30th May 2016
Successful remote collaboration doesn't just happen. People from different cultures, in different locations don't just suddenly come together and function like a well-oiled machine.
From a manager's perspective, you need to pay attention to the times those teams come together, their face-to-face time, the technology used, design of shared spaces, of transparency, and access to and sharing of information; it’s here that you’ll see what is gained and lost in terms of productivity and efficiency.
In this post we pay attention to some of the problems to remote collaboration and how to avoid them.
If you work with teams that are in different time zones, it's important t dedicate time when you know all of your team are working. This might not be an issue if one team is in London and another in France (+1 hour) but it can become a productivity blocker if you have a team in London and another in Japan.
Communcation can become delayed: you send a message, email and then wait to the next morning for a response, send a reply, wait a day. Remote collaboration just isn't efficient enough. The solution: staggered working hours, London in early and Tokyo late. It doesn't have to be every day to begin with, but two or three days are a good start.
There are a plethora of screen-sharing solutions out there that let you share your screen with others, so you can show what you're working on to others and work through things at the same time.
Personally speaking we tried a lot of them but they just didn't solve our problems at all. We were seeing each-other’s content but missing the context. We were redlining documents back and forth until it became indecipherable.
We were having to connect a veritable web of cables just to stream a single device at a time to a screen – this and many other issues were not being addressed adequately; it worked ok for one user but it was terrible for multiple people all wanting to show content.
This is why we created Montage, our very own Wireless Presentation System. Anyone, anywhere can connect to a meeting and share their screen, their content, webcam and audio up to our meeting room display, they can also see our content - so when we're working together on something, we don't miss any content or context, we actually do work together.
These days you simply have to store files and materials in a place where everyone can get to it. It's not a good use of time for someone in a remote team or a different office struggling to find something that had been sent to them as an attachment or similar.
If there's a time-zone difference it's even more disruptive, they can't call and check with the main office because everybody went home 4 hours ago! Use
Sharepoint, Box, Dropbox etc to keep everything in one place together, and if you're using a Wireless Presentation System, ensure you can share files directly from within the meeting rather than have to do it afterwards using another solution, taking unnecessary time and effort.
Transparency is key for remote collaboration. When you're side by side it's easy to see and hear what others are working on. When you're remote, it's different.
Using tools like I Done This, Montage for Teams, Asana or Trello to check on the staus of a project makes it easy for everyone to see what everyone else is doing. That way, your entire team is in the loop and remote collaboration feels a lot more effective than a 30 message long email chain spread over a week.
What are your tips to overcome the challenges of working across distributed team?
In our FREE ebook: 101 Ways To Be More Productive, we offer hints and tips to make your working day more productive with plenty of tips included on working effectively with remote teams.