At the start of a project, we are asked where the consultants will be working. Is there a requirement for them to be on site every day or can they work remotely?
The answer is dependent on
Type of work and team interdependence
In an article by Nancy Dixon she references ‘three levels of team interdependence; pooled, sequential and reciprocal; each requiring different levels of interaction and thus the frequency of meeting face-to-face’
At Touchstone we deliver business solutions projects. These have particular types of activities and they do map to the three levels of team interdependence.
With Pooled Interdependence, virtual hybrid team members work independently of each other. There are no handoffs between team members, there is no need for the team to come together to ensure that handoffs go smoothly or to resolve joint issues
Location of work can be off site with remote connection to the system.
With Sequential Interdependence, the team carries out a series of tasks, each performed by a different team member, like a virtual assembly line. Each team member’s success depends on the person who does the previous task completing that task on time and at a high level of quality.
Location of work; this can be achieved through remote working and using enabling technologies like MS Teams for online collaboration
Reciprocal Interdependence requires continual interaction between co-workers. Team members must diagnose, problem solve, and collaborate to accomplish their task. They must continually adjust to each other’s actions as the situation changes.
Location of work: this would typically be face to face under normal circumstances, but could also be achieved using enabling technologies like Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts or Zoom videoconferencing for online collaboration, see here for the best Videoconferencing software for 2020, or the best free options.
It is not uncommon for a project to include tasks from all 3 of the categories listed above. It is important that these are recognised for what they are in order to provide the best working environment available at the time.
An assessment of the advantages of on site and off site work
First let us consider the advantages of remote working
Next let us consider the advantages of working at your offices
The technology available
The technology itself is divided into two discrete areas
Software configuration capabilities
For connectivity to the infrastructure, to enable solution configuration, it will be necessary to have software that provides remote access. Examples include Citrix Netscaler Gateway, Check Point Mobile, Cisco Meraki VPN, Bomgar, and Teamviewer Remote Desktop.
Projects are about people, and whilst a conference call does have its place, there are limitations to what can be achieved using just voice. For an amusing look at situations I am sure we have all experienced with “voice only” conference calls see “A conference call in real life”
Video conferencing is a better solution. Using software like MS Teams or WebEx it is possible to combine on screen both the documentation / solution being reviewed as well as seeing the attendees.
In setting up this approach, we should consider the location of the camera and how we are seen. Whilst a laptop camera might be easy to use, for those who are looking at us, what is their perception of the image they see? Do they look strangely up close and personal, or are they set back, like a newsreader, with a much more professional look?
As always, but especially in these unprecedented times, it is important that the health and wellbeing of our project teams are a high priority in the planning. By understanding the nature of project work we can accurately assess what can be effectively delivered without the need to travel.
This means your organisation is able to get the return on investment that was envisioned through the original business case.