The tools and tricks we use for top-notch teamwork

We aren’t all born time managing geniuses or Zen masters of productivity but we become them with the help of the tools around us. Exactly the same goes for working as a team; seamless teamwork does not happen overnight. It requires the right know-how and tools. As a digital agency that works with different freelancers, remote and at the office, we have tried and tested different tools to ingrain (see what we did there) a positive workflow into our team.

It’s one thing to do it together, it’s another to do it well.

What

We don’t slack on slack. We get things done (even if it’s a competition on who has the funniest GIF). Slack is like a super-powered version of a messenger app that can be used across multiple devices and platforms. It lets us chat one-on-one to our peers but also in groups across different channels. Yes, including a more relaxed channel, because GIF’s are basically modern-day bonding.

Why

Asking for feedback on UX? Questions about the latest blog post? Deciding on what time Happy Hour should start? Slack has us covered. Slack truly brings our team together, allowing us to split projects or themes in different channels, with only the appropriate members. What’s more, it easily connects with our other favorite apps, adding integrated context to our conversations and creating one passage of information instead of five, or ten. You can also upload files seamlessly, so in essence everything is in one place – possibly the best part.

Everything before Slack is like a blur of inconvenience. I’d had to work my way through a maze of emails, WhatsApp groups, Imessages and never really end up finding what I was looking for.

Annabel van Eijk

What

Pure high-fidelity goodness: Invision is a presentation tool that lets you seamlessly create interactive mockups for your design ideas. When your genius idea is all mocked up and ready to go, you can share it with your teams and/or clients.

Why

We’re creative people, if we may say so ourselves, and this app is clearly made with our kind in mind. It looks damn good for starters and makes our ideas look just as good as we dreamt them up. It’s also super easy to use and can really bring your ideas to life. You’ve got a comment on that slider? No problem, you can have the discussion right in the app instead of starting another trail of dreadful emails/WhatsApp messages/unwanted phone calls. All that saving time means we’ve got hours left on our hands to actually work on implementing the feedback in our projects, instead of just receiving it.

As a designer, I’m all about the visuals. Invision is perfect because it lets me visualize each phase of the project and split boards up in different units: making the process a breeze to follow.

Jeffrey Goodett

What

Trello is like the Beyonce of to-do lists or the Pinterest of planning. Glamorous yet approachable; it is a visual way to manage your projects effectively and become a boss in being organized. It uses a cloud-based software that lets you dissect your projects into different boards with multiple people.

Why

To-do lists are tedious and uninspiring by nature, unless you’re one of those bullet journaling sharpie-loving types. We like things digital and this app lets you move around boards as though they are old-school sticky notes with all the online convenience; digitally shareable, searchable and come with handy reminders. In just one quick glance you can see who’s working on what, what has been finished and when something is in process.

Trello works perfect with today’s agile methodology. The only thing I need to know is what are we doing the coming 2 weeks, what is in progress, what is ready to be reviewed and what is done. That’s it.

David van Delden

A whiteboard and marker

Ah, those good old days. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to switch off anything that buzzes or receives emails and get back into brainstorming. All you need is your team, anything big to write on and a marker. All those digital tools are super-efficient but it’s good to balance it out with some human-to-human contact. Yep, actual talking instead of typing.

Our stand-ups are also unmissable for effective teamwork, in which actual standing is a must. In 15 minutes, we all say what we’re doing that week and what we have done. No discussing, just the pure bliss of clarity.

A deeper emotional connection simply can’t be sparked through apps, no matter how great they are. That’s why I find it important, no crucial, to switch off our phones and come together in ‘real life’. It builds trust and gives spirit to collaboration, using all our senses to communicate. It’s not about time management, it’s about energy management.

Stephen Garcia


Oiling the wheels of a new workforce

Ingraining personality into a platform that smooths out the freelance lifestyle. One independent worker at a time.

The digital evolution is turning efficiency into freedom, with specialised freelancers now on demand more than ever. Work experience has been redefined and Ngrane’s managing partner, Stephen Garcia, has got a few great ideas up his sleeves regarding this evolution. Lots of ideas actually, which he will try to explain in a nutshell but always ends up being more like a TED Talk. Combining personal experience with in-depth research, he devised a new platform strategy that works as a hybrid between traditional and modern work values. We haven’t got an actual TED Talk but we talked to him about his ideas and vision for the platform with personality.

The workforce has taken the fast lane when it comes to flexibility and freelancers are officially becoming the norm. Stephen has noticed this trend first hand “There is so much more demand for new specialised skills, such as user experience designers, app developers and digital marketing experts. This new workforce is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds and skills, more high profile and attractive than ever before,” he says. As a Digital Agency, Ngrane works with both freelancers and full-time employed staff, as Stephen puts it the agency is a “crossover between the modern workforce and traditional values.”

“This new workforce is a melting pot of diverse backgrounds and skills, more high profile and attractive than ever before”

Living an autonomous and independent lifestyle does not come without a few downsides. Often freelancers miss a sense of belonging, a community and personal contact. These values, linked to traditional workforce, are lacking in many platforms, including those that pair talent with business. According to research done by JPMorgan Chase, one in six online platform workers is new every month and 50% stop within one year. Stephen tells us that a lot of this stems from the demise in human connection “Platforms should address the lack of engagement with existing workers, and recognise and meet their diverse motivation and needs. One size just does not fit all. The market is expanding rapidly with the increase of freelancers and other trends. The current platform models are lacking 3 factors that research shows are crucial for long-term success. Therefore Ngrane will focus on these 3 areas; personalisation and coaching, premium service and tools, and collaboration and community.”

“It’s in our name, Ngrane comes from ingrain, we’re in the business of creating deep-rooted relationships.”

The new hybrid model

Ngrane will become a hybrid model for the new workforce: part traditional agency and part freelance talent platform. It will bring back meaningful and long-lasting connections into the digital arena. “It’s in our name, Ngrane comes from ingrain, we’re in the business of creating deep-rooted relationships,” says Stephen. The model acts on both a physical and digital environment. The physical will build on human connections through co-working spaces such as WeWork, organising events, personal coaching and by creating a sense of comradeship between freelancers. Instead of working at home on the couch, Skyping everyone or spending your hourly rate in a busy Starbucks: a co-working space can add a little traditional comfort to your trailblazing lifestyle. Stephen goes on to tell us that, “Whilst the digital platform model will serve for efficiency in attracting, organising, developing and managing talent. Freelancers will have the space to work on their own goals, maintaining their personal freedom, without compromising on social belonging. This model will foster happiness, creativity, productivity, and social connections. Fostering even better results.”

“We are a collective of unique individuals”

Ngrane’s new model will take user experience beyond just the digital arena. What we often forget is that user experience is about much more than just being efficient, a personal connection can weigh in just as much. “We elevate the unique skills of each individual,  tailoring our service to each freelancer and giving them more room to pursue projects that inspire them and fuel them creatively,” says Stephen. Yes freelancers can have it all and Ngrane is going to make it happen.