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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Geography and the Internet - On Remote Development Teams

The advent of the Internet has changed the world forever. Even the dot-bomb busting bubble of insane ideas is today's real life. Telecommuting is a reality for many people, and with the use of the Internet we can show, see, talk, and listen, not to mention read and write. Outsourcing is becoming bigger by the day as a sloping economy makes it easier for third world countries to offer high-tech services remotely at bargain rates.

There are quite a few challenges with remote services, especially when it comes to software and web development. By far the biggest long-term problem for people telecommuting from home is a severe lack of culture. Many people who initially thought they scored big-time with their first contract to work from home, eventually threw in the towel. You need other similar-minded people around you constantly to feel alive and to grow as a human. Interaction is a must.

From a project management standpoint, there are big control issues with managing remote workers. It is much more difficult to manage someone who is not physically there to observe and interact with. On top of this is often a melting pot of cultures to deal with in distributed teams: people in Texas think differently than people in India who think differently than people in Russia etc. Not to mention the nightmare of time-zones. Teams distributed over the USA (one country) already have significant challenges trying to schedule a two-hour meeting so that it doesn't interfere with someone's work hours.

Of course there are many more advantages that the Internet has given us in therms of being able to work from remote locations and collaborate virtually. You now CAN have cheaper developers in different countries, and many outsourcing companies adjust their business hours to match their clients' needs. This means that your team in India is working through the night, but to you in North America it is hardly noticeable.

We have excellent teleconferencing solutions in place today which allows us to collaborate by voice over vast distances with excellent quality and at very low costs. Built into many of these applications now are virtual Internet-based presentation systems allowing you to show a slide show, interactively work through a website, etc - all shared with the whole team, and all in real-time.

Ultimately the choice is yours as to which services you outsource to remote teams, and which you insist on local talent for. In software projects and web development projects, your geography grows as your requirements become more concrete and detailed. The better your specifications, the more chance you have of a local team providing what you wanted with less of your own involvement in the process.

Andreas Huttenrauch
Internet Strategy Consultant / Web Architect

"The Specification is Mightier than the Code"


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