Handling distributed teams

Both Turmalix and Mark Levison discuss the problems faced by locally distributed teams. For a current project one half of the team is located in Melbourne, Australia, the other half works in Germany. Out biggest problem - the information flow. If a team sits in a common location, you have many ways of getting information: just go to someone and ask him directly, have regular short meetings, maybe you overhear a nearby conversation, or you meet someone while getting a coffee. All of that is missing now, and the german team sits, literally spoken, in the dark.

The time difference makes things even worse. Currently Melbourne is always 8 hours ahead, after DST this will be 10 hours. We have a windows of several hours only because one team works constantly overtime, and the other people try to start early enough in the morning to allow at least for a daily information sync.

But if there are any unforeseen problems, and somebody needs help from the other team, he normally needs to wait until the next day. This especially requires care when you are checking code into the repository - we had too many cases of non-compiling code, and this can disrupt the work of a whole team for a day.

Our most important tool so far is ICQ, because it allows instant communication like the telephone, but can be ignored if you are busy or something else needs your attention. We try to have regular phone calls (because speaking is faster than typing :), but the heavy schedule doesn’t always allow for that.

Posted by Hendrik Lipka at 2007-10-26 (Google)
Categories: work people