Last week I traveled to New York and visited our U.S. office. It is a huge difference to meet face to face with the same people that I talk with over the phone, exchange e-mails with and video conference every day.
Suddenly, I had to rely on e-mail and phone, to interact with my Israeli team. It was a very strange feeling, calculating time differences to see whether it would be OK to call home or not.
Managing teams that are geographically separate is very challenging. Special attention should be given to time differences, as well as different cultures and language.
So how do we face this challenge? The key to successful team work is communication. This is even more important when working with remote teams. Periodic conference calls are essential, as well as alternative communication: instant messaging, e-mails, wiki (we use two different wikis in coordination with each other: twiki and vqwiki).
By the way, we are not alone in our pursuit of effective remote team work. Check these out: Managing distributed software teams by ExtremePlanner.com, How to start your remote project team off on the right foot by Web Worker Daily and even Yahoo started Yahoo pipes with geographically separate teams, as reported on Library House.
But with this challenge comes also great value: as I was working in our NY office I ended my day with an e-mail to my Israeli team asking to move forward with an idea that was just raised. Sure enough, the next morning when I came into the office – our new gadget (written on top of the SharedBook Open API) was there.
You can imagine our excitement from this overnight magic! (Actually we are going to launch this pretty soon, and I will make sure to cover this in one of my next blog posts – it is really cool, so stay tuned…).