Dear all,

this week’s Weekend Reading is early and we are not suggesting any new reading materials.

As many of us are finding ourselves grounded in laudable voluntary or involuntary social distancing or even quarantine schemes (here is a Medium post that – among other – explains the benefits of social distancing based on solid data – see chart 23), we have been wondering how to keep all of us working as teams.

For those of you who are part of a corporate Office 365 scheme, things should be reasonably simple. You’ve got Teams chat and -videoconferences, Teams whiteboard (if not, ask your admin to have it unlocked – instructions can be found on the MS web site!) and Planner for task- and Kanban boards. You’re all set. Keep collaborating!

For the rest of us, we have tried to find essential collaboration apps that offer a usable „free“ tier for small groups. Ideally they are also from Europe or a region of the world that is considered reasonably innocuous with respect to data protection and security.

The following suggestions won’t have you wrestle with controllers over expense reports and they should (obviously this is no legal advice!) also keep you out of harm’s way with respect to discussions about sharing stuff via servers in potentially hostile geos.

Here are our choices:

Remote Collaboration and Video Conferencing:

Teamviewer out of Göppingen, Germany allows to collaborate online, provide real-time support or access to files, networks, and programs as well as to participate in meetings, chat with individuals or groups, and make video calls with one click. Teamviewer makes security a priority and offers a 15-day free trial as well as a completely free option – for personal use only!

Circuit by former Siemens subsidiary Unify out of Munich brings together voice, video, screen share, messaging, and file sharing into a single tool with one view accessible through multiple devices and platforms. Circuit offers a free trial version that allows for max. 100 users and videoconferences limited to 3 participants.

The Obvious alternatives: If you are less concerned over European hosting and use Apple devices in your firm, Facetime is an obvious videoconferencing choice that by virtue of Apple’s policies still offers solid encryption and privacy. Zoom with its ease of use and great video quality has become the de facto video conferencing standard for many tech firms.

When it comes to messaging: Slack is the 300-pound gorilla in the arena, but we’d also consider Twist, which is less noisy and intrusive.

Shared Whiteboards to Keep Your Team Brainstorming:

Whiteboard Fox out the UK is our favorite. Simple, quick, and informal whiteboard sessions. Great with iPads or hybrid PCs. It has all the essentials of a useful whiteboard app: freehand drawing, straight lines, the ability to embed photos and add text. It’s totally free – and probably therefore often slow to start these days.

Stormboard out of Edmonton, Canada provides you with virtual sticky notes that can be turned into collaborative whiteboards of their own which all collaborators can then work with and edit in real time. Cool! Stormboard offers a free tier that allows up to 5 users to collaborate on 5 boards max.

Our alternative for those less concerned about GDPR etc.: Miro is available on any device plus the web. In addition to blank whiteboards it offers a wide range of templates for various purposes and boasts a solid presentation mode.

Kanban Boards to Keep Track of Tasks and Progress:

Kanbanflow by CodeKick out of Göteborg, Sweden is a user-friendly kanban app with some helpful additional features, such as @ messages, that allows team members to see who is doing which tasks, WIP limits and swim lanes. The free version has no limits with respect to users or time (but offers no swim lanes).

Meistertask by Meisterlabs from Vaterstetten (near Munich) has much to offer beyond Kanban-style project boards. It allows to organize and manage tasks in customizable environment that can be adapted to individual user needs. Their free tier allows for up to 3 projects and unlimited project members.

The alternative: Trello by JIRA maker Atlassian has become pretty much the industry standard.

If you don’t (have to) worry about safe harbours and want it all in one package: Zoho has made their interesting  „Remotely“ suite, that covers all the above categories (and then some), available for free: „Zoho Remotely will remain free till July 1, 2020 by which time we hope the Coronavirus crisis tides over. We wish this is of help to all teams.“ (Tell me about crises not offering marketing opportunities…)

Keep your social distance and collaborate safely!

All the best,