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Posted by: David Spinks - 23 June 2010 / 11:08
“What is it like to work with a remote team?” It’s a question that I get asked all the time. It’s a relatively new movement that is growing exponentially as a model for business teams. It seems like every day a new tool comes out that allows people to connect and communicate in new ways, recreationally and professionally.
Our entire team at Scribnia works remotely. We don’t have an office and we’re scattered across the globe from NY, to Montreal, to Romania, Ukraine, Dominican Republic and back to New Jersey. So we know a thing or two about working remotely and I’d like to share some of our experiences and tips with you.
First the tools. Here’s what we use:
Yammer and email are used pretty interchangeable for us. We try to use Yammer as much as possible though, so that the entire team can follow along with what everyone is working on. We use it regularly to share and provide feedback on new projects and ideas.
We have team meetings as well as meetings with others on skype. Conference calls are a lifesaver for us. Skype is also the little bit of pseudo face to face interaction we get thanks to video chat.
All new projects are added as tasks to Jira and assigned to specific members of the team. It is our organization and reporting tool to make sure projects are on track.
4. Google Wave
This tool is still experimental for us. I’ve started to create new waves for individual projects so that we can organize new mockups and feedback coming in throughout the course of each project.
There are tons of tools out there that may work better for you. I hope you’ll share some in the comments if you know of any.
So what is it like have a full team working remotely? Is it beneficial or detrimental? I’ll break it down for you.
- Flexibility. We can all work from home. My boss can spend time with his new born baby in Montreal while I get to stick around in NY and do my thing. The freedom of working from home and not having to relocate is definitely a plus.
- Dollah Dollah billz yall. It saves a lot of money not having to pay for an office space, for the commute, and we can outsource a lot of work.
- Access to more communities. Big blogging event going down in Montreal? We’re covered. One in New York (like every day)? We’re still covered.
- Experience. Since businesses love to save money, and running a remote team saves a lot of money, it’s pretty clear to me that more and more teams are going to go virtual. Better to get the experience now of working with a remote team and learn how to use the tools efficiently.
- Mobility. Many of the tools we use are available as mobile apps as well. Since our entire team is using these apps, as long as I can access them from my phone, it’s not that different from working at my desk. It allows me to attend events, and be on the move, while still staying on track with my team. With a team that works in an office, odds are they don’t work primarily on applications that you can access from your phone.
- Team collaboration. It’s much harder to collaborate with your team members when you’re not collaborating in person…for a few reasons.
- You can’t see a persons face, which means you can’t fully understand their reactions and emotions in a conversation.
- Quick and easy tasks are no longer quick or easy. It’s much easier for me to walk over 5 feet, point something out on a screen to my colleague, and have them fix it up really quick. When working remotely, you have to get in touch with them, set up a time to meet and discuss, and use a screenshare to explain what you mean.
- When you’re surrounded by your coworkers, you’re more motivated. Surrounding yourself with other motivated and energetic people will inspire you. Sitting by yourself in your bedroom, not so much.
- Time zone issues. My colleagues in Romania probably hate me for all the late night messages I send them. ”The sun is still shining in NY!” They get me back by waking me up nice and early on occasion.
- Office relationships. I don’t know about you, but I’m the type that really appreciates being able to go out and grab a beer with my team after a long hard day of work. Getting to know your colleagues on a personal level is a lot harder with a remote team.
So like everything else…it’s a trade off.
Here are some tips for staying efficient:
- Meet with at least one person on your team every day.
- Have a weekly team meeting with as many of your team members as possible.
- Have a home base tool where everyone can see what other employees are working on. As I mentioned, we use Yammer.
- Use project management tools to keep all your projects on time and on track. We use Jira.
- Try to maintain as much personal interaction as possible. When we write out emails, they tend to lack emotion. So, use skype’s video chat whenever possible, or have actual phone calls.
- Establish an efficient recording and reporting structure. Your boss isn’t there with you, so it’s important that they’re aware of what you’re working on.
It’s been an iterative process for us. It’s not something you can just implement and see the same kind of efficiency you had with an office. It’s a learning experience and we’re getting more efficient over time.
It’s up to the managers to keep the team on track and maintain ongoing communication. It’s up to the employees to stay motivated and get their job done without a manager looking over their shoulder.
Do you work on a virtual team? What tools do you use? What has your experience been?
More resources for remote teams:
Posted by: David Spinks - 27 January 2010 / 18:30
There was a great question in the bloggeries forums from a user that wants to start a blog, but wasn’t sure if they should focus on the smallest niche possible and reach less people, or go with a broader focus and appeal to more people right off the bat.
Here are my thoughts…
If the video isn’t working, you can view it here.
Posted by: David Spinks - 5 January 2010 / 12:05
We were not asked to write this post. Brian and the team at copyblogger doesn’t even know I’m writing it. I am simply writing this post because I have found a ginormous (yea I said it) amount of value in their content and felt compelled to share it with you guys, here.
Every time they talk about a common mistake that writers make, I can think of a time when I’ve made that mistake. They help me fix it.
Their advice on headlines and on writing blog posts in general has completely changed the way I approach blogging, and the way I write.
They bring in some extremely interesting and talented guest writers that provided a different perspective on writing. I’ve discovered and followed quite a few of them.
When Brian Clark gives advice, you don’t feel like he’s talking down to you. Posts can be lengthy, and yet still extremely easy to read/browse. The content is always very relevant and extremely easy to consume. They’re great teachers.
They’re not pushy at all about selling their products like some other blog tip sites.
In a nutshell, CopyBlogger rocks, and anyone who writes, should subscribe over there. You won’t regret it.
Impress me once, good for you. Impress me every damn time I visit your site, and I will share it with as many people as I possibly can.
Posted by: David Spinks - 9 June 2009 / 12:49
Welcome to all our new users coming in after reading the review of Scribnia on Mashable. Hope you’ve enjoyed using the site so far. So with all the new users, I thought this a good time for a post with some tips to get more reviews on your author page. Why do you want more reviews? Well, the more reviews you have, the better chance you have to be ranked highly in your category, the more feedback you receive from your readers and the more you have to show for yourself as an author or blogger. So, here are 5 tips to get you more reviews…
- Be active on the site. Afterall, this is a community built on our willingness to share as a community. Do unto others…that whole deal. If you review someone on Scribnia, they may be more likely to drop by and write a review for you as well. The more you comment, review or even just a quick thumbs up, the greater chance someone will take a look at your author page.
- Add the Widget. The widget is a simple and effective way to encourage your readers, new and old, to go review you on Scribnia. Throw it in your sidebar and let your readers know its there (some might only follow you in an aggregator like google reader). To learn more about the widget read our last post.
- Write a post. I’ve found personally, that when looking for feedback from my readers, the best method is to just write a post calling out for their help. I did this once when I had horrible writers block and my readers came through. Just write a post encouraging your readers to go to Scribnia and write a review of you. Mike Fisher is a great example of a user that reached out to his community and received amazing feedback.
- Just ask. Writing a post didn’t work, fine. You have a lazy readership and they need a little kick in the butt. Send some of your most loyal readers a quick message asking them to review you. Sometimes the best way to get someone to do something is to just ask! They’ll almost always happily oblige.
- Evalutation? Wow are your readers lazy…or are they? If you can’t get anyone to review you, that could be telling of the kind of content that you write. Is it compelling? Unique? Readers aren’t going to review if they have nothing to say, good or bad. Get creative. Think about how you can engage your community with your content in a different way. Maybe this is just the kind of signal you needed…or maybe your readers really are THAT lazy.
Do you have any ideas for getting more reviews? What has worked for you?