Part 1: The everyday challenges of working in a distributed team

Part 1: The everyday challenges of working in a distributed team

As a remote worker and a Product Manager for an Enterprise Content Reporting application, I’ve learned a few things about the challenges and opportunities of working in a distributed team.

However, rather than focus on the usual issues of communication, culture building and conflict, for this blog I wanted to get a little closer to the runway and talk about some specific issues that we at Gavurin have both grappled with as a team, and worked on together to build solutions for our clients. Here are my 5 everyday challenges of working in a distributed team, broken down into 2 separate blog posts:

I wish you’d told me you were working on that!

If you’re part of a remote team, I’ll wager that you’ve encountered the frustration of realising that a team member has been covering the same ground as you, or perhaps you’ve missed a great opportunity to collaborate with someone because of a lack of clarity and co-ordination between team members.

Transparency takes on extra significance when you can’t simply wander over to your colleague’s desk to see what they’re up to, or chat about upcoming deliverables whilst the kettle boils.

At Gavurin, we tackle this by using strict operational meetings throughout every level in the team. Developers and Data Analysts have their ‘stand ups’, our product teams have regular sprint demos and meetings and, as a management team, we also gather at least once a week to take the pulse of the team’s activity as this helps identify how we can support each other to meet the organisation’s goals.

In PoweredBI, our Enterprise Reporting Platform, any team member can view the content that their fellow analysts and authors are working on. They can even pick it up and use it in their own reports – which helps the whole team focus on delivering their content, and helps encourage cross-pollination across the team.

But I thought you were doing that?

How many hours are lost in your team to unclear expectations? This is a frequent source of misalignment at the best of times but, when you take co-location out of the equation, the situation can get much worse.

Often, there is an aversion to too much process, particularly in small teams, and even more in the technology industry, where books like The Lean Start Up and The Hard Thing About Hard Things have stressed the need for teams to remain agile, lean and responsive to change. However, that doesn’t mean teams shouldn’t plan. It means teams must constantly plan – a task which gets ever more difficult when the team is distributed.

Having crystal clear expectations between team members, enforced by a well-designed process avoids these frustrations. For example, PoweredBI allows teams to configure their custom production process within the app, so team members are always able to answer the key question of “what am I responsible for doing?”

In the next post I’ll be discussing a further 3 challenges – stay tuned!

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