Avoiding the time zone hell

How a geographically distributed team experienced misunderstandings and cost overruns.

Avoiding the time zone hell

Situation: a geographically distributed team

Nowadays companies can inexpensively hire IT professionals in developing countries like India or the Philippines, often at a third of the hourly rate of local professionals.

It seems like an easy decision, the geographic distance obviously hinders communication, but allegedly that can be mitigated via tools like Skype and video conferencing.

However, my experience with working remotely has been remarkably negative. But admittedly, it's sometimes the only option available.

Working face-to-face fosters trust, motivation and a shared purpose.

One of my experiences was during a project with an Italian development team, while the customer and I were located in the Netherlands. Even though the complete team held daily video conferencing sessions, getting a grip on the project proved far more difficult than when the complete team would have been physically present in the same location.

I clearly noticed the difference during the final release of the project. For that, the main developer flew over from Italy to Amsterdam for a few days. As always, many unforeseen problems arose during the release. But by quickly discussing the various solutions, these issues could swiftly be tackled. I can not imagine we would have successfully released if the Italian developer would have stayed in Italy.

Water cooler moments

I have experienced that working together in the same building, and preferably the same room, fosters a team spirit and enthusiasm that is difficult to create via Skype.

Discussing problems and explaining ideas can be done more quickly and less ambiguously. Also, interpersonal annoyances can be noticed early and subsequently resolved. During water cooler moments, ideas, opinions and jokes are shared, that would normally not be brought up during video conferencing.

Since my various remote working experiences, I strongly favor to work on location. It works wonders, since it drastically simplifies the project.

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