In recent years several CS 5150 projects have had clients who are not based in the Ithaca area. Many
of these projects have been successful, but, if your client is not based locally,
you need to pay particular attention to the methods of communication that you will use to work together.
Before the project begins
Good communication begins at the start of the project.
- As part of the Feasibility Study, make
sure that the client understands the challenges of working remotely and agrees on how it will be done.
The client may have a preference for certain technology,
but technology is less important than scheduling
regular meetings and having a way to communicate between meetings.
- Some projects route all communication through a single person,
or divide the team into sub teams each with its
own contact. Some clients have colleagues who work with the project team in certain areas.
- Even if you route all communication through one person, every member of the team must be involved.
Having a remote client demands that each member of the team has a clear perception
about the challenges and is willing to make appropriate
accommodation to make it happen.
- If your client is in a different time zone you may need to have meetings
at unusual times of day.
During the project
Email and messaging systems, such as Slack, are good for daily communication and information sharing
within the team and with the client. Make sure that all messages are
copied to every member of the team and stored in an online archive.
I strong recommend regular meetings with the client at least weekly with all team members present.
These meetings can be simple telephone conference calls or can use video conferencing tools,
such as Skype or Facetime. You will need a way to exchange documents with the client.
Moderating a conference call is an important professional skill.
The moderator should announce the agenda items, call on the people who are to speak, and summarize
decisions as they are made. Before the meetings, collect all the questions that you want to clarify
with your client.
Presentations with remote clients are difficult. Usually the project team and the instructor
will be in a meeting room in Ithaca and the client will be at a remote location.
There are two fundamental needs:
- Good voice communication between the client and the Ithaca meeting room is essential.
- The client must be able to see all visual aids and live demonstrations.
A simple way to do this is to
project the material onto a screen in the meeting room and point a video camera at it.
Take care in selecting and setting up equipment.
- Check all the technology before the presentation, using the actual equipment that you plan to use.
It is usually possible to have access to the presentation room for a rehearsal.
- It is useful to have two computers, one for the presentation
and one for communication with the client.
- Video communication so that people can see each other is useful,
but take care with the setup. Work with the
client before the presentation to check the position of cameras, microphones, and lighting.
If you cannot arrange good video it is better to have just voice communication.
- If you have questions about the equipment in the meeting rooms, please contact the
Teaching Assistant before the presentation.
At regular intervals and certainly after each presentation,
review how well the communications are working.
Be prepared to make changes if things do not work smoothly.
Thanks to former students Ella Xue and Eliza Weaver for some of the ideas on this web page.
If you have other suggestions, please let me know.