The answer is VERY!! I cannot stress it enough that a daily check point is needed for the majority of software development projects and this becomes even more important when part of that development or work is done remotely.
Many companies already use the agile development methodology and have daily stand up meetings, in other words, what did I work on yesterday, what am I working on today, what issues, if any, am I having that I need help with. These are really standard questions that have been asked in status meetings for decades, now this process is called the agile methodology….but that is another story. However, there is something more important happening during these meetings. The possibility for real time discussion! Let’s say for example that this status, instead of being in real time, is given via email, or posted in an online collaboration tool. That’s great, but if someone writes in their status, worked on item #3768. Ok, if you are the manager of the team, yes of course you know what item #3768 is, but do you have the opportunity to discuss with the developer, how long it will take to finish that item, or what solution are you using for that issue, or to ask other questions. Yes you can do this via email, but no matter what that will take MORE time that just a quick conversation in real time, and the one issue most managers will say is that they never have enough time. So it continues to confound me why some managers do not want to do daily real time discussions?
Some of the reasons most often given include:
- I don’t want to get up that early or stay up that late. I can definitely understand that. But for many situations, if the time difference is 10 hours, for example, one side can get up a bit earlier, or one side can stay a bit later at work, and it is not that inconvenient. When you get in to fifteen hours’ time difference things can get a bit more tricky one party will always be inconvenienced. I once worked with a company in Arkansas and was living in Irkutsk, Russia, a fifteen hour time difference. We had our daily meetings at 9:00am CDT and 12:00am for me in Irkutsk. That was a bit one sided. I would not recommend that for teams, at least not on a permanent basis. It could be that way for a week or two weeks and then switch to something like 7:00am CDT and 10:00pm Irkutsk time. At least move it around a bit to not inconvenience one side all of the time.
- I do not want to talk in real time. Believe it or not there are people who do not like to talk in real time. They would prefer to receive an email and then think about it and then respond. On one hand this is understandable especially when there are differences in native languages. However, no matter what the asynch communication of email or posting messages in a collaboration tool still takes more time than synchronous communication. Depending on the project being undertaken or the phase of the project, nothing can replace real time communications.
In short though, no matter what the situation, nothing can take the place of real time communication. If you are wondering what may be going wrong with your project. Start talking every day and digging in to what is happening; you will be on your way to a more successful project.