Technology and Tools for Your Remote Team

The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.
-Confucius

My father in law owns a hardware store in a small town. When my wife and I first got married I would ask for a new tool for Christmas. I started to accumulate many tools and thought I could tackle some big home improvement projects. Lucky for me my father in law was able to help me out and guide me how to complete the job. I learned a valuable lesson that just possessing a tool does not make you carpenter or plumber. I think I watched This Old House and thought it looked so easy.

Just buying some software for your remote team won’t make them more productive either. I always enjoy the comment that I have heard many times, “we have Jira so we are agile.” If only it was that easy. Much like my hopes of being a carpenter, tools require knowledge to be used correctly and proficiently.

Have you determined the best process for your team?

Does your technology support that?

Does it facilitate connections?

Process First

As I mentioned in the introduction too many times we let the tools dictate our process. I harp on Jira as I have had many people start using it and then want to change or modify the flow. This reminds me of some advice Brandon Carlson from Lean Techniques shared with a group of us. “Never let the technology dictate your process you have everything backward.” He suggested first creating your own process outside of the technology. We could use a low-tech solution with sticky notes and index cards to find the optimal process. Then find technology to fit how you work. Insightful advice that many of us will get wrong.

Criteria

What criteria do you want to compare things on? For some, it might be the speed of which you can implement the solution. Others may look at does it work with other systems or how much training does it take. Take some time to identify the criteria and it helps to add a weighting to each of the items. This can help find a decision on how much each part should factor into the final decision.

Group Feeback

As you develop your process and identify criteria engage the whole group for feedback. Make sure you have a few different venues that you get everyone’s opinion. Some may speak up in a group meeting, where others need time to think and maybe respond from an email or private conversation. Each team member may have different responsibilities so it is good to hear their ideas. For instance, I used to work with a guy who did some processing that no one else did. We made one decision without asking him and came to regret it.

Facilitate Connections

Communication is always important, with remote teams that connection is a vital link. Make sure your process and procedures promote connection and interaction. In reviewing some technology you can tell they had a remote team in mind when they put it together. Other systems seem to understand the importance. It should be easy to collaborate and pass information around not cumbersome.

Evaluate

I have two brothers who work in finance. They periodically have to travel to meet the managers of a company their respective firms might invest in. They review their financial statements and interview the key players. This is called doing their “due diligence.” Once you have your criteria outlined you need to start to evaluate your options. I admit I can be one who would sometimes skip the evaluation and make a decision. This has led me to many hasty decisions, so please take your time and check all of the options thoroughly.

Decide

I read a history of President Jimmy Carter. It mentioned how he was a Nuclear Engineer by training. He would often analyze things completely. They described him as having “paralysis of analysis”. Where I can be quick to make a decision some of us will get bogged down in trying to make the perfect decision. There is never enough time to completely analyze all options. Make sure you set a timeframe to have a decision made. Then use your time wisely and come to a conclusion.

Train

You have made a decision on your tools and now you need a plan to train and educate your team. Getting everyone up to speed will take time. It can be best to identify your lead team of people who will pick this up quickly. Try to find a people from a few teams if you have multiple remote teams to update. This is the train the trainer philosophy that you can have people ready to educate and answer others questions.

Re-Evaluate

Once you have things in place it is good to re-evaluate things and see where things were missed. Did you identify everything manually first? Did you skip some steps? Maybe you need to update your training plan to add some additional communication. Maybe some sales representatives were misleading customers as you left them out of the loop. Whatever came up take note so it doesn’t happen again. Does the tool fall short in some way? It may need to be changed a bit to meet everyone’s needs.

What stumbling blocks did you run into making a decision?

How did the training for remote team go?

Did you re-evaluate your decision and find contingencies?

As technology changes that your remote team can use, we need to see if we are using the right tools. What works today might become irrelevant soon. It can be helpful to have a member of the team who can keep an eye out for new tools. Make sure they support your process and don’t fall prey to the new shiny object. The business needs to continue running.

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