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Communication - remote location
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I recently joined a new company. My office is a fairly new office in a remote location. We have Business Analysts, Project Managers & Quality Assurance Analysts on staff here, while most of the programmers and all of the users are in another location.

I have seen many posts in these discussions about the importance of face-to-face discussions...well that is not an option for me on a day to day basis. We do have videoconference equipment, but it is hard to get scheduled when you need it.

Does anyone have experience in this type of situation that could share some tips on how to minimize the communication barriers? Anyone utilized tools such as NetMeeting and how did that work?
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I spent the last four years of my project management career managing projects using team members spread out on four continents.

It's hard to keep the team together when they're spread out virtually, but we've managed to execute projects by using a combination of tele-conference calls and a project site.

A project site is an extranet which provides a snapshot of the schedule, tasks, issues and documents, all available on the web. We then personalize the tasks and issues by team member, so each one would get a personal view of the tasks and issues that I have assigned out.

The key idea is to remotely communicate with everyone on a daily basis, making sure that they know what they have to do for the day, then makinbg sure that they complete the tasks on schedule.

We made exclusive use of ICQ which has a very good chat feature.
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Check out www.placeware.com (no affiliation). For small online conferencing needs (4 or 5 attendees), the service is free. They can handle much larger conferences, but you gotta pay to play. One feature I have found particularly helpful is the online demo feature, which lets you broadcast whatever is running on your desktop to conference attendees. There's also a whiteboard and other collaboration tools.
Anonymous
Check out our software at www.omnispace.com.

We actually integrate Placeware as well as instant messaging into a web-based collaboration enviroment that has doc mgt, project mgt, workflow, etc.
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Working as a mobile professional myself, communicating with a large number of people across various business segments is not a small chore. I've found that putting together a Communication Plan for the team, getting their acceptance and then adhering to those standards is a start.
Depending on what type of information you share, face to face should only be needed on a yearly or semi-annual basis unless a customer is involved (they deserve more, right?). I found that using a hierachy of communication methodology (1- Voicemail, 2- eMail, etc.) will generally get your point across. Use numbered bullets and items and revision methodology in your documentation so that when reference during phone discussions is made all parties are in sync. NetMeeting is great for interactive collaboration of a document but only if all parties have high speed network connections (no analog). Good luck
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Take a look at Hydra from The Program Management Group (www.pm-group.co.uk). Hydra seamlessly communicates project information across multiple sites. You do not have to log onto the web (though this is an option)as Hydra invisibly uses e-mail to update itself. We shall soon be releasing a press release about a major bank in Africa who (because of the lack of telecoms) use Hydra in this way to communicate between many offices.

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