Sohan's Blog

Living the Developer's Life

Communicating Tools for Working on Remote Projects

Ever since I started working in the software industry, as a freelancer or representing a company, I found the most challenging part of a remote software development project is “Communication”. In agile setup, collaboration plays a leading role to be effective and efficient.

By communication, I mean the following:-
  1. Getting the spec as intended by the client.
  2. Asking specific questions on time.
  3. Status update about progress, blocks and forthcoming events.
  4. Getting feedback as intended by the client.
  5. Making specific suggestions with rationale to the client.
I am listing a few tools that I used and recommend others to use.
  1. A note pad: I write down small bullet points as soon as I find a question/suggestion/idea.
  2. Voice chat/telephone call: It should be #1 preference. Its real time and most speedy after face-to-face. I use Skype for my voice calls and sometimes my phone as well.
  3. IM: I use GoogleTalk most of the time if it works with client. Otherwise, I just use the one that my client uses most frequently.
  4. Collaboration tool: I use ScrumPad.com. Post my messages, people get email notification and can directly reply on that notification. This way the collaboration is all captured in ScrumPad and we can also keep using Email.
  5. A wire framing/drawing tool: Sometimes a small sketch/piece of drawing may greatly ease the communication hurdle. I use MS Visio at times. However, I also use scanned copies of hand drawings and annotations. It works. However, I am looking for a good web based wire framing tool and I believe it will off-load a lot of decision confusions.
  6. Desktop sharing tool: Screen capture and desktop sharing also works for me. I use LogMeIn and Xing. These tools offer first class feedback capturing capability from remote clients.
I also try to follow some general rules:
  1. Always have a prioritized list of points that I want to discuss.
  2. Be on time.
  3. Never stay disconnected for more than 3 business days.
I am sure out-sourcing will keep growing in the coming days, not only for its low cost but also for the fact that they are getting smarter and equally competent as people who charge many folds compared to them. I also anticipate a lot of out-sourcing job will go to individuals or 2/3 person groups, may be not from fortune 500 companies, but there are still other unfortunate millions of companies who will need such small teams. If you plan to work remotely, I am sure you will need some of the above tools, and if you are already in the business and think you have other good tools, please share with me.