Managing large projects that span international borders requires a lot of interpersonal communications. This is complicated by geography and can become quite expensive if relying on traditional phone services. Fortunately, project managers have a variety of alternatives available. Below are a few communications tools to consider when communicating with a geographically dispersed team.
Text-Based Communications Tools
Email is a tried-and-true communications method that lends itself to international collaboration, especially when time differences are significant. With email, there’s generally an understanding that the other person isn’t expected to respond right away. It’s also useful for group communications. Downsides include a lack of urgency, lack of verbal and audible cues, and difficulty in organizing a high volume of messages. Use when you need to get information out to the entire team (such as conference call invitations) or you don’t need a response right away.
Text messaging is useful when you need a response promptly. It tends to be more urgent with an expectation of a prompt reply. While group chats are possible, group text messaging can quickly overwhelm team members, especially if the messages aren’t necessarily relevant to the entire group. Since standard text messaging uses phone numbers, texting international team members can be problematic — and potentially costly. Use when you need a quick answer.
Voice-Based Communications Tools
As noted earlier, traditional phone services can become an expensive communications method when working with a global team. It’s also complicated with various country-specific exit codes, country codes, and unfamiliar dialing conventions. Call quality can vary, too, based on the different telecommunications networks in each country.
Getting virtual phone numbers for the different countries your team members are in is one potential solution. These global virtual phone numbers are local to each caller, eliminating the need for them to figure out their exit codes or dial an international phone number. They won’t incur international calling costs either. Several monthly plans are available without a contract.
Thus, your team members in Italy would dial an Italian number to reach you while those in Canada would dial a Canadian one. All calls would be forwarded to the number you designate as your “ring to” number. To make cheap calls to your team members, we suggest getting a virtual number local to your country and then changing the “ring to” number temporarily so that it rings to the person you are calling in another country. Use virtual numbers to save money on international phone calls and to make it easier for others to reach you.
Most likely, you’ll want to hold conference calls with the entire team. Our international conferencing plan has more 150 international access numbers for countries around the world. All calls are routed over a modern fiber-optic telecommunications network, delivering outstanding sound quality no matter where in the world your callers are calling from. Our per minute rates are extremely competitive, and you pay only for the minutes used. Use for group audio collaboration, weekly meetings, brainstorming, problem-solving, and more.
Web-Based Communications Tools
Collaborative project management apps like Asana and Slack are another tool for your international project management toolbox. Topics and text-based conversations tend to be easier to manage and organize than email. While you can access these tools on your phone, they don’t necessarily take over your personal texting app the way regular SMS texting does. Consider using in place of email and SMS texting.
Desktop video conferencing is quickly becoming a popular way to communicate with global team members. You can create a hybrid video/audio conference for attendees who may not have a webcam or sufficient bandwidth to participate using video. Being able to see and hear one another helps foster trust and stronger relationships. It can also help improve communication as it’s easier to perceive meaning when you can see their faces and body language. Use desktop video conferencing when you want face-to-face meetings.
Web conferencing includes additional features such as chats and screen sharing. Video may or may not be used, depending on your preferences. For example, it’s not uncommon for the host to share a PowerPoint on his or her screen or pass the sharing controls to another who might share a YouTube video or an Excel report. Attendees typically attend via a web browser. You can use computer audio or dial in on a separate phone line. Use web conferencing when you want to share a presentation, video, graphics, reports, and other content with your team.
There’s more than one way to communicate with a group, no matter how dispersed they may be. Chances are, you’ll mix and match the tools listed above throughout the project. Our contract-free plans allow you to pay as you go. Once the project is terminated, you can close your accounts no questions asked. Whether you need international conferencing and virtual numbers for a two-week project or a two-year one, our plans give you the flexibility you need.