As we grow, we have had more and more interest from international clients who are looking for the type of out-of-the-box problem solving capabilities that Mäd has to offer.
This is fantastic as it adds another dimensions to our cross-industry focus, we have clients from a significant number of different countries, and this allows us to see the bigger picture.
However, there was a learning curve in regards to working remotely with clients, and today I'd like to go through a few of the steps that we've taken to ensure that we can give the same results to clients 8,000km away than the ones who are a a 15 minute drive away.
So, a few things we've learned.
- Video calls vs Voice Calls- It's said that around 80% of communication is non-verbal. By having video calls instead of just phone calls, we ensure that at least some of the crucial 80% of non-verbal communication can be expressed during a meeting. It also helps all the team members (there might people from 3 or 4 different locations joining a call from both the client and agency side) feel more included.
- A dedicated meeting room internet connection - While we always ensure we have a strong internet connection in our offices, it's not fun running around telling everyone to lower the internet use if the video during our meeting isn't smooth. So, we use two different connections, one of which is a dedicated connection for our meeting rooms and is only used for video calls. This ensures that the frustrating times of choppy video or can-you-say-that-again are a thing of the past.
- Clear Communication - When the option of "let's grab a quick coffee and discuss this" isn't an option, then it is best that communication is crystal clear. We make sure that we over-communicate in regards to scope, what we're doing, and the approach we're taking, to make sure that everyone is on the same page. The use of clear and concise English is of the utmost importance, as sometimes team members on the client have English as their second or third language.
- One Single Source of Truth - It's key for everyone to be fully aligned for a project to be successful. We use Bloo, an online project management system, to ensure that there is one version of the truth. This means that we don't have some information in chat groups, other information on email, and then something that was scribbled down during a phone call or meeting. There is one place for everything, from when a particular milestone will be reached, to the latest design file required for review.
- Use GMT time zones - It's incredibly frustrating to be five hours early for a meeting (especially if it's at 7am in the morning!). It's important to state the timezone when setting meetings, and we use calendar invites that automatically set the correct time for everyone involved to ensure that people know what time to be on a call.
- Put everything online - I mentioned above in regards to our project management tool, but we also have other dedicated tools and resources. We use specialized software for our remote design sprints (and we've written about this before) and we also have other online resources that can be accessed online by anyone, anytime, such as this very website you're reading right now, as well as our Standard Operating Procedures.
Our key approach to doing remote projects is one of continuous learning. Each project always has its own set of challenges, and the only real mistake is a failure to learn from mistakes. So, we have a positive learning loop that is reinforced with each additional project we have, which means we're constantly getting better and improving our processes, and our After Action Reviews are one of the key elements in helping us achieve this.