Project Management

Why Your Remote Team Needs a Separate Chat Backchannel

Mass Bay Chapter

Johanna Rothman works with companies to improve how they manage their product development. She is the author of Manage Your Project Portfolio: Increase Your Capacity and Finish More Projects, 2nd edition, Agile and Lean Program Management: Scaling Collaboration Across the Organization as well as several other books including the newest: Create Your Successful Agile Project: Collaborate, Measure, Estimate, Deliver. See her blogs and more of her writing at

Your team has probably figured out how to work with video and audio by now. However, while video and audio are necessary, they are not sufficient for remote teams. Every team also needs a persistent chat backchannel. With a chat-based backchannel, the team can continue to collaborate when the audio and video are done—or down.

Let’s first take the problem when you’re done with a meeting. If you have a team-based persistent chat backchannel, team members can decide when they want to start, continue and finish discussing team issues.

Use a Persistent Chat Backchannel
Most of the audio and video meeting tools have a chat function. That’s great—but it’s not enough. The team needs to be able to ask and answer questions outside of a meeting. Teams might need to start discussing those issues before the meeting, then during the meeting—and those questions and answers need to persist past the meeting.

Susan, an agile project manager, was thrilled her team used video for most of its meetings. And, it often discussed ideas in the video tool chat—and then wanted to refer back to that chat later. However, that chat didn’t persist past the meeting.

Susan could find the chat and post it on the team’s wiki—but it wasn’t easily searchable. And when the team wanted to start a new topic? She’d have to …

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