How to Project Manage a Team Across Different Time Zones

How to project manage across the time zonesEffective project management of a team that’s scattered across the globe can be a pain if not done correctly. With three offices in two different countries and a number of freelancers working remote, we at CrossCap know all too well how difficult it can be trying to align efforts across a global organization. With that in mind, we’ve decided that our successful approach to project management is a good story to share with other business owners who are looking to scale their business operations but stay lean.

A personal story – advice by Thomas Magnifico, Vice President – Engineering and Professional Services at CrossCap. 

Tom Magnifico:

I’m going to be brutally honest with you: it’s 2017 and working with individuals in remote locations is still somewhat difficult. Today, there are hundreds (probably more) of different tools and services on the market to help you with these challenges. However, at the end of the day, all the tools in the world can’t solve your problems alone. It takes people who are willing to put in the time and effort to utilize these tools and processes to achieve unity and keep the ship afloat (your company and your products).

The software business (we are part of) moves very fast. Clients and prospects are jumping around investing in multiple new products in hopes it will make work easier and more productive. At the same time, software companies are scrambling to push these features out at just a rapid pace.  At CrossCap, we have offices in San Francisco, New York, and Toronto, Canada, and individuals at the offices need to be in constant communication. Our Front End Engineering and U/X teams in SF need to talk to the Backend Teams in Toronto in order to solve a complex coding problem. At the same time, our Sales and Professional Service teams need to get updates from the Product Teams in SF so that we can inform a client on our weekly touch bases when the next product release is coming out. This information not only needs to be accurate but also timely. With SF being three hours behind Toronto and New York, there really isn’t any room for error.

Patience, long hours, and beer – yes, we have the startup perks.

In all seriousness, getting everyone to adopt an agile methodology needs to be the first step. Priorities and challenges are going to shift, and work is going to be redistributed. Daily Standup calls are a must as well. “What have you done, what are you going to do, and who’s going to do it.” Since San Francisco is three hours behind, we had to pick the time that worked for everyone. Also, everyone needs to get their questions out in the open and discussed on the call. New York and Toronto aren’t in the office when San Francisco is still working. Which brings me to my second step: implement collaboration software. On the software side, JIRA should be your bible. Tickets need to be concise, clear, and full of requirements. On the communication side, screen sharing (Join.ME) as well as messaging (Slack, or Crosscap Connect) are vital to making sure information is spread and shared. Having information memorialized is your biggest asset. Teams change over time, but as long as the data has been logged, all of your answers are at your fingertips. The final step is engagement (or buy-in).

Project Management Best Practices:

1. People are an integral part of your successful global expansion. So pay close attention to your staff, and make sure all internal communications are timely and transparent.

2. Map out the process and apply each time. Develop a methodology that is simple and adaptable by every member of your team.

3. Use collaboration and project management tools to ensure alignment of all teams’ efforts with the company’s goals.

4. Adopt flexibility in your decision-making process. Sometimes things don’t go according to the plan. You need to be prepared to address the immediate changes and communicate this to your teams in a timely manner.

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