As interns at Zirous, we were given the task of building a minimum viable product for a new internal project, eventually named Knackle. Knackle is a web application that promotes productivity and collaboration. It will be an all-in-one, social organization tool that allows a group to create and execute a plan together.
At Zirous, working remotely is a major part of our business, whether an employee is working from home permanently, or performing work for an out-of-state client. Of course, we do have many employees working on-site for clients, but the trend at Zirous, and in IT consulting, is leaning toward off site work for these reasons.
- Flexibility of schedules
- Employees that have remote access have a greater ability to work on issues during non-work hours, if the situation warrants it.
- Gaining expertise from multiple developers
- Whenever Zirous is hired, clients gain not only the expertise of the employees assigned to the project, but of the whole Zirous team. When the development occurs remotely, it is easier to knowledge share between developers.
- More developers to choose from
- A client located in Minneapolis who desires an on site client has a smaller employee pool to pull from than a client who is willing to allow for remote development.
As working remotely becomes more prevalent, it becomes important to improve on the skills needed to do so successfully. The following are some tips to make your life easier! There are too many helpful tips to include in one post so we are splitting it up into two parts.
1. Make communication your top priority
Communication is critical while working remotely, and with any project in general. Make sure expectations are discussed and agreed upon so everyone is on the same page. Be professional in all of your communications with the client. If a deadline is approaching, be sure to increase your contact with the client to keep them up to date and ensure that all items will be completed on time. This is especially important if there are multiple moving parts in the development solution.
2. Utilize a time tracking tool
This is especially important as consultants, and even more so if dealing with multiple clients. It is not uncommon to have multiple items come up in a day that necessitate switching between projects and working on multiple items within a project. A time tracking tool makes keeping track of all of this much easier to everyone gets billed correctly. My personal favorite is the Simple Time Track Google Chrome extension, but there are lots of them out there. The Simple Time Track extension lets you enter any task and subtask, and start, stop and pause your time.
3. Don’t be afraid of video conferencing
One of the harder aspects to working remotely is not having the face time with the client. Nothing can fully replace those face to face meetings when they are possible, but having your smiling face available for the call goes a little way to help alleviate. Facial expressions can help communication a great deal. Also, if you haven’t been able to do a face to face meeting, putting a face to the voice on the phone is always nice.
4. Make use of web conferencing and screen sharing
Meetings seem to go a lot more smoothly when everyone is on the same page. Sometime it helps if that is in the literal sense. Pulling up a web conference so everyone can see the document you are looking at or the application you are showing makes things a lot easier to understand rather than just talking it through or everyone pulling up the same document on their own machines and attempting to follow along. Some web conference tools that are very helpful are GoToMeeting, join.me, and Google Hangouts.
Reverse screen sharing can also be very helpful, especially when debugging an issue. Many web conferencing tools let you give remote access to your desktop so that the other party can take control of your machine to help step through issues.
5. Plan your day out ahead of time but be flexible
Time management is very important while working remotely. Have a day planned out in the morning helps you achieve your goals more easily. When you start for the day, take the time to jot down the items you plan on accomplishing for day. Just make sure you’re flexible if things need to change, but don’t forget to go back and complete your original items.
Keep an eye out for Part 2 of our series!