Aggressively promote COMMUNICATION channels while managing distributed projects

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Aggressively Promote Communication In Distributed Projects

Anupam Kundu New York, New York, USA

Distributed projects create unusual challenges since the project team members are not collocated (not physically together). As a result, the following issues can become impediments to the success of a project.

• Lack of trust between the geographically dispersed teams.

• Unwieldy amounts of time spent on communication.

• Inability to foster a “one-team” feeling due to cultural differences.

• Lack of participation from team members during common meetings.

• Lack of identity with the project team, as team members in different geographies may speak different languages and/or have different project practices.

These stumbling blocks have become nightmares for many software project managers facilitating distributed projects. Here are few to-dos to add to your communication arsenal if you are assigned to manage a distributed project.

• Find and document the overlap time between different geographically distributed teams (don't forget Daylight Savings Time).

• Publish the Instant Messaging (IM) addresses of all the team members (and the best time to reach them).

• Make sure that each key stakeholder has access to all conference call access details (Web and Telephone).

• Gather and share the vacation details for different teams on a shared calendar.

• Publish a schedule of daily stand-up meeting between geographically dispersed teams. Stand-up meetings are better than sit-down ones. Attendees focus, because no one wants to stand for a long time.

• Publish the name and a headshot (photo) of each team member. Identify a back-up contact person for each key role.

• Set up a common location for sharing project artifacts between the teams (documents/reports/templates).

Besides enhancing your communication strategy, there are logistics issues that need to be addressed to promote superior communication among distributed teams.

• Invest in high-quality speakerphones for all locations. When participating in conference calls, assurances of stable phone connectivity between different teams will go a long way to building camaraderie between those teams participating.

• Place the phone in a big enough room for the team members to gather comfortably for a call. Equip the room with a large table, as you may want to provide food for those participants meeting at unusual hours. Add white boards, so notes from phone conversations can be jotted down quickly in a way everyone in the room can view.

• Budget funds for a few team members to travel to other team sites, perhaps during the Initiation Phase or while planning Quality Assurance processes.

• Create a project dashboard (use any collaboration tool) for teams to communicate their issues. Share these dashboard images between the teams whether they use online tools, or only have the technology for digital photo sharing.

• Publish the overall goals and targets of the project at a common location for everyone to see, even telecommuting team members working from home.

• Arrange presentations by business sponsors and insist key teams members from every location participate in hearing these presentations.

As virtual and distributed teams become more common, you can increase your chances of success with innovative communication techniques.

[Note to O'Reilly, bullet points should be indented, BKD]

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