Recently I had an opportunity to facilitate a discussion about working in distributed teams. Community of practice in the company I work for organized this meeting. I used to work in distributed teams and currently I work in such a team too. The topic is crucial and interesting to me. I would like to share some thoughts here about it.
The initial purpose of the discussion was to take distributed teams into account and find ways of improving work in these teams. There are very often seen only difficulties. I agree that work in a non-collocated team is for sure a challenge. Beside difficulties I wanted to point out advantages of this kind of work. There were discussed both advantages and disadvantages.
There are presented some advantages, disadvantages and challenges below.
- Learning foreign languages. In most cases it will be English, which is a lingua franca in international IT companies.
- Travelling opportunities. Many international companies offer/require travelling between locations.
- Exploring different cultures. You will be exposed to communication with people from different cultures if your team is built from them.
- Remote meetings. This is the main reason of complaints. These meetings are usually inconvenient. Face to face meetings offer incomparable with online channels opportunities to an efficient communication. When there is no possibility to meet at one location then use best tool to conduct online meetings e.g. consider Polycom.
- Different time zones. It usually requires a trade off depending on an actual difference.
- Some advantages can be seen as disadvantages e.g. cultural misunderstandings and lack of body language.
- Get common picture of mutual expectations and understating in daily work and communication.
- Choosing best tools to perform remote meetings. Organizing sprint planning will be probably the biggest challenge.
- Dependencies management – time, work (tasks) and domain experts.
Work in a distributed team is not easy, at least in the beginning. It takes time to set up a right cooperation scheme suited to a certain team. It may also be a great opportunity to develop both technical and people skills.