Monday, 22 September 2014

Global Collaboration

Remember that time I was lucky enough to go to Italy for work? Well, since then I've been working closely with an multi-disciplinary, multi-company team in order to specify and define the requirements for a project that is going to span different continents and use a combination of our system and a system designed by another company. 

This has required a lot of calls. At any one time, there will be people from at least 2 different continents (and usually more) sitting around our virtual table. English isn't always everyone's first language and while the conference calling facility we've used has been generally reliable, we have sometimes run into problems such as the ones illustrated in the two videos in this post.

There are a few things that I've learnt while being part of this project:
  • You need to make sure that everyone is on the same page.
  • Internet calls allow for some great collaboration (however, sometimes that isn't enough and face-to-face meetings are more productive).
  • Dial in to your calls at least 5-10 minutes early so that, if you have problems connecting, you can address them before the meeting.
  • The "mute" buttons are really useful, but don't forget that while you are talking with your colleagues "silently" the meeting is carrying on for everyone else so pay attention to what is being said over the connection.
  • Keep your language as simple and clear as possible, especially when English is not the mother tongue of some of the attendees.
  • Screen sharing is useful. But sometimes it's easier to just have everyone open up the document being talked about on their own computers.
  • A single point to save all working documents is important.
  • Keeping detailed meeting minutes is, quite probably, the most important activity during your calls.
  • Using on-line collaboration tools is great and can help make work run smoothly.
  • Have an idea of what needs to happen next (eg next planning stage, other meetings, important activities) and at the relevant time start confirming that these activities have started and time they will complete.

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