ultimate Visualizer

BeeCanvas

“Visualization is one of those skills that’s critical for every role, on every team,� Hong says. “Text is the best language for computers, not for humans. Humans excel at articulating complex ideas in a visual way. With the digital era, many people forget that and don’t think to grab a pen and draw abstract content with visuals instead of explaining it with text. Even remote work accelerates this problem because people tend to rely on messaging applications, email and virtual documents.�

The Bottom Line on Brainstorming

Have you ever had the perfect idea in mind, only for it to leave your mouth as a word salad? That’s why most brainstorming sessions happen around a whiteboard.

“Most ideas are best expressed and understood visually,� Hong points out. “Human beings are visual animals: Our default sense is our sight.�

While remote teams have long been able to hop on a video call for brainstorming, these sessions are rarely as productive as they could be. Hong says he’s seen teams struggle to bridge the gap by, for example, holding sketches up to their computer’s camera.

Think of BeeCanvas as a more advanced, collaborative MS Office Suite. The product philosophy is to combine project management functionality with a visual whiteboard. Multiple people can work in the space at once, just like a real whiteboard, while discussing ideas or problems using BeeCanvas’s built-in chat.

No matter how difficult and complex an idea may be, people can simplify their communication and easily find solutions.

“The goal of creative work is not for the sake of being,� Hong says. “The goal should be to brainstorm and find the most effective outcome quickly and efficiently.�

Getting Virtual Teams on the Same Page

Of course, brainstorming is the start of any project — and gets everyone on the same page. After that, the hard part begins: actually managing the project development.

BeeCanvas built what is needed right now. According to Hong, some of its team members prefer the project functionality like the Kanban system. Others on the team like to work from their calendar, and still others operate best with a simple task list.

BeeCanvas allows users to apply their most efficient workflow to their projects. “Like brainstorming, there’s no ‘right’ way to manage a project,� Hong says.

But why would teams use BeeCanvas rather than a dedicated project management tool? The reason is that projects are rarely linear or single-platform. When it comes time to add a new feature, mid-project — a brainstorming-session may be necessary. After brainstorming and decisions, a presentation may be necessary to get the leadership team on board.

“The question we kept asking ourselves when building BeeCanvas was, ‘Why can’t all of those issues occur and be taken care of in a single platform?’â€� Hong points out that the average marketing team alone uses 23.8 tools — never mind all of the others strewn across sales and product development teams.

Hong’s point is particularly relevant for remote teams. More tools spread across more networks create complexity not just for the user but also for others. Data security and integrations across tools stress out IT teams. Larger software stacks strain company budgets and complexity.

What’s Next for BeeCanvas?

Perhaps the toughest question I posed to Hong was the shortest: What’s next?

“In some ways, BeeCanvas is defined by its users,� Hong acknowledges. “BeeCanvas will be the new standard of a team collaboration space. It will replace the way we used to have meetings prior to Covid-19. Since our launch, we’ve been keeping a close eye on real-world use. How people use BeeCanvas will guide our next iteration.�

The good news for BeeCanvas is, remote work appears to be here to stay. For a fresh platform to find its sweet spot takes time. Like nectar turning to honey, tools like BeeCanvas only get better with age.

Top Image Credit: Caio; Pexels

The post BeeCanvas Buzzed to the Next Level to Solve Remote Collaboration appeared first on ReadWrite.

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How Today’s Startups Can Adapt to a Globally Distributed Model

globally distributed model

The world of work is transforming. Although it’s tempting to blame it all on the coronavirus situation and its formidable ripples, the pandemic only accelerated the processes of globalization and digitization that have been underway for decades.

Among its many implications, the digital office means that jobs don’t necessarily need to be done in-person, and today’s startup leaders are realizing that many projects can be done at a lower cost remotely, without any drop in quality.

Still, COVID-19 helped tip the balance towards a globally distributed model.

Factors that are tipping the scales

Government restrictions and fears of infection pushed companies that had previously held out to accept remote working, and many discovered that it’s more manageable than they had expected. Managers realized that there’s little difference between employees working from home on the other side of town and employees working on the other side of the world.

What’s more, outsourcing projects and ongoing operations to offshore teams on a contract basis is a more flexible model that’s easy to scale. A flexible model is especially helpful for startups that can’t always predict what talent they will need when, and have low budgets that force them to hire for project work instead of filling in-house positions.

Given the economic fallout from COVID-19, more and more companies are falling into this category, with an estimated 41% of startups nearing the end of their funding runways, according to Startup Genome.

And finally, running subsidiaries and offices in numerous countries push business owners into overcoming mental barriers to global expansion.

A globally distributed business model allows you to hire the best talent wherever in the world it is. For example, the best R&D teams for your needs might be based in the Ukraine, whereas the best designers may be in Germany.

Transitioning to and managing a globally distributed model isn’t plain sailing. Obstacles to success include enabling collaboration and communication between geographically and culturally distant teams, handling multiple HR and tax requirements, and managing multi-faceted operations around time zone differences.

As with everything in startups, making this change is easier when you plan ahead, but companies that had globally distributed working forced upon them by COVID-19 can still make life easier by following these suggestions.

Automate as much as possible

When you’re running a globally distributed business, you have to adhere to multiple regulations. Each country has different requirements for healthcare and social services contributions, tax obligations, and classifications for types of companies and their obligations to others. Some of these differences are dramatic, while others are nuanced.

For example, you may think you’re hiring a freelance outsourced team that doesn’t receive health benefits, but in your new worker’s home country, she may be considered a contracted employee, with all the rights that go along with that relationship.

In these complex situations, the more you can automate, the better. “Moving to remote work is more than simply changing from an office environment to a distributed workforce,� Papaya Global’s Alex Margolin reminds us. “In the long run, taking advantage of the opportunity remote work offers means building a global vision. This starts with implementing automated tools that will allow your company to grow.�

Automation also helps overcome the dreaded impact of time zones on scheduling. Automated scheduling platforms and smart shared calendars convert meeting times into local time for each participant – and help you check the time in different time zones before you accidentally schedule a meeting for 3am in India.

Create a cohesive team

Whether you’re hiring workers for a short project, setting up a long-term outsourced team, establishing an international partnership, or connecting with a third-party vendor or supplier, it’s vital to support effective communication and collaboration. The various branches of your business can have different work practices and cultural assumptions that can lead to clashes unless you facilitate a smooth working relationship and personal interaction.

As IBM CIO Fletcher Previn puts it, “Some of the biggest challenges for employees revolved around simple human-to-human interaction. When you’re working in an office, it’s easy to have impromptu interactions with colleagues and build friendships.â€�

You need to help everyone connected with your company to feel part of a global team instead of a group of collaborating clusters and individuals. People crave a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves – this depth of cross-functional engagement boosts satisfaction, decreases churn, and increases productivity across the organization.

Previn’s recommendations are to “Define clear guidance, rules, and policies. Train employees on remote etiquette and provide tools for teams to collaborate and contribute.” And no, email is not enough; you’ll need many communication and collaboration channels, including messaging apps and video-conferencing platforms.

Establish policies that promote connection, like a virtual happy hour or fun conversations. Celebrating every holiday in every culture and country where any of your workers are located can also strengthen the sense of being part of a diverse, global team.

Open up access to information

When business lines stretch across countries, time zones, and continents, data can easily get lost along the way.

Remote workers, outsourced teams, distanced managers, suppliers, and more can all struggle to access the information they need at the right time. Time differences can leave knowledge workers waiting 24 hours or more just to get access to one file.

Data is the lifeblood of every business, so it’s vital to set up practices and platforms that enable everyone to get timely responses to questions, find documents, and more. Embed data and analytics in a way that allows all employees, workers and partners to access them and draw actionable insights, without compromising on security, and data protection compliance.

Support agile working practices

Succeeding with a globally distributed business means decentralizing the hierarchy into a flatter organization.

The fast-paced business world favors small, nimble teams that support agile decision-making. C-suite executives must devolve responsibility onto team managers and experts on the ground, giving them the authority to take the initiative and make decisions – otherwise, your global business will be stifled by bottlenecks.

This intersects with the need for good communication to build trust relationships and remove the urge to micromanage. In the words of Owen McGab Enaohwo, CEO and co-founder of SweetProcess, “Micromanagement derails active and ready-to-work employees — ensure that you maintain a certain level of trust, and you randomly check in on your team from time to time. This will help them perform efficiently and productively.�

Delegating authority to your distributed workers makes them more productive and happier. Slack found that 86% of people who enjoy working remotely say that they have a great deal of autonomy at work, while 77% of people who don’t like remote working say they lack autonomy.

A globally distributed model is attainable

Invest in advanced tech to automate awkward processes and improve communication and trust; support free access to the necessary data; and give all participants in a globally distributed business the responsibility they need to do their jobs effectively.

Globally distributed companies are the future for business, but they require the right mindset.

Image Credit: ketut subiyant; pexels

The post How Today’s Startups Can Adapt to a Globally Distributed Model appeared first on ReadWrite.