Building the distributed team

Scott Francis
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We just had our first internal videoconference between HQ and our Atlanta office.  Well, that’s how we like to refer to Flournoy when we’re not calling him BP3-East.  We made the decision to invest in Videoconferencing equipment because it is really important to have high fidelity communications both internally and with our customers. When I was at Lombardi we built a distributed geographic technical team based on the belief that high-value, high-touch interactions with customers were crucial to building lasting customer relationships.  That’s a really hard thing to do right when you are starting from a base of 2 or 3 staff members, and don’t have the national network of people to draw on. At BP3 we’re going to attack this in two ways.  First, we’ll hire geographically again, I have no doubt.  We have a better national network to tap into this time around, and some of our colleagues from Austin have moved to other cities, and might be able to help us find the right people.  Second, we’re going to invest in videoconferencing equipment.  We think it will enhance the quality of our offsite work with customers, and likely it will somewhat reduce the need for travel expenses.  It also sends a powerful message to our team that we’re interested in their quality of life and their ability to do good work remotely. Videoconferencing still isn’t cheap (can’t wait til its under $1000/seat), but I was pleasantly surprised at how affordable it is compared to what it cost 10 years ago, for a better product.  And with the cost of travel increasing, videoconferencing looks more and more affordable by comparison.  Oh, sure, you can go the <insert favorite IM chat client> route, but the fidelity of such video connections is generally terrible, and certainly not good enough to show someone at a remote location what you’re drawing on your whiteboard.  We went with a Lifesize system.  Its high-def, the quality is fantastic (720p), and with remote control, the person on the other end can zoom into our whiteboard to see what you’re drawing.  Voice is included in the video/audio stream, so there’s no need to place a separate voice call.  And there’s no per-call charges because it all goes over IP (over your network). We’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many of our customers have videoconferencing setups as well.  Often these are underutilized assets, but there’s no reason for that to be the case on our projects! I want to thank good friend Megan Lueders for giving us a demo of the system and getting us to take this seriously.