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Essential Tools for Managing a Remote Digital Business

Introduction

One of the most underestimated challenges of running an online business is effectively coordinating operations and teams virtually. While remote work enables global talent and flexibility, managing workflows digitally requires selecting and implementing the right technology stack.

This guide will provide an overview of essential SaaS platforms and tools across categories like communication, project management, automation and more for efficiently operating distributed digital companies.

We’ll outline top solutions to evaluate based on common operational needs of digital businesses selling online courses, virtual services, subscription products etc. Let’s build your virtual coordination toolkit.

Team Communication Platforms

Seamless communication is foundational when collaborating across locations. Look for platforms providing:

  • Group chat channels for discussions searchable by topic, project etc.
  • Video and voice conferencing to collaborate face-to-face
  • Screen sharing for demos, collaboration on documents etc.
  • User presence indicators showing availability and status
  • Private groups and direct messaging between individuals
  • Mobile apps enabling access and notifications on the go

Top solutions include Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Discord for a mix of group and private interactions.

Project and Task Management

Effectively coordinating workflows is crucial for productive teams. Features to evaluate include:

  • Custom workflows and task templates optimized for recurrent projects
  • Assignment, prioritization, and deadline tracking
  • File sharing and commenting abilities from within tasks
  • Custom tags and saved views for organizing tasks
  • Time tracking on tasks for monitoring budgets
  • Automatic status updates and notifications as work progresses
  • Dashboard overview of team workload and task statuses

Leading options include Asana, Trello, Basecamp, and Wrike.

Video Conferencing

Remote meetings should simulate in-person intimacy. Solutions to consider offer:

  • Reliable HD video and audio across devices
  • Screen sharing and annotation
  • Digital whiteboards for brainstorming together
  • Meeting chat and Q&A functions
  • Meeting scheduling and calendar integration
  • Virtual backgrounds to minimize distractions
  • Mobile support and access

Top platforms include Zoom, Google Meet, GoToMeeting and Microsoft Teams.

Shared Cloud Storage

Accessing latest documentation and assets from anywhere enables efficiency. Features like:

  • Directory organization by teams, projects, content types etc.
  • Permissions to manage editing and viewing access
  • Version history to track changes and restorability
  • Search functionality to quickly find files
  • Mobile access and file synchronization
  • Integrations with common business software

Leading solutions include Google Drive, Dropbox, Box, and Microsoft OneDrive.

Instant Messaging

Chat enables quick questions and contact outside formal conferencing. Platforms offer:

  • One-on-one and group chat options
  • Searchable message history
  • File and screen sharing abilities
  • Read receipts and presence indicators
  • Web, desktop and mobile apps
  • Integration with team communication tools

Top tools include Slack, Skype, and Google Chat.

Email Marketing

Email nurturing and automation grows audiences. Look for:

  • Custom signup forms and landing pages
  • Segmented subscriber management and groups
  • Templates and drag and drop designers
  • Automated email workflows and sequences
  • Analytics on opens, clicks, unsubscribes etc.
  • Integrations with payment processors, webinar software etc.

Leading solutions include Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Drip and Constant Contact.

Virtual Client Intake and Payments

Smoothly onboarding clients globally requires:

  • Client questionnaires or intake forms
  • Digital signature built in or integrated
  • Payment collection and processing capabilities
  • Payment plan and installment management
  • Automatic payment reminders and receipts
  • Client dashboard for access to documents and payment history

Top platforms include Honeybook, Practice Ignition, and 17Hats.

Omnichannel Customer Messaging

Communicating with customers requires right-channeling them:

  • Email support queues with routing by issue type
  • Live chat capabilities website-side and Facebook Messenger
  • Integrated real-time call center software
  • SMS texting options and automation
  • Shared inboxes for managing responses across channels
  • Contact management dashboards and analytics

Leaders include Zendesk, Freshdesk, Intercom and HelpCrunch.

Accounting Automation

Managing finances without a central physical office requires digital accounting systems providing:

  • Multi-user access with tiered permission levels
  • Invoicing, expense and payment tracking
  • Integration to process transactions automatically
  • Reporting dashboards and trends
  • Bill pay and VAT features
  • Data integration across business systems

Top platforms include QuickBooks Online, Xero, Sage Accounting, and FreshBooks.

Contract Management

Digitally managing contracts and documents enables collaboration. Features include:

  • Secure digital document storage
  • Automated routing, review, approval, and signing workflows
  • Custom contract and legal templates
  • Third party eSignature integration
  • Notification workflows as contract milestones occur
  • Dashboard tracking contract status and expiration alerts

Leaders include DocuSign, PandaDoc, and Adobe Sign.

Virtual Receptionist Services

Answering calls professionally elevates client experiences. Solutions offer:

  • Custom greeting, call routing, hold messaging etc.
  • Live receptionists or voice answering AI
  • Call queues, whisper messages, transfers etc.
  • Instant notifications and call logs integration
  • Call recording for quality assurance

Top options include Smith.ai, Ruby Receptionists, and Moneypenny.

Feedback and Surveys

Soliciting customer insights remotely builds better products using:

  • Drag and drop survey designers
  • Anonymous survey collection
  • Distribution through multiple channels – email, chat, text etc.
  • Automated conditional logic like branching questions
  • Data visualization and analysis tools

Well known tools include SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google Forms.

Idea Management

Collecting suggestions company-wide improves innovation through tools that offer:

  • Spaces for workers to post ideas, react, and discuss
  • Tagging and filtering of suggestions
  • User voting and scoring to surface popular ideas
  • Management review workflows and automated routing
  • Progress dashboards with assignment tracking

Top tools include Ideascale, Canny, and IdeaDrop.

Applicant Tracking

Sourcing and screening candidates remotely requires applicant tracking systems like:

  • Online application forms with screening questions
  • Referral management and sharing capabilities
  • Talent pipeline organization and workflows
  • AI screening to surface best fit candidates
  • Interviewer feedback collection and evaluations
  • Offer letter and contract integration

Popular options include Workable, Lever, Greenhouse, and SmartRecruiters.

Virtual Meeting Tools

Feature-rich virtual meeting tools enable engagement using:

  • Interactive meeting agenda templates
  • Polling, quiz, and survey integration
  • Live annotation and whiteboard capabilities
  • File and screen sharing
  • Virtual breakout rooms for small group discussions
  • Q&A and public/private chat tools

Top solutions include Stormz, AgoraPulse, and Fellow.app.

Time and Location Tracking

For distributed teams and field workers, solutions providing:

  • Clock in and clock out timers
  • Mapping and geolocation
  • Productivity tracking
  • Project and task association
  • Customizable reporting

Leading options include Time Doctor, Hubstaff, and TSheets.

Password Management

Securely storing and syncing credentials company-wide requires:

  • Encrypted password vaults
  • Browser extensions for login
  • Team access permissions
  • Passwords sharing capabilities
  • Automatic password changing

Well known tools include LastPass, 1Password, and Dashlane.

Business Intelligence and Data Analytics

Centralizing data insights across systems requires platforms that provide:

  • Automated data collection and standardization
  • Visualization dashboards of key business metrics
  • Predictive analytics and trend identification
  • Data query tools and custom reporting
  • Scheduled reports and email alerts

Top solutions include Tableau, Domo, Klipfolio, and Microsoft Power BI.

Team Training and Skills Development

Upskilling remote teams requires learning systems offering:

  • Content hosting and delivery portals
  • Quizzes, tests, and assessments
  • Skills gap analysis and personalized learning paths
  • Reporting and analytics on engagement
  • API integrations with other systems

Well known LMS platforms include Litmos,TalentLMS, and Thinkific.

Conclusion

The variety of essential infrastructure enabling smooth operations of virtual businesses can be overwhelming initially. But carefully evaluating options tailored to your specific team’s needs, workflows, and plans for scaling allows efficiently coordinating at distance.

Leveraging the right mixtures of tools ultimately provides flexibility impossible in traditional centralized offices. Technology, when selected thoughtfully, erases the friction of physical distance.

While needs evolve over time, proactively building familiarity with remote platforms combining the features above allows focusing energy on customers and growth rather than logistical distractions. The efficiencies of digital operations empower invention.

By Dani Davis

Dani Davis is the pen name of the writer of this blog with more 15 years of constant experience in Content marketing and informatics product, e-commerce niche.

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