Communication in distributed teams: Messenger & Rules

In order for the distrubited teams to work, you got to have a clear flow, a set of general rules, that will fence the process and allow people to collaborate effectively around the globe. If everything is set up correctly, you are able to create amazing products with global professionals, and cover customer support 20+ hours a day.

Communication

What do you miss most when working outside of the office? Procrastination!

Communication that is effortless in office envoronment may be not as natural in distributed teams.

Messenger (SkuVault uses Telegram, chosen for it’s simplicity, availability across all platforms, stability gorgeous GIF bot) and videochat software are there to try to equally substitute verbal communication.

Due to project specifics, we have the following channels in telegram:

  • Urgent chat, where On Call & Quality Assurance teams collaborate in order to resolve outstanding issues as fast as possible (you can read more about On Duty teams in my previous post on year retrospective);
  • Dev chat, that is general for all devs, covering the questions of “Who the hell broke QA again?”, …, to “So have you seen Azure copied Amazon pricing plan”.
  • Russian Dev chat, due to significant part of the team being russian-speaking, is for fast communication and clarification across russian devs;
  • Quality Assurance chat, for questions and discussions across QA members;
  • Freshdesk feed, for fetching freshly issues support tickets, so that if immediate attention needed -> relevant people are informed;
  • separate project chats with various messaging activity, depending on how big and urgent the project is.

Telegram

Telegram is extremely handy when it comes to making life easier. We use:

  • hashtags, to mark needed messages in order to find them later. That could be #shipstation hashtag to mark everything related to ShipStation integration across all chats;
  • mentions, which allow to ping a person even if the chat is muted. So if dev doesn’t want to get tons of messages on a related subject, he still is notified when he’s mentioned;
  • great gif support (not only kittehs, but also when you need gif with reproduced bug);
  • bots! we fetch freshdesk support tickets, notified about engine and web errors thanks to telegram bot api 🙂
  • size, platform availability, stickers, e.t.c.

now this sounds like a telegram evangelism

Video Conference

When it comes to video conferencing, we use hangouts, since skype app is awful.

General Flow and Jira Ticket Descriptions

It’s bad when you lack information on stuff you need to implement. In order to minize that, we have rules on filling out the ticket, so that as less questions as possible are raised.

Ticket description has testing plan, implementation plan, sequence of steps on how the feature should work, client and needed sandbox credentials, and tons of other information. Now that doesn’t prevent requirements change, scope creeps, blind spots (we all know that software development is an endless pain and all related people should suffer), but it surely reduces questions to clarify / misunderstanding / delays to the bare minimum and greatly helps in communication.

General Flow for the ticket before it hits implementation requires it’s acceptance by PM and dev, so those are members who control whether ticket is clear enough or not.

Workplace Attendance

Although you are not obliged to come to the office, it’s still essential to be at your workplace during working hours. If you’re working flexible hours, you need to agree upon them with a manager or people you collaborate with, so that you have a consensus solution on comfortable time to work for all.

Calendar lists days off, while chatrooms are good to inform colleagues about hours off, if necessary.

Working remote takes self-dicipline and responsibility, but pays off really great.

Notifications for pinging stuck projects

Be sure you use various notifications, such as jira web hooks + telegram, email notifications on stuck code review or testing, color coding on project management boards for due dates and approaching deadlines. Alltogether, those measures prevent unexpected situations and make the risk of missing deadlines, reduces the risk of tickets stuck halfway, keeps you alarmed in almost all cases where the flow takes wrong direction.

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