For over ten years Webstars has had a distributed teams with management, design and marketing staff in London and front end developers and programmers in two locations in Romania.
Over the years our working practices have evolved and with the advent of fast internet, and a large number of online collaboration tools managing distributed team members has never been as easy.
We were early adaptors of VOIP protocol phone services and currently have 20 users across 3 offices. We use 2 Coovox V2 (zycoo.com) asterisk servers located in London and Bucharest and we use Yealink phone handsets. The servers connect our offices and remote users and allow clients to dial a London or New York number and then choose the extension of the person they need to talk to. The coovox system has an integrated voice mail system with messages emailed to users mailboxes.
Out of hours, the system diverts callers to our 24 / 7 answering service. If the call is business critical it then creates an alert in our escalation system and ensures that the message is passed on to an on call engineers or our senior management team.
Although the calls between offices are free we still prefer video calls using Skype for phone meetings. There is something about being able to see a colleague as you are discussing issues as facial expressions are a key part of communication. We have tried a variety of video conferencing systems but always come back to Skype. It is not perfect but it is easy to use on a variety of devices.
Our development team have a daily stand up where targets for the day are discussed and achievements from the previous day are reported. It ensures that the whole development team know what is going on and can also provide a great opportunity for team involvement if a project has several possible ways to progress.
There are a number of communication tools that are invaluable when your team is in more than one office. We use slack to chat about projects including water cooler moments such as the inevitable funny cat videos. Basecamp and trello to manage projects, with Float providing staff scheduling. We use agile CRM to manage our sales pipeline, with Xero providing our accounts system and our shared address book is supplied by goole apps. We have developed a small application that keeps all of these systems synchronised so a change made in one will update across the others automatically.
As much as you can use tools to communicate and collaborate you can’t beat face to face meetings. Once or twice a year we head to Bucharest and Iasi to meet the team. We always plan the trips over a weekend to ensure there is time to socialise and often spend 2 days on a lake in Bucharest discussing company strategy for the next year. I tend to plan my trips for spring or autumn when the temperature hovers around 28c and the UK has not yet warmed up or is cooling down. Somehow 12 hour days discussing strategy are not so bad in a stunning environment with a glass of great Romanian wine to look forward to by mid-afternoon!
If we can help you with your processes or linking your management software systems or if you would like an informal chat about how we make remote teams work, get in touch!