We’ve found that once you get used to working with remote teams, it’s not all that bad. In fact, the “remoteness” factor may even improve the design process. You just need a few ground rules to help your distributed team start off on the right foot.
Here’s what you can do to make your own remote design collaboration efforts do better and pay off with better efficiency, inspired creativity, and a job well done.
1. Use Technology Designed for Meetings
There’s no denying that there’s a certain palpable energy that sizzles in the room when a group of creatives gets together. The buzz gets even stronger when clients are there, too. It sets the scene for optimal brainstorming as people feed off one another’s ideas.
You can create that real-time inspirational exploratory experience with your remote team by leveraging the right technology. Namely, we’re talking about interactive whiteboards or interactive displays. This cutting edge business meeting technology allows distributed teams to conduct meetings as if they were in the same room.
They look like big LCD flat panel TVs on the wall but they do much more. They are interactive in that anyone can connect, they’re device and OS agnostic, and they allow remote participants to share docs and data from any software or platform they use.
For example, we can kick off a project by brainstorming with the client via the interactive display: people can mark up the virtual whiteboard with their notes and share ideas in real time by “drawing” on the document to illustrate what they’re saying.
It’s just like we’re all sitting in the same room.
2. Establish Crystal Clear Rules of Communication and Stick to Them
Good communication is the bedrock of all that we do at Making Sense. That’s why, when we work remotely with teams or clients, the first thing we do is make it easy for everyone to understand how much and how often communication needs to happen.
The number one factor here is how well we can simulate the face-to-face experience. That means plenty of video chat. They’re essential for keeping up to date so they happen frequently around here. For example, a once-per-week video chat is an effective way to keep a team on track for an upcoming client presentation.
3. Pace Out the Process With Clear Phases for the Design Process
We’re all about optimizing the design process with clearly defined phases. There’s the Discovery Phase, the Development Phase, and the “Going Live” phase. It’s a development framework that really works for us. Part what makes it effective is that we’re good about documenting everything.
That’s not always the case in an office environment, however. It’s so easy just to get verbal confirmation of things and then keep working without any documentation taking place. But it’s different for remote teams, who by necessity do a lot of documentation for everyone to know what’s what.
This is one of the ways in which having a remote team can actually result in a better design process.
4. Incorporate Ongoing Feedback Loops
We always encourage feedback from our clients. But only having that feedback during a formal meeting can bog things down and put a cap on the free flow of communication. Allowing everyone to contribute feedback outside a formal schedule, whenever they feel inspired to do so in an interactive way really maximizes our time and effort spent in the feedback loop. Platforms like Slack really helps in this area. Make a channel that’s for clients to provide feedback even if your team isn’t remote.
At Making Sense, we have actual offices where everyone works in a collaborative environment. But we also realize that distributed teams are the future and are always looking for ways to optimize the remote experience, whether it’s for when our team is on the road visiting a client, performing user research, or crossing borders for one of our Meetups or meetings with clients onsite.
The most important thing for me, is that it gives everyone on our team the opportunity to work in their own way, allowing them to deliver the best work.