Posted by: Jeff Timmins | August 5, 2013

Remote Release Management report

Remote Release Management report

As promised in my earlier post, here are my thoughts on my remote Release Management experience.

My general take-away was that working remotely worked better than I originally thought. I should say it was helpful to have another Release Manager in the office while I was remote. Without one person able to take the “drive-by” requests it could be more challenging for the RM and the organization. So in general I’d lean towards recommending/accepting extended remote days for an RM in a larger team but only sporadically for a single RM.

Here is a list of my particular lessons learned from being remote for a few days:

  • Regardless of how many RMs you have on staff, your effectiveness is greatly enhanced with the use of group Skype, Google Hangout or something similar. When I used Google Hangout for a last-minute meeting I actually felt like I was “just as good” as being there in person.
  • It would be helpful if your organization had an understanding that Skype/Hangout will be used on a regular basis with the key people you need to communicate with. My currently employer gets this as we have a number of remote developers and they are typically represented by a screen that displays their Webcam image 8 hours a day. I didn’t have that setup but I would if I worked remotely on a regular basis.
  • Same goes for Chat or IM. Our company for the most part embraces Chat but not at 100% so I’d need everyone to be “available” so I could get a hold of them.
  • Communicating tough topics like saying “No we cannot do that for you” or “what you did was against our policies, in the future you should do XYZ.” For example, you have to be more careful about writing emails when remote because that is your default communication method. Typically in the office my default is to talk to someone instead of taking the extra time to write an extremely clear email. In general, email works but not as well as “video face to video face” as stated above.
  • As expected, being remote worked very well for getting those long overdue documentation projects completed.
  • People are busy and when they didn’t reply to emails or chat you should call or text them to get their attention. (I must admit, I’m really not that excited about calling someone with today’s technology so I just need to get over that!)
  • I found that I was more likely to work after 5pm when working from home. Maybe because I was never too far away from my keyboard, maybe because I was able to complete household tasks during the day, maybe because I wanted to say “thank you” to my work for letting me work remotely.
  • At times I felt more effective at home because I’m not taking time to walk around to talk to people (I work on a floor of about 200 people).  I usually see this as a benefit to be able to face to face with my internal customer but I realized that I also would sometimes miss chats with people because I was walking.
  • Does it really matter if I’m remote? With offices in two other cities in the US + workers in India I’m remote to some people regardless.
  • I loved the flexibility of the schedule working from home provides.

For most good stories there are usually some not so good lessons. Because of that I’ll share a few painful lessons learned as well:

  • I need to take time readying every word of all those emails I get to make sure nothing is misunderstood
  • I should have done a better job communicating to my internal customers that I was going to be remote because a number of people were surprised when they couldn’t find me in the office. Surprises don’t lead to happy customers!
  • Have a good understanding with your boss before working remotely.
  • As expected, I lost the ability to be included in those sporadic hallway conversations that can be very effective.
  • (Reinforced lesson) Attending meetings over phone just doesn’t cut it so per above they should be replaced by Video when possible.
  • I found out how much I missed the free espresso at the office!

That is it for now but if I think of something else I’ll make sure to add it.

Also, I’d love to hear if you have any positive or negative experiences working remotely.

Interesting side note – during a trip back to the East Coast my daughter ended up sitting next to Jeff Hardy of 37signals , who happened to be reviewing 37signals’ new book “Remote Office not required.” The book is set to come out in October 2013 and I look forward to reading it.

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