Magazine article Online

Bi-Coastal Product Development: Another Remote Working Experience

Magazine article Online

Bi-Coastal Product Development: Another Remote Working Experience

Article excerpt

Traditional work environments are undergoing a very notable metamorphosis that is largely attributable to advancing communication technologies. Information Access Company recently engaged in a different kind of remote experience: a bi-coastal product development effort that resulted in the launch of InSite Pro, a Webbased product targeted to the search needs of information professionals (http://www.insitepro.com).

There were seven members of the InSite Pro development team-four in Massachusetts and three in California. Over the course of a four-month development cycle, the team never once met face-to-face. Instead, all communication was done via phone and email. This development method posed some challenges, but mostly we found that the arrangement worked well and had some very clear benefits.

The Secrets of Our Success

All team members knew their purpose. At our kick-off meeting (a two-hour coast-to-coast telephone conference call) we went to great lengths to define each person's role. Thus, we could all understand who was responsible for which decisions and we could be very clear about addressing questions to the proper person.

The Web gave us a built-in communication advantage. The developer would post his progress on a Web site and the whole team could easily get to it at any time of day, from anywhere with Web access.

We used an extended workday without working overtime. We used the three-hour time difference to our advantage. The developer (in Massachusetts) shared his progress with those on the West Coast at the end of his day; then the West Coast team used the remaining hours in their day to test what he'd done. By the time the developer was in the next morning, he had feedback from the West Coast members and could move forward again.

The necessary technology was already in place. We used Lotus Notes databases to keep track of documents such as specifications, and to track bugs and enhancement features. Having one common place to look fostered a shared understanding of our status.

Distance made the team work smarter. We used the "significance barrier" attached to a phone call (described by Rindfuss) to its advantage. Selecting and using email or phone forced us to be very focused and efficient in our communications. …

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