Working with People You Can't Be With Daily Report (July 21, 2008)

The People Part of Working with People You Can’t Be With

  • Distributed teams are just not real, so let’s stop pretending, argues Tobias. “Distributed teams are not teams; they are at best a collection of people who communicate regularly. But communication is not collaboration; it is a poor relation, weak and insipid in comparison. A distributed team cannot create the kind of energy that comes from human eye contact, from shared spontaneous laughter, from physical touch. True collaboration requires all five senses, not just a voice over the telephone, or a second-hand video image. And email… don’t even go there. Distributed teams require managers, and thus can never be truly self-organizing. Time differences and delayed response times inevitably slow down conversation, hold up decisions and ultimately cripple agility. Distributed teams can never be truly Agile. So let’s stop pretending.
  • Chorus shut its offices last month and turned everyone into a remote worker, saving $400K a year in various costs. “Chorus’s transformation into a virtual company staffed with telecommuters hasn’t been flawless, but none of the hurdles the company has encountered at this point have proven insurmountable. Through research, planning and some trial-and-error, the company addressed many of the cultural challenges associated with telecommuting and managing virtual workforces.” Key lessons: (1) ensure you have the right infrastructure in place to support distributed workers — for Chorus, that’s mainly around telephony, (2) create new work-at-home policies — eg, separate working space at home, a desk is a must-have, most equipment is supplied by the firm, and more, and (3) deliberate planning for the social aspect of work is essential — and daily conference calls and IM are key to this. Nice case study of the challenges to overcome with being a virtual company, and how to keep people together when apart.

The Technology Trends of Working with People You Can’t Be With

  • Colligo released Version 3.1 of Contributor Pro, its rich client for SharePoint. New features: folder-level metadata support, new Office 2007 metadata support, German language support, and more. Available immediately. By setting metadata automatically based on folders, documents are better classified, leading to better findability for others.
  • Software602 released Version 6.0 of its Groupware Server. “The all-new Groupware Server client integrates e-mail, RSS feeds, public folders, contacts, tasks, shared calendars, online document sharing and archiving into a rich browser-based interface providing access to all collaboration functionality from anywhere. With the Outlook Connector, users can continue using Microsoft Outlook without the need to invest in an Exchange Server. All e-mail and instant messages are saved to a SQL based read-only archive that cannot be modified. The full-text search engine can quickly find any e-mail, attachment, instant message, contact, calendar or document object. Create, share, and publish documents online with shared document storage accessible from a web browser, FTP client, or WebDAV.” Available immediately. Never heard of it … but sounds capable, particularly the SQL database underpinnings.

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