Tips, tricks, advice, and answers for the 21stcentury global workspace.
I recently joined an international consulting firm, and have just been told that I need to collaborate with a remote team on an upcoming project. I have no idea what a remote team is, or how it works – but am hesitant to ask because it seems everyone else does! Could you explain?
– Remote and Unknown
Dear Remote and Unknown,
Worry not – many other people in international organisations are asking this very same question! A remote team is made up of people who work together as a group but do not share the same physical space – they may be in different cities or countries. Remote teams have been around for a while but have gone mainstream only recently, as the technology needed to communicate across vast distances has become affordable and accessible in many countries around the globe.
Remote teams are created for a number of reasons, including the availability of certain skillsets in particular locations, the need to have an on-the-ground presence in numerous places, and cost implications.
To give you a real-life example, earlier this year, Hyderus ran a 25-country market-research project for a pharmaceutical client. The core team consisted of our colleagues in Wales, London and New Delhi. Our larger team was spread across all the countries included in the scope of the study, ranging from Australia to Ukraine. Our local colleagues in each country gathered large amounts of data, sifted through it and sent the relevant information to the core team. The core team then collated the raw data, analysed it and converted the findings into a range of usable materials for the client.
Remote teams come with their own challenges. You have to pay extra attention to some important aspects:
Regular communication: During the Hyderus market-research project, the core team had weekly check-in calls to make sure the project was on schedule. The project managers also communicated regularly with all the team members across the world, keeping everyone in the loop about overall progress. Since the project ran for a number of months, this was essential in order to keep everyone motivated and focused on the end goal.
Project management system: We used an online project management system to minimise confusion – everyone uploaded their work materials and drafts in the same virtual space. The project managers also maintained calendars, scheduled meetings, and updated progress reports for ready reference.
Keeping it real: The project managers made sure that each team member’s successes were acknowledged. The project was long-drawn-out and very intense towards the end – however, the regular check-ins, motivational emails and open channels of communication ensured that everyone completed the work satisfactorily.
Of course, any big study will have its share of inevitable obstacles. I recommend addressing these with a quick phone call/video call if possible, rather than trading endless back-and-forth emails! If managed well and with care, remote teams can deliver the desired end product efficiently and on time.