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[b]BLUF: [/b] Let’s share what works when your team and/or your manager are not co-located with you.

[i][u]It’s not an option[/u][/i]

Many managers have no choice: Retail operations are by nature geographically dispersed. Overseas manufacturing is common. Consulting firms hire talent anywhere and send them everywhere. M&A activity can create dispersed teams.

[i][u]There have been related forum discussions: [/u][/i]

Pros and Cons of co-location are woven into this very interesting thread:
http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3128

Managing distributed project teams here: http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=3222 ,

And discussion of remote one-on-ones are here:
http://www.manager-tools.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=2476

[i][u]So! [/u][/i]

What works for you? What techniques have helped you be more effective with your remote team, peers, or manager?

Let me start by over-summarizing the three main points of the “Virtual Teams” podcast:
1. Hire the right people
2. Get the whole team together in person
3. Communicate like crazy
( http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/10/virtual-teams/ )

Those recommendations are powerful. It’s impossible to over-communicate.

One more thing that’s made a difference for my team: having clear, measurable goals, and a company that lives by them. A performance culture is important to maintaining visibility.

John

HMac's picture

Videoconference. As a habit, not an event. We use ours every day.

If you have budget issues, start with webcams.

You'll never go back to voice-only.

-Hugh

cwatine's picture

Well ... :? Now, for the low cost advice : close your eyes when you have O3 by phone. Your concentration will be 10 times better.
Or, if you don't want to close your eyes close your laptop and have your paper and your paper only in your visual range.

I am thinking about investing in a video conf unit. Even if the cost is still very high, it can save travel costs. Travels are really beginning to be an issue here in France with the environment concerns growing fast.
Any advice about the best machines?

HMac's picture

Ced - sorry, no advice regarding the brands (I've always used whatever the company supplied!).
-Hugh

Gareth's picture

[quote="cedwat"]Travels are really beginning to be an issue here in France with the environment concerns growing fast.
Any advice about the best machines?[/quote]

Depending on your companies internet connection and policy you could use some cheap out of the box type software.

I've had great experiences with SKYPE..... but is it professional enough for your needs?

bffranklin's picture

[quote="cedwat"]
I am thinking about investing in a video conf unit. Even if the cost is still very high, it can save travel costs. Travels are really beginning to be an issue here in France with the environment concerns growing fast.
Any advice about the best machines?[/quote]

Ced,

If you're looking for a professional grade unit and not just some webcam software, Polycom is really the leader in the area. A base unit to teleconference between two sites would be right around a couple thousand at list price (note, I dont think the base model will do HD video). You'd probably want to buy the base model for each site, and you can probably leverage vendor relations (or a bid system) to get the cost down.

itilimp's picture

In terms of technology to support collaborative working / virtual teams is enterprise-class unified communications systems, e.g. [url=http://www.microsoft.com/uc/Default.mspx]Microsoft Office Communication Server[/url]. If your workplace is already a Microsoft house and has the budget available then take a look.

There's a blog called [url=http://www.leadingvirtually.com/]Leading Virtually[/url] that has some good advice. Admittedly most of it is common sense - yet that is what we need to hear half the time!

cwatine's picture

We sometmes use Skype and it is okay for conversations with two persons.

We also use netviewer (Germanproduct) for working on shared documents (it allows you to see each other's screen and has a lots of easy fonctionnalities).

But, for team meeting, I feel we need a good sound (we already have that) and a cam that allows to see everyone arround the table with a "fluid" picture. So I'll check with Polycom.

Thanks for your help.

jhack's picture

Netviewer, Webex, Netmeeting - these are all really useful! Good point.

Does anyone have experience with a 'shared whiteboard' type solution that allows teams to interact together with the content?

John

MsSunshine's picture

Bottom line: It's a little complicated to learn at first and hostage to technology glitches. It was also VERY expensive. Each location had a board and projector setup that ran about $10K.

We used smart boards between two offices successfully for about 6 months. When it worked, it was great. One location could draw and the other could see it. Then they could pass control over to the other location for them to draw. It worked very well for awhile. Both sides had to have a computer, a high resolution projector, the same physical board and the same software set up. You had to establish the connections. Once that was all done and people learned how to work it, everything worked well. You could even save what you had done together to a file.

The problem is that it then started not working. IT wasn't sure if it was a problem in the network or the Same-time software. They never could figure it out. Once it became unreliable, we quit using it. The company quit using that meeting software for another because it generally became unreliable.

bffranklin's picture

[quote="jhack"]Netviewer, Webex, Netmeeting - these are all really useful! Good point.

Does anyone have experience with a 'shared whiteboard' type solution that allows teams to interact together with the content?

John[/quote]

John,

If you can live without complicated pictures, the low tech solution is sharing a google doc that you're maintaining lists in. Check with your IT group about their policy on gDocs before doing this, of course.

-B

Jozette's picture

About 2/3 of my team is managed virtually and this is new as of a few months ago. I've had to adjust my style of management greatly in order to accomodate those employees that worked from home.

I use a program called "breeze" and it allows me to connect my webcam and set up a "chat room" so my virtual agents can see me and chat with other co-workers. I can also share my desktop screen through breeze so if I'm trying to show them a process or even do their monthly reviews, it's more personal.

drinkcoffee's picture

Hey itilimp, thanks for the referral on the Leading Virtually blog. I've added this to my RRS Reader and it looks like an amazing resource.

bffranklin's picture

[quote="Jozette"]About 2/3 of my team is managed virtually and this is new as of a few months ago. I've had to adjust my style of management greatly in order to accomodate those employees that worked from home.

I use a program called "breeze" and it allows me to connect my webcam and set up a "chat room" so my virtual agents can see me and chat with other co-workers. I can also share my desktop screen through breeze so if I'm trying to show them a process or even do their monthly reviews, it's more personal.[/quote]

Adobe's Breeze was used in my online degree program. It's definitely an awesome piece of software! As an added bonus, you can share your desktop and documents through the multiple panes of the Breeze window.

jhack's picture

Jozette and bffranklin,

Thank you for the suggestion.

Breeze has been rebranded as Adobe Connect. We've started using it.

Very interesting. More on using the virtual whiteboard later.

itilimp,

[url=http://leadingvirtually.com]Leading Virtually [/url]is definitely worth reading. Thanks for the link.

ced,

No data for you yet, but if you're patient, I won't forget you.

John

cwatine's picture

My IT manager is now presenting me different offers. It seems that SONY have interesting solutions for video conf.

Are there any important points I should be aware of?

Thanks.

Glenn Ross's picture

jhack, I recommend Basecamp by 37 signals.
http://www.basecamphq.com/
Files, messages, writeboards, to do's, etc. Very intuitive and easy to learn even for flashing 12's like me. I'm running about 15 projects there.

IanPratt's picture

Hi

I have had experiences where the company's video conference facilities only allow up to 3 sites connected and if you want anymore you need to get a third party to set it up for you.

Might be worth asking before you get in too deep

Ian

HMac's picture

Hi Ian -

My recommendation is that videoconferencing be used to connect only two locations anyway.

In my experience, the more connections you add, the less interactive and natural the communication becomes. It moves from being a technologically facilitated conversation, to becoming more of a series of alternating monologues.

Yes - three or more points CAN work. But when you're starting out, keep it to two.

-Hugh