Thursday, April 02, 2020

Distributed Teams - Reporting Status

When working in distributed teams one must remember that each one cannot see the other, so there is always that lingering thought that people are not working. When in the office one sees the person at the desk and hence assumes that the person is working. Secondly when working together, you always overhear conversations so you get a sense of what is happening.

Hence it is very important for everyone to share the status of what they are working on along with any dependencies and challenges they are facing with everyone else. Any changes to the task timelines also need to be communicated so that everyone is on the same page. Over time you will notice members of the team getting comfortable and candid in their status as long as an open communication without prejudice is maintained.

It is also very important to respond as soon as it is done to inform everyone else that it is done. Do not wait until the end of the day to inform other members of the team. This way it becomes clear to all the progress being made in the project.

Some teams maintain shared excel sheets, others use tools like Trello, Microsoft Teams, Bitrix, etc. What ever it is, encourage all to update it freely and openly.

Do not ever try to get everyone to send the status to one person, that person filters, collates and then distributes it.  This will give you the status of the tasks through the lens of one person, which need not necessarily be the exact status of the project depending on the persons view of the project.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Distributed Teams - Vision and Tasks

In these challenging times, almost a third of the world is not working together in an office. This is not new, the tools and methods have been developed almost from the time the internet started becoming mainstream. With outsourcing the remote working concept had really developed into a way of life for many especially in the information technology industry.

I would like to look at different aspects of remote working that have helped me through my career of working with remote teams for over 20 years.

Vision is very important. The team should have a vision of what they need to achieve. Vision could be to develop a new process, a new product, achieve 99% up-time, response rates, etc. The team should have a goal to work towards, a north star. This helps the team to stay focused and on track even when not together.

Once the team has a vision, it is very important to break this vision down into tasks. Tasks should have a clear definition (set of steps), a defined outcome, an estimate and a deadline. Yes, there might be times one can't define any of these but the important thing is to note down the task with the information that one has at the moment and then as one works through the task, you can add more tasks or modify the one you are working on to add more clarity. Do not wait to get complete clarity on a task as you would get it only when the task is done. Which would be too late as there would be no reason to define the task any more as it is already done.

Last but not least, meet often for a short quick meeting with the entire team to discuss challenges, progress and  clarifications. There are many free and paid online collaboration tools that can help one with the vision, the tasks tracking and the online meetings. Use them if you have a team !

Friday, January 03, 2020

Composing a Masterpiece

In an orchestra there are many individual great and very accomplished players of various instruments. Yet when they all play to the same composition together they bring out something special that they could never bring out when they play individually. And if they all play their own tune it never sounds great. Sounds more like noise.

Its the same with any team or a startup, there are many accomplished members of the staff but unless they all play to the same composition they will not produce the music of success. And if they all play their own music it never sounds good and it feels like the team is pulling in different directions.

That's where a composer plays a very crucial role, to write the music the way they envision it and then get everyone on the team to play to that composition.

This needs to be fine tuned everyday so that the orchestra plays in tune and is able to adjust to the everyday changes that are bound to occur.

Who is the composer in your team? Who writes the music for your team? Is your team ready to write the next masterpiece?

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Monkey on your back

Ever feel like you are being weighed down by a ton of monkeys on your back. Well if you do, then you allowed those monkeys to be put on your back.

Lets step back a bit and understand what is a monkey? A monkey is a task you gave a team member to work on and you expect them to take care in doing it to completion, but instead of completing it they bring it back undone to ask you expecting an input or a decision from you to move ahead.

The moment you take it upon yourself to give them an answer you have successfully taken over charge of that monkey and now it is stuck with you until you give an answer. Now think about  it, if you start accumulating monkeys like this what would happen.

You would have to figure out how to make time to handle these monkeys as they get brought back to you to firmly take them and put them back on your team members back.

Remember that if you do not get rid of these monkeys they end up one on top of the other and the longer you keep them the more of a stink they create.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Being Relevant

The IT industry is a very fast changing environment and there are new languages being invented, new technologies being uncovered and new methodologies being proposed. At the same time there are better equipped smarter and more enthusiastic youngsters that are passing out of university all excited to be part of the world building the next exciting thing to hit the technology market.

Given this situation its quite a challenge for someone who has already been working in the industry for sometime to continue to stay relevant and know and understand all the time what is happening and at the same time being acquainted with the technology and the tools that the people are using and the customers are demanding.

But it is important that one does stay acquainted and relevant to the changing times. If you don't then there is every chance that one can get rolled over by either the technology or by the super smart young kids coming out of university.

Learning never ceases and if you stop learning that would be the start of your decline. There is no reason now to stop learning in this age of online courses (coursera, udemy, many more), YouTube and many more platforms.

Keep Learning. Stay Relevant.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Task Execution Vs Task Leadership

Ever been in this situation, you give a task to a member of your team and every few minutes the person would come back to you and ask you for feedback or queries and then you feel you are going nowhere with the task (as many a time you do not know the answers and would have to research) and the person feels that they have put in a lot of effort. 

Alternatively you have the situation where you give a task to the member of your team, they understand what is the end goal of the task, they take all the inputs from you that you have to offer, go back to their desk and do all the research needed to execute, come back with a plan, resources needed and an activity list to execute the task and on approval sets about silently executing the task and only providing you periodic updates on the progress. 

Which of these two team members would you prefer to work with? The answer is quite obvious and this is task execution vs task leadership. Its easy to find people who can execute tasks, but that leaves you to do all the thinking and making the plan. This slows down execution and can leave a lot of things on your desk waiting to be completed. 

Find team members who can show leadership in understanding of what needs to be done and then doing whatever it takes to get it done rather than team members who can only execute what you give them to do. This is what differentiates a great team member from a good team member. 

Saturday, August 08, 2015 : Ras Al Kaimah's emerging business platform

RAK Pages is focused on bridging the gap between consumers and businesses. Rak Pages stands for Ras Al Khaimah pages and is dedicated to the residents and businesses in Ras Al Khaimah.

According to Wikipedia, Ras Al Khaimah has over 250,000 residents. Most of the information about businesses has been passed on by word of mouth and is not centrally located. Rak Pages aims at being the one stop information portal for any business or service requirement for the Ras Al Khaimah residents. is an online business directory that e-enables businesses by providing an online platform. This platform:

Identity: Allows for up to date information about the business which is not limiting to the business name, location, contact information and description of the activities of the business.

Showcase the business: Various ways to showcase businesses
  • Photos, 
  • Printable and physical vouchers, promotions, gift coupons and flyers, 
  • Leader-board spaces on the website
  • Location map 
  • Contact form
  • Trendy links with photo viewer
  • Mobile app
Connecting clients with businesses: Businesses can get qualified customer leads through the contact response from our call center and online application after receiving approval from the client to pass on their contact details to the business.

Bringing businesses to the doorstep of residents: By marketing the business through vouchers, coupons, promotions that are physically distributed across Ras Al Khaimah, we will take the service offerings of the businesses up to the door step of the residents. Thus, increasing footfalls into malls and private establishments.

24/7 access of information to residents: RAKPages is available on the web and the mobile platforms iOS and android. This provides any time access to the users to get comprehensive information about any service or product that they are seeking.

Benefits to the Business

RAK has immense value to the businesses:
  1. Quickly setup with no infrastructure cost. They can get a website through a URL unique to the business that they can share and publicize. 
  2. The website is easy to use to update information about the business including photographs, vouchers, promotions, contact information and description of the services. 
  3. Connect with customers by sending news about offers at the business
  4. Attract customers through vouchers sent directly to their mobile phones
  5. Help the business connect with international customers through the internet.
  6. Proven cost effective platform to promote the businesses.